Stay With Me – Maureen McCarthy

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Title: Stay With Me
Author: Maureen McCarthy
Year: 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 352 pages
ISBN: 9781743316887 

This has been a book that I first requested for review over a year ago. And I really can’t believe that it’s taken me this long to read and to review. This is an Australian author, and what first made me interested in this book was the plot. I have only ever read one other book by McCarthy, and I didn’t remember particularly enjoying it so I was a little worried when starting this one. But, I was pleasantly surprised, because for the most part this book was enjoyable, well written, and a good read. I had a few issues, but I mostly enjoyed it.

Stay With Me follows Tess, a 21-year-old who decides to take her daughter and leave her abusive husband. With the help of a near stranger Harry, they embark on a road trip from Byron Bay to Melbourne, to reconnect with the family she hasn’t spoken to in years. This is a story that deals with abuse, family, and grief, and I think it was rather well done and had quite a unique story that I haven’t come across very often in YA.

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Zeroes – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

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Title: Zeroes
Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti
Year Published: 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 485 Pages
ISBN: 9781925266955

Prior to reading this, the last book I read by Scott Westerfeld was Afterworlds, which was a book I hated (I know Westerfeld is only one of the three authors of this book, but as I have not read any of the other authors’ works, I can’t compare them). I was so incredibly wary in picking Zeroes up, but once I finally did I wish I had picked it up sooner, because Zeroes was much better than I had ever expected. In fact, I was enjoying it so much at the time that I managed to convince my friend to buy the book and read the book before I had even gotten to the end of it.

If you’re not aware, Zeroes is about six teenagers who all have different powers. Together they form the Zeroes. After one of their members accidentally gets involved in a bank robbery, the others are summoned to help get him out of trouble. But their rescue mission ends up spiraling out of control, as they end up facing even more dangerous criminals. As I’m writing this plot summary up, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s actually a really difficult book to try and summarise. It may not sound like anything that interesting, but it really ended up going places I wasn’t expecting. I’m a fan of the tagline on the back of the book;

“One bag of stolen drug money. One bungled bank robbery. Six teenagers. Six unique powers. One action-packed week.”

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Conjuror (Orion Chronicles Book 1) – John & Carole E. Barrowman

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Title: Conjuror
Author: John & Carole E. Barrowman
Date Published: 23 May 2016
Publisher: HarperVoyager
Format: Paperback, 296 Pages
ISBN: 9781781856383

This book was honestly one of the most disappointing reads I’ve had in awhile. The concept sounds fantastic – incredibly unique and fascinating, however, I had many issues with the execution of this novel, and ultimately I was left feeling thrown into the deep end 90 percent of the time. There were so many unanswered questions, and realistically a reader shouldn’t be left feeling confused for the entire book. This is just the beginning of my issues with this book, so read on if you would like to know all the things that hindered me from getting behind this book.

If you’ve not aware of what this book is about, here is the blurb as from the back cover of my ARC:

Sixteen-year-old twins Matt and Em Calder are Animare: they can bring art to life, and travel in time through paintings. They work for Orion – the Animare MI5 – protecting the secrecy of their order and investigating crimes committed by their own kind. It’s dangerous work. But when they are sent to Edinburgh to find a teenage boy who can alter reality with his music, they are drawn into something more dangerous still. For this boy, Remy, is the Conjurer’s Son. And he carries something that could change humanity for ever…

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Shell – Chris Gill

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Title: Shell
Author: Chris Gill
Release Date: December 18 2015
Publisher: PRNTD Publishing
Format: Paperback, 262 pages
ISBN: 9780994462008

 Hello lovelies! I was sent this beautiful book by the publishers for review, so a big thank you to PRNTD Publishing. Normally when I’m asked if I would like to review a book for an author, I have to decline because I already own so many unread books that adding more just stresses me out, however I was so impressed with the design across the cover and the author’s website that I said yes to Shell. I’m so glad I did, because this book was a surprisingly refreshing dystopian that was a quick and enjoyable read.

First things first, can we just appreciate the beautiful design that is the cover for Shell. I love it’s simplicity, how clean and fresh it looks; the colours used, the typography; everything. This cover is just beautiful, and I particularly appreciate that it is so different from the typical dystopian covers we’ve all come to know (e.g. Divergent, The Hunger Games, etc.).

 Shell is set in a world where society was forced to retreat to a city under the ocean that came to be known as the Shell. Life as they had known (or the Old World as it is called) was destroyed, and due to the preparations made by the government, the people had somewhere to go. Though living in the Shell comes at a cost; fresh air and natural light are distant memories; jobs are hard to come by except for working for the government; crime and poverty rates are high; and from the latest reports of the government, ten years on and the Old World is still not stable enough to return to. But are the government telling the truth?

Shell follows Red, a 19 year old rebellious girl who came to the Shell an orphan after her Mother was suspiciously left behind in the Old World. Unable to have faith in the government, she defies them in her bleak life, and never stops questioning if she’ll ever make it back to the Old World.

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Where She Went – Gayle Forman

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Title: Where She Went
Author: Gayle Forman
Publisher: Speak
Year: 2011
Format: Paperback, 260 pages
ISBN: 9780142420898

 

Where She Went is the sequel/companion novel to If I Stay. Before reading this, I read quite a few reviews on Goodreads, and many people stated that they preferred this book over If I Stay, primarily due to the fact that there is more of a plot to this book, as it’s not just about Mia deciding to live or die. Unlike most of these people, I did not enjoy Where She Went more. It was still a great book, and Forman still had beautiful writing, but for me this book was just too angsty.

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Minders -Michele Jaffe

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Title: Minders
Author: Michele Jaffe
Year: 2014
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Hardback, 395 Pages
ISBN: 9781595146588

Minders is a book I first discovered when on Goodreads one night. It was one of those lets just add stacks of books to my TBR list kind of nights. It was a night that I fell in love with this cover. It is beautiful, and I was lucky to find this in a hardcover in Australia, so it’s like ten thousand times more beautiful! I really love the typography, and the colours, and the models, and the placement of everything. It’s so pretty! I seriously could go on about this cover for awhile so I’m just going to stop before I get out of control.

Minders has a very interesting plot line. It’s set in a future Detroit, where science and technology has advanced enough to allow for a person to enter other peoples’ minds and read their thoughts. 16-year-old Sadie Ames has successfully been accepted to the Mind Corps Fellowship, a program for elite students to have the opportunity to live in someone else’s mind. Essentially, it is an exchange program for the minders (like Sadie) into the brain of a host (the subjects). The technology allows for the minder to perceive thoughts, feelings, sensations, and memories. The point to this science is to study the population who are less unfortunate, in order to fix things in the community that need fixing to improve their lifestyles. This just intrigued me so much. In recent years I have found that I have loved books that include anything to do with the mind, and so I was excited to read this book.

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Ask the Passengers – A.S. King

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Title: Ask the Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Publisher: Little Brown
Year: This edition 2013, original edition 2012
Format: Paperback, 293 pages
ISBN: 9780316194679

It’s not often that I walk into a bookshop and impulse buy books anymore. Although the internet is great for keeping updated with books, it is also limiting the experiences I have in truly being surprised by a book. I’ve always loved going into a bookshop, picking up a book based solely on the cover or spine, reading the blurb, and then purchasing it. Very rarely do I do this anymore, as I always know which books I want to purchase, and in which cover design (if there is a choice between US and UK) I want to get. Ask the Passengers was the first book in a long time that I let myself be surprised by a book in a bookstore, and I am so glad I did because I adored this book.

Ask the Passengers is a contemporary novel that deals with how we choose to identify ourselves. Astrid Jones feels as if there is no one she can share her secrets with. There’s her pushy mother, her uninterested father, her not so close younger sister, and her over interested friends who wouldn’t understand exactly how she’s feeling. Then there is the girl that Astrid is slowly falling in love with, a secret that she can’t share. With no one to listen, Astrid watches airplanes in her backyard, and asks the passengers of these planes her most personal questions, as these passengers cannot judge her. She also sends these passengers love, as Astrid understands what it’s like to feel like you need some love. But when her secret comes out and everyone begins to label her, Astrid discovers that she refuses to be labeled as anything, and tries to break free of society’s boxes and definitions.

From the very first sentence, I knew that I was going to love this book. I was instantly sucked in. It’s not very often that you open a book and know that from page one you are going to love the author’s writing. Especially when it is an author you have never heard of before, and you have therefore, never read any of their previous books. The rest of the sentences in this book are equally beautiful, with King demonstrating a poignant writing style. I don’t think I have ever come across an author in that I have become so attuned to their writing style in such a short amount of time. I have so many references to quotes in my notes that I just loved so much. Here is a random collection of them:

“I see shapes in the clouds by day and shooting stars by night.”

“It feels good to love a thing and not expect anything back.”

“I can see blue. Blue like in the deep end of a swimming pool. Blue like if I lived in a bubble in the sky.”

“You have to let people get to know you before you decide they don’t like you.”

I really love books that I feel I get some form of life lesson from. Ask the Passengers is one of those books. I just feel like there were so many important things about society that were questioned in this novel, and I loved that the author managed to achieve this in a tasteful manner. Sure, this book has some heavy bullying involved that would be deemed as not tasteful, but it is the structure of the sentences and the word choice that the main character takes from these negative experiences that make it a learning experience for the readers of the book. I think the best way to explain what I mean would be of an example: “everybody’s always looking for the person they’re better than…I am equal to a baby and to a hundred-year-old-lady. I am equal to an airline pilot and a car mechanic. I am equal to you. You are equal to me. It’s that universal. Except that it’s not.” I most definitely did not go into this book expecting to read so much insight into common human behaviour. This is something we all do, and I think King explained this in just the perfect way. This is only one example of many social aspects that King beautifully questioned throughout this book.

Moving on from my thoughts on the writing style because they’re getting slightly ramble-y, another aspect of this book I enjoyed was the magical realism. Up until this book, I had never read a book with magical realism in it. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what this even meant. So I Googled it! For those of you who also don’t know what it is, magical realism is a genre where magical or unreal elements are a natural part of an otherwise realistic environment. So in Ask the Passengers, every few chapters there is a short perspective of a passenger on a plane. You learn briefly about something occurring in their lives, and then you read about each of these passengers receiving an unexpected feeling of love. On the ground, Astrid likes to watch the planes and imagine sending love to the passengers. The magical realism is that the love Astrid is sending is actually being received by the passengers on the planes flying over her house. It is an interesting concept, and because I have never read about this I found it an intriguing take on a contemporary novel. I think it is definitely something I will look out for in other books to give a try.

I think what makes this novel is the very realistic characters. Astrid embodies any teenager who is just trying to find out who they are, and find their place in the world. Although I can’t relate to her coping with her coming out as gay, I do admire King for incorporating this theme into a novel. I think that not enough books convey this theme, and I think this is sort of sad for teenagers who want to read books that they can really relate to. I like the way Astrid dealt with the situation once she is outed. People are being absolutely horrible to her, and she just keeps her chin up and tries to not listen to all the hate. In the words of Taylor Swift, she shakes it off. I think this is a quality in people/characters that should be admired. I also felt incredibly sympathetic for her situation. At one stage in this book Astrid has no one left whom she can turn to, and I think for many people in this situation, this could be disastrous, but for Astrid she just sends the love to the people on the plane to keep her strong.

My least favourite character in this book was Astrid’s Mum, Claire. I just don’t understand how any parent could not obviously see how they unequally treat their children. Claire would always prefer Astrid’s sister Ellis to Astrid, and would have mother daughter activities that Astrid was not invited to. Claire’s favoritism towards Ellis was obvious in almost every little thing she said or did whether in regards to Astrid or not. Even at the end when Astrid is being hated upon for being gay, the mother believes that Ellis and herself have it worse than Astrid because of how embarrassing it is. It made me incredibly frustrated to read about a mother treating her daughter in such a horrible way. It also made me sad that no one called Claire out on this. She got away with it. Another interesting tidbit about Claire was that she seemed to communicate better with Astrid’s best friend Kristina, than her own daughter. I truly felt as if Claire was making no effort to really get to know her daughter, and this made me further sympathetic towards Astrid. It definitely made me feel very appreciative to my own Mother. Once again this book showed me how lucky I have it in life.

An element that I enjoyed in this novel in regards to character relationships was the sister bond between Astrid and Ellis. These two have not been close in years, and as a result do not really stick up for one another or communicate on a deeper level. I loved seeing the evolution of their relationship, as you learn about how they were as children and roughly when they stopped being close sisters. The novel then came full circle and allowed for the to sisters to become trusting of one another again, and I thought that it was a nice inclusion in the story. I think Astrid was a very lonely character, and I think that having her sister by her side throughout the events of the book would have been touching for Astrid. I also like that by the end of the book it was acknowledged that both sisters had the blame for not fixing their relationship. I’m a strong believer in that it takes to people to be in a relationship, and I think we all enjoy associating blame with people. But we are equally in charge of who we communicate with, and I appreciated that this book explored this.

This book was also very insightful into how school environments are most definitely not supportive. “We have a sign in the entrance hall that says this is no place for hate, but that doesn’t actually make it no place for hate.” Once Astrid and her friends have been outed, her school is not supportive in the slightest. The students ridicule and bully, and they seemingly get away with it. I can’t remember any teacher stepping in to stop the hate. I can’t realistically see how any school could react in such a way. They even decide that a compulsory assembly and pep rally (I think this is what it was at least) was a good decision in how to ease the situation. Personally, I don’t understand how putting a bunch of intolerant people in a room and trying to make them listen to something they clearly don’t want to hear is going to solve anything. If anything, it is providing more opportunity for hate, just on a greater scale. I also find it appalling that parents of other students would belittle a teenage girl just because of her sexual orientation, and make a big deal out of their children having to sit in classes together with a gay person. There’s many horror stories that you hear about high schools and gay students, and it makes me happy to know that the high school I went to was not anywhere near as bad as this when they were dealing with issues about sexual orientation.

I gave Ask the Passengers 4 stars. It was beautifully written, with realistic characters, and the perfect blend between enjoyment and thoughtfulness. I loved the aspect of magical realism, and am hoping to explore other books in this genre within the coming months. I was pleasantly surprised as to how much I enjoyed this book, and I look forward to reading other A.S. King books to see if I am as much a fan of those as I am with Ask the Passengers. If you enjoy contemporaries but want one that has a different spin, give Ask the Passengers a try, because it truly is an amazing book.

Shadowlands – Kate Brian

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Title: Shadowlands
Author: Kate Brian
Year Published: This edition 2013, original edition 2012.
Publisher: Hyperion
Format: Paperback, 328 pages.
ISBN: 9781423165255

Does anyone have one of those authors that write books that are your guilty pleasures? The books are not the best you have ever read in terms of plot, characters, world building, or writing in general. You feel no true connection to the book. At times you feel as if the book is the most over-the-top thing you have ever read and yet you just can’t stop reading? Kate Brian is my guilty pleasures author, and Shadowlands is no exception.

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Starry Night – Isabel Gillies

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Title: Starry Night
Author: Isabel Gillies
Year: 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Hardback, 336 pages.
ISBN: 9780374306755

I decided to wait a few weeks between finishing this book and writing this review to see if my rage would die down at all, but no, it hasn’t, so I’m apologising in advance for this brutal review.

If you’ve read this blog long enough, you would know that I’m not one for giving books one star ratings. I like to try and find the best qualities in a book, even if I didn’t enjoy them as much as other books. Unfortunately, this is going to be a very negative review, because with the exception of the gorgeous cover, there really wasn’t a whole lot that I liked about Starry Night by Isabel Gillies.

This was an impulse buy for me – as in, I was in the bookstore, saw the pretty cover, picked it up, read the blurb, thought it sounded great and so I bought it. It wasn’t until I got home that I thought to look up the Goodreads ratings, and lets just say they’re fairly low. I’m not one to let Goodreads ratings decide which books I should and shouldn’t read, because at the end of the day everyone is different and I’m not going to let an average rating rule which books I should and shouldn’t read, but I probably would have borrowed this from a library had I known how low they were before I bought the book. Since it was the blurb that confirmed my interest in this book, here’s the blurb;

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Emerald Green – Kerstin Gier

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Title: Emerald Green
Series: The Ruby Red Trilogy (book 3)
Author: Kerstin Gier (translated to English by Anthea Bell)
Year: 2013
Publisher: Henry Holt
Format: Hardback, 451 Pages
ISBN: 9780805092677

 

Emerald Green is the third and final book in the Ruby Red trilogy. As such, this review will contain spoilers for the first books in this series, and more than likely spoilers for this book also. If you have not read the series but feel like this could be something that interests you, I’d suggest reading my reviews on the other books in the series (Ruby Red & Sapphire Blue).

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