YA

REVIEW: Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

In her everyday life Eliza Mirk is shy, awkward and hates school, but in the online world she’s LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of mega popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine ever enjoying the real world as much as the online one so she never really bothers to try. That is until Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction author, transfers to Eliza’s school and, believing Eliza is just another fan, he begins to draw her out of her shell. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally revealed everything in her life is thrown into turmoil, her relationship with Wallace, her art and even her sanity.

I loved this book. I’ve been wary of books about fandom because I’ve always kind of felt that the first rule of fandom, is that you don’t talk about fandom. But I’m so happy that Eliza and Her Monsters showed me that there can be great books about fandom that respects and understands it.

Eliza and Her Monsters is a mix-media novel, it includes panels from Monstrous Sea as well as emails, letters and instant messages. This, plus the fact the book is great, helps make Eliza and Her Monsters a really quick read. I loved how the extracts from Monstrous Sea often mirrored the situations Eliza found herself in, giving you an extra insight as to where her mind is at. The Monstrous Sea story was just as interesting as Eliza’s story and the book did a great job of explaining the plot of the webcomic enough that when characters discussed who their favourite characters were, you had a good idea who they were talking about.

Eliza’s two best friends are Max and Emmie and they’ve never met face to face. I love how Eliza and Her Monsters shows how people behind a computer screen can be, and often are, just as important a connection as those you see in the flesh. The three of them are all great friends who not only share the fandom stuff but their real-life events too. I also liked how Eliza realises and apologises when she does sometimes takes Max and Emmie for granted, she’s a flawed, ordinary person who mistakes and I loved reading about her.

I was on edge as the story progressed as I could tell that Eliza’s internet identity would come out and everything she had with Wallace would be put in jeopardy. I hate confrontation, both in real life and in fiction, and had grown so attached to Eliza that I didn’t want to see her hurt.

I loved Eliza and Her Monsters. I loved how various characters grew on me as the story progressed, how I could relate to Eliza but still get frustrated with her sometimes, the complexities of online and offline personas – it was all so great. Eliza and Her Monsters made me cry because it hit me right in the feels and that hasn’t happened with a book for a long time. 5/5.

May’s Illumicrate Box

My May Illumicrate Box arrived earlier this week while I was visiting a friend abroad so it was a nice surprise waiting for me when I got home.

Illumicrate is a quarterly YA box based in the UK. Unlike a lot of subscription boxes this one doesn’t really have a theme each quarter so it’s always a surprise to see what’s included. There was a lot of stuff in this month’s box.

There were two books included in this month’s box. There’s a signed copy of Truth or Dare by Non Pratt which sounds like a super interesting book. I believe it’s got the same story from two points of view so you read it like a normal book and then you flip it around and read the over characters side of the story. It’s all about friendship and internet fame which since I’ve read Eliza and Her Monsters I’m a lot more interested in. The other book was an advanced reader copy of The Waking Land by Callie Bates. It’s a fantasy story with magic and warring kingdoms and I think it’s released later this month. Book books came with a letter from the author and The Waking Land also came with a signed bookplate.

Now the goodies were pretty cool too. There’s a Feyre mug from Merwild, who I believe is a character from the A Court of Thorns and Roses series but I don’t really know I haven’t read those books, but I really like the design and you can never have too many mugs. There’s a Mermaid Lagoon Candle from Flickerink which has a really strong and sharp tropical scent – I love it but my mum’s not a fan so that’ll be one I use when she’s out.

There’s a very cute keyring from Nutmeg and Arlo which has the “Swish & Flick” quote from Harry Potter along with a wand – my house keys used to have a felt bird on them but that fell off a while ago so have been meaning to find a new keyring for them so this could well be the replacement. There’s some lovely Beauty and the Beast artwork and door hanger from TJ Lubrano which is so pretty. Though I’m always unsure as what to do with art prints.

Then there was a map bookmark from Penguin Co which is quite clever and sits on the corners of the page you’re up to, and then some extra goodies for Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith, Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles and The Gender Games by Juno Dawson. I am very tempted to put The Gender Games pin badge, which has the quote “Let the Gender Games Begin” on it, on my work lanyard just to see what the reaction may be – I work at an all-boys school so it could be interesting.

So that was all that was in this month’s Illumicrate box! It was definitely jampacked and I feel I will use most of the stuff featured. I think I’ll be reading Truth or Dare sooner rather than later and I am intrigued by The Waking Land.

Now my bank balance can take a break after I ordered three different bookish subscription boxes this month!

May’s FairyLoot Box – Warriors & Legends

My FairyLoot box arrived over the weekend and I was looking forward to seeing what was inside it. I don’t get a FairyLoot box every month (because of the cost and I have the naïve belief that it’ll give me more unread books on my TBR but I do that myself to be honest) but I had to get this month’s box because the theme, Warriors & Legends, sounded fab.

I think the box was really well put together and had a lot of cool stuff in it. There’s an exclusive blend of loose leaf green tea from The Tea Leaf Co – I don’t drink tea so no doubt I’ll be finding it a good home, but I do love the design on the container. I’ve become slightly addicted to candles lately so I love the box included one. There were two different candles you could’ve ended up with from In The Wick of Time, one called Flame and one called Mist. The Mist candle was in my box and I love the scent, it’s warm stone and woodsmoke and it’s a lovely subtle scent.

The box also included an exclusive wooden Lord of the Rings bookmark from Ink and Wonder, a pair of Celtic patterned socks, a metallic feather pen from Flora’s Wonder Emporium and a chapter sampler of Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff which sounds like a feminist fairy-tale.

There were actually two books in this month’s box. The first is World Mythology in Bite-Sized Chunks by Mark Daniel, a cool introduction to different myths and legends from across the world. And the second was the main event – Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh. I’ve heard so much about this book on social media over the past few months but never realised it was a Mulan-inspired story set in feudal Japan. Someone should’ve told me that and then it would’ve been right up my TBR! Flame in the Mist came with a signed bookplate, bookmark and a letter from the author and I do like how FairyLoot put the book in a little bag so it doesn’t get damaged on its journey in the post.

I do like FairyLoot boxes. They always feature cool things that are to a high quality and stuff books that I wouldn’t normally get myself but nearly always enjoy. Next month’s theme is Elementalists and I think there’s still some boxes left if you’re quick.

May’s OwlCrate Box: Comic Explosion

I ordered my second OwlCrate recently because the theme, Comic Explosion, was just my sort of thing. OwlCrate is a YA subscription service based in America and it’s the shipping costs of $20 that makes it a box that I pick and choose when to get it. I have to say I was very surprised at how quickly it arrived on my doorstep. Especially as I received an email at lunchtime today saying it was on its way and I could track it, I click on the tracking number and see it had arrived at 11am! Turns out the email might have been a bit delayed and my box was actually posted last Monday – still, it was an excellent surprise to come home to.

If your May OwlCrate box has yet to arrive – beware spoilers below! (more…)

REVIEW: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighboured she grew up in and the posh high school she attends where she’s one of two black kids there. The uneasy balance between the two is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of Khalil, her unarmed best friend, by a police officer. Now if Starr speaks up it could destroy her community, and it could get her killed.

Starr witnesses a terrible crime and you’re right there with her as she goes through the stages of grief. She’s so strong and brave but she doesn’t always feel that way. You feel her pain and anger but you also can understand her parents who just want to keep her safe – whether that means speaking out about what happened or keeping it a secret. I loved Starr and her family. Her parents are kind of #relationshipgoals and parenting goals really, they both may have made mistakes in the past but they love each other and their children and will do anything to make life better for them.

The Hate U Give is brilliantly written – there’s so many lines I could quote that are either touching or profound or just funny. While there’s all this awfulness going on in Starr’s life, she’s still a teenager and the way her voice, and the voice of all the teens in the book are captured, makes it so real. There’s arguments with her boyfriend, the in-jokes she shares with her brothers, and there’s something not right between her and her friends and she doesn’t know why, but knows it started when one of them stopped following her on Tumblr – it’s stuff like that that helps make all these characters feel vibrant and real.

The Hate U Give is sometimes a tough read, it pulls on your heart and makes you just as angry and frustrated as Starr. It’s a roller-coaster of emotions as it’s so similar to real life events that have happened over the past few years that you just don’t know if everything will be alright. It still manages to give you a bit of hope though, that while some people won’t change, others will or will use their voice.

The Hate U Give is a phenomenal book about friendship, loyalty, family and using your voice. It made me smile, it made me tear up and I can’t recommend it enough. 5/5.

REVIEW: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

illuminaeIt’s the year 2375 and two mega-corporations are at war over a small, insignificant mining planet. Pity they didn’t warn the people living there. With enemy fire raining down, Ezra and Kady manage to make their escape on the evacuating fleet. But that’s just the beginning of their troubles. A deadly plague has broken out on one of the space ships, their ships protection is vulnerable and no one will say what is going on. As Kady hacks into the ships mainframe to try and find the truth it soon become clear that Ezra is the only one who can help her. The only problem is that they split up before the war started and she isn’t supposed to be talking to him.

Illuminae is very different from any book I’ve read before and that’s because of how it is written. It’s composed of instant message chats, surveillance footage summaries, interview transcripts, mission reports and more. Files look like they have been clipped into the book or have been printed off and stuck in. It’s really interesting and makes the book quick to read and adds a new spin on things.

It’s interesting how Kady, Ezra and other characters come across through what’s kind of like second-hand text. Kady is super smart and feisty and wants to know the truth about what’s going because both the good and the bad will affect her and her loved ones. Kady is also stubborn and believes she’s always right which does rub people, including Ezra. Ezra is almost the polar opposite of Kady and it’s difficult to imagine them as a couple (though opposites attract and all that I suppose), he follows the rules and doesn’t really question anything, especially when he’s conscripted into the military.

Illuminae is a super-fast read. That’s down to how it’s written, reading conversations through instant messages will always take less time than “proper prose” but also because it’s an action-packed book. It kicks off with a war and then there’s corporate espionage, military cover-ups and a deadly plague. It’s one thing after another that Kady and Ezra must work together to deal with and how they cope will test them and offer both funny and tense moments.

Illuminae is an exciting sci-fi book that has a lot of surprises and I can’t wait to read the sequel. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Graces by Laure Eve

The GracesLike everyone in her small seaside town, River is obsessed with the Graces. They’re a family with wealth, secrets, beauty and glamour, and everyone says they are witches. River wants to be like them and she wants to be liked by them. River wants to be a part of the Graces world and she knows exactly what she’s doing. Doesn’t she?

The Graces is a slow, atmospheric book that has a lot of mystery. You don’t know why River and her mum have moved to this town, you know very little about the Grace’s and while there is talk of magic and spells are performed it treads that fine line of being real and just a fantasy. The magical element of The Graces is one of the interesting things about the story, is magic real or does it not matter if it’s real or not, what matters is what you believe to be true? This is the idea that runs throughout The Graces as various things happen that make you question whether magic is really playing a part in these characters’ lives or if it is all pure coincidence.

It’s hard to connect with both River and the Grace children because they all hide so much of themselves from everyone. With the Graces, it adds to their mystery and makes sense but with River, even though the book is from her point of view you don’t really know much about her or her motivations for wanting to be so close to the Graces. It’s hard to connect with River as she seems to be keeping secrets from her friends and from herself so you never really know who she is. River changes herself to make the Graces like her, watching how everyone else who don’t manage to get the Graces attention acts and doing the exact opposite.

The Graces, Summer, Thalia and Fenrin, are a part of a family that likes to keep their affairs private and that just adds to the mystery surrounding them. They’re glamorous and come from old money so the weird things that happen around them could easily be put down to that rather than magic that Summer and River both desperately want to believe in.

The setting of The Graces, this beautiful small town on the British coast adds to the mystic surrounding the Graces. They are a family who has been in the area for generations so the woods and the sea almost seems a part of their identity. This adds to the mystery and potential magic of the story.

The Graces is an intriguing read even though not a lot happens until about two thirds of the way through. There’s something about the mystery that kept me reading even though I didn’t particularly like any of the characters. 3/5.