YA

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.

REVIEW: The List by Siobhan Vivian

the listEvery September The List is posted all over school. Two girls from each year are picked. One is named the prettiest while one is named the ugliest. The girls who are picked are suddenly known by the entire school and each reacts differently to the experience. This year’s victims are Danielle, Abby, Candace, Lauren, Sarah, Bridget, Jennifer and Margo and they all struggle with their new-found fame. Because whether they were named prettiest or ugliest, they’ll never be the same.

The List is set during the week leading up to the school’s Homecoming dance. On Monday morning the infamous list is posted all around school and throughout the week you seen how the eight girls try to deal with featuring on it. No one knows who has written it and as it’s a yearly tradition it’s something that must be passed down through the students so there’s a mystery element as the girls, as well as the Principal try and figure out why they were featured on the list and who wrote it in the first place. I thought it was good that the Principal was actually aware of the List and wanted to do something about it. Often in high school stories teachers are oblivious to a school-wide drama but here, Principal Colby was new to the school and did not like this so-called tradition at all.

The List is a bit of a distressing book to read. It takes everything girls fear about themselves while in high school and shines a spotlight on it. As well as self-confidence and bullying, The List features eating disorders and overly-controlling parents. There’s relationship trouble and fights between sisters, The List really packs a lot in. However, because each of the eight girls need to react to the List, all these themes aren’t really touched upon fully or don’t have a proper resolution, especially because it’s just a week of their lives. There’s some characters you’re left wondering about while others have a solid character arc, again that’s probably because there’s so many characters to follow in such a small space of time.

The List is a fairly quick contemporary read. It helps that at the beginning of the book it has a copy of the List so as you’re jumping around, following different girls you can quickly see whether they were named prettiest or ugliest. It is interesting to see how these eight girl’s lives start to intertwine because they were all featured on the List. Especially when you get to see what they think of each other and the situation they are all in. Obviously the girls who are named “prettiest” seem best off but that’s not always the case while the “ugly” girls struggle a lot and discover who their real friends are.

The List is full of female characters, some are clichés while others are more layered and some aren’t even that likable – it’s great to see such a mixture in a YA novel. It’s an interesting mix and along with a concept that I’d hate to be real, makes a gripping and quick read. 4/5.

REVIEW: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson

tiger lilly coverIn the forbidden woods of Neverland, fifteen-year-old Tiger Lily falls under Peter Pan’s spell. Peter’s unlike anyone she’s ever met and soon she will risk everything – her family, her friends, her future – to be with him. With enemies threatening to tear them a part and Tiger Lily’s responsibilities to her family, Tiger Lily discovers that the most dangerous enemies can live inside a loyal and loving heart.

Tiger Lily is told from Tinker Bell’s point of view which is interesting as while you can often see what the characters are thinking and feeling, because reading people’s thoughts is something faeries can do, there’s still this distance between the reader and the characters so you don’t always feel that connected to the characters.

The world of Neverland and how people don’t really age is interesting and it’s a blend of kind of historical America and fantasy world. There’s people who definitely appear to be white colonialists, who come to Tiger Lily’s home and teach them all about God and try to change what the people do and believe.

The elements from the traditional Peter Pan story are all still there, though they each have their own interpretation. There’s still the Pirates led by Hook, though he’s a very different man, and the mermaids who are pretty scary. Wendy Darling makes an appearance too and in Tiger Lily you can really see why Tinker Bell doesn’t like her that much and you can see it’s not just petty jealousy over Peter.

Tiger Lily is an interesting retelling of Peter Pan focusing on an often forgotten character. It can be a slow read as you don’t feel that connected to the characters and because of how the book is written. Plus as it is a character driven book so not a lot actually happens till towards the end of the book but as you have this distance from the characters it can be a hard story to get into. 2/5.