Book Review: Nevermoor

33276673Rating Four Star

Title: Nevermoor

Author: Jessica Townsend

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Series? Yes

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Book Depository //  Dymocks  //  Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Nevermoor is an enchanting tale that celebrates individuality and relishes in the extraordinary. Morrigan Crow and The Wunderous Society will undoubtedly capture the imagination of generations of children and adults alike. Infused with wonders and magic, this is a story that begs to be shared by parents and kids everywhere.

Nevermoor.png Continue reading “Book Review: Nevermoor”

Book Review: Godsgrave

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Rating Three Star

Title: Godsgrave

Author: Jay Kristoff

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

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Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Harper Voyager Australia, in exchange for an honest review.

Note: This review will contain spoilers for Nevernight, the prequel of Godsgrave. It will NOT contain any spoilers for Godsgrave itself.

I read Nevernight last year and was quickly taken in by both the book’s darkness and its ever-present sense of self-deprecating humour. Godsgrave contains the same wicked delights that made Nevernight an entertaining read. The latter half of Godsgrave amped up the stakes and imbued the series with a fresh new direction. However, I felt the book’s exploration of slavery was rudimentary, especially considering the significance of the subject matter.

Godsgrave

Let’s begin with the positives. With Godsgrave, we can see marked improvements in Jay Kristoff’s technical writing. While I enjoy descriptive and ornate writing, I have previously felt that Kristoff’s writing veered a little close to purple prose. The writing within this novel is more confident, with vivid imageries conjured by concise yet artful sentences. Like Nevernight, Godsgrave also features alternate narrative timelines. The main narration followed Mia as she slowly made her way into the arena of Godsgrave, and the ‘past’ narration documents why she decided to take this bloody and hopeless path. Continue reading “Book Review: Godsgrave”

Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

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4-star

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Author: J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

Series? No. This is NOT the 8th book, OK.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Book Depository // Amazon // Dymocks // Booktopia


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review. I also bought my own copy the day of release because it’s Harry Potter and I can’t help myself.

I had originally intended to wait until #ReadThemAllThon to begin reading Cursed Child as my Thunder Badge entry. Alas, on the release day I could not help myself – after seeing a couple of photos on twitter of people attending the release party, I quickly ran out to the shops and bought myself a copy. I devoured the story twice in the space of 12 hours, and only my friend borrowing the copy prevented me from reading it a third time.

Note that I will be splitting this review into two parts. The first part is my general, non-spoilery thoughts on the script. The second part will be a spoiler filled section detailing exactly which parts of the script worked or didn’t work for me, and will be marked. If you haven’t had a chance to check out the Cursed Child, please be mindful when you are scrolling through this post to avoid spoilers!

My emotions in regards to the Cursed Child are wildly mixed. On the one hand, the trip down memory lane was beautifully nostalgic, and I teared up several times while reading the script. However, many of the plot points in this story are simply absurd and outlandish – I can barely believe that J. K. Rowling gave it the green light and asked fans worldwide to consider it an ‘8th book’. Although I loved many things about the play, it’s still a far cry from the original seven Harry Potter books.

HPCursedChild Continue reading “Book Review: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”

Book Review: Wink, Poppy, Midnight

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3star

Title: Wink, Poppy, Midnight

Author: April Genevieve Tucholke

Series? No

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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Firstly, let me just get it out of my system and gush about that cover! Now, I don’t consider myself superficial – but I 100% purchased this book based on the merits of its stunning cover alone. The typography, colouring and embellishments on it are all A+++ *satisfied sigh*

“Revenge. Justice. Love. They are the three stories that all other stories are made up of. It’s the trifecta.”

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Ahem. What about the content, did you say? I know this book has been met with extremely mixed reception – with people either dismissing it as pretentious nonsense or revering it as a masterpiece. I am firmly on the fence regarding this (I know, neutrality is a bit boring – boo!). On the one hand, I found the vivid writing and fairy tale imageries enchanting. On the other, the plot is overly convoluted – with its ultimate execution falling short of the author’s ambitious plans. Continue reading “Book Review: Wink, Poppy, Midnight”

Book Review: Rebel of The Sands & Author Interview

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Title: Rebel of the Sands

Author: Alwyn Hamilton

Series? Yes. 1 of 3.

Rating: 4/5 stars

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I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review.

Rebel of the Sands had me the moment I saw its utterly stunning UK cover. I only became more enrapt when I saw promises of a gun-toting heroine taking on an Arabian Nights inspired world. I truly enjoyed the spin on mythologies and the cinematic action scenes this book offered.

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The book offers a promising start, with some of my favourite story devices being employed: Amani crossdresses to enter a sharpshooting tournament, where she proceeds to rip all of men to shreds with her incredible skills. Although YA has no shortage of strong ladies, I still have the urge to seal clap every single time I see someone this awesome.

Amani’s confident, competent, and sassy – all that I love in a leading lady. I liked that she also had flaws, being impulsive and at times, short-sighted to the bigger picture. I could empathise with her wish to be more, and to be free – as she plots to leave behind the barrent waste of Dustwalk. In fact, I grew to like Amani so much in the beginning that I forgave the book for introducing our obligatory love interest very early on – despite his entrance being particularly predictable:

‘He had strange sharp features I’d never seen before, with high-angled cheekbones, a straight square haw, and eyebrows that made darl slashes above the uncanniest eyes I’d ever seen. He wasn’t bad looking, either, at that…’

Amani and Jin shared a sweet romance, even though they did lack some chemistry. I personally felt Amani had a lot more spark with some of the side characters we get introduced to later on in the novel. I thought their banter lacked bite – although they did genuinely moving moments. Nothing warms my heart more than a heroine that does the saving, rather than the other way around.

Aside from Amani and Jin, there’s also a cast of colourful characters. Despite their lack of page time, I found myself wanting to learn more about them. There’s the magnetic Shazad, who appeared when I started to despair about the lack of important side female characters in the story. There’s also Amani’s cousin, Shira – whose motives I found utterly fascinating even though she remained antagonistic towards our protagonist. I sensed in her the same need to escape from Dustwalk, and I hoped the cousins can realise they have a common goal in future novels. Of course, that could still be my wishful thinking and Shira will remain a bitter and conniving – but if Dudley Dursley could do it, Shira can, too!

The world building in this book also has immense potential, with the scope already covering three separate nations in this novel. However, we spend most of our time in the Arabian-inspired Miraji. Rebel in the Sands make a genuine attempt at being diverse, with both our protagonists coming from non-Western background. I did bristle a little when we kept reminded of Amani’s extraordinary blue eyes. The book does offer an explanation for this initially baffling choice, but for once – I would like to see brown eyes being accepted in fiction.

‘Iron could hold the First Beings. Or kill them, same as it could a ghoul. Bind them to mortality.’

Another thing I enjoyed about the story were the richly drawn world. Filled with gunpowder and danger – the story could have quickly become Westernised. Nonetherless, the book maintained an authentic Middle Eastern feel – with mythologies about Djinns and fairy tale creatures conjured up by the author. There’s also a strong element of tales, and the remnants of myths that dwell even in the age of Iron and technology. The juxtaposition of the new and old, of the fantastical and progress – has always intrigued me as a reader. Rebel in the Sands offer a glimpse into a world that’s ready to forget the magic in legends, and creatures of myth not ready to be forgotten. The revolution brewing was also somewhat set around the revival of these myths and magic. Not a novel idea in fiction, but certainly one I eat up with a spoon every single time.

‘Night in the desert was different when it wasn’t on the edge of the campfire. When there was no laughter and music and storytelling from the caravan to eclipse the sounds that came from the dark.’

The writing in Rebel of the Sands was also richly imaginative and cinematic in its imageries. Descriptions of the otherwise barren desert was vivid and atmospheric, adding to the scale of worldbuilding. The plot also moved at a constant pace, with Amani and Jin encountering and solving one dilemma after another in quick successions. While the storyline stuck very closely to the expected path: inexplicably unique girl on a mission, and is converted into joining a revolution – it kept interest by the sheer pace of things. I find myself interested enough to check out the next book.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

Allen & Unwin also gave me an exciting opportunity to pick the brains behind this story! Thank you so much to Alwyn Hamilton for giving these detailed answers – and for the story behind her encounter with Hugh Grant 😉

Alwyn HamiltonAlwyn Hamilton was born in Toronto and lived between Canada, France and Italy until she was three, when her family settled in the small French town of Beaune. She studied History of Art at King’s College, Cambridge, graduated in 2009 and lives in London, where she works for Christie’s as Senior Administrator in the Interiors department.

1. Congratulations on your debut novel! What has been the most memorable part of your publishing journey?

Thank you so much! The submissions process probably sticks out the most. It was such a whirlwind I don’t know if I took all of it in. But the evening of the U.S auction for the book I do remember well. After trying (and failing) to work for most of the day, I had to go find an antique fainting couch to sit on for a bit (my workplace had those). And then my best friend came and collected me. I was glued to my phone and saw an email forwarded from my agent about Viking from another author who I really admire, and I nearly walked into traffic. Only my friend grabbing the back of my shirt and pulling me back stopped me.
Then, the following day, I got a box full of sand, with a bottle, wrapped in a red scarf, with the pitch from Faber inside.
Those two moments, both from the publishers who wound up getting the book at the end of the auction, stand out to me.

2. You finely balanced authentic cultural accuracy and creatively spinning your own myths in Rebel of the Sands. Do you have any tips for writers who are trying to do the same?

My biggest tip would be, take the time to invent an origin story! Whether it’s from scratch or heavily inspired by existing religion, you want to know your world’s version of “let there be light” or Kronos eating his own children, because everything springs from there in some way.

The Humans in rebel, were, according to their religion, made from an elemental place. They were built from earth and water mixed together, carved by the air, and then brought alive with a spark of fire. That meant that a lot of the elements I pulled into the world and their stories tied back to this elemental place in some way, like sand horses, Djinn made of fire who can summon a sand storm… And then, because the humans were created as mortal warriors against an evil that brought the dark with her, it meant that quite a lot of the stories they tell come from this great war between good and evil.

3. I really enjoyed the wide-scope of your world building. Which challenges did you face in attempting to meld Middle Eastern mythology with Wild West-esque action?

I actually came up with the idea to meld the two because of how much cross over they have. Desert landscapes, Bandits, a strong role of religion and on and on. The spots where they didn’t cross over, technology and magic, then became opposing forces. Stories from both cultures are actually filled with terrific amounts of adventure so they fit pretty well together for me, though of course I always wanted to be careful that I was crafting a world that seemed authentic and where everything did fit in, and that I was never throwing an element in there for the sake of it, that it always added to the setting and the story I was building.

It was a balancing act, but I think people need to know it’s ok to diverge from actual history when making up settings, especially when “Historical accuracy” is so often cited as an excuse not to include any diversity, even in a made up world.
4. The sequence with the Buraqi was amazing! If you could catch one, where would you ride off to?

Hmmm…well they can’t run across water, but assuming I could use the Eurotunnel in order to get to the continent, I’d ride to the south of Italy and find a beach with some sun to lounge in and read a book by day, and eat pasta by night.

5. I loved the tinge of Arabian Nights in your work. Hypothetically speaking, which of Scheherazade’s stories would have been Amani’s favourite?

Oooh, I love this question. I mean the first thing to say about the Arabian Nights is that it is not a fixed text by any means so I’ve encountered a lot of different stories in different versions and there are different editions and translations. But, just flipping through my two editions of it, the story that jumped out was the tales of the journeys of Sinbab the Sailor. Those are stories about a man off to seek his fortune and encountering it through adventures and I think that would appeal to Amani. Also Jin used to be a sailor so there’s that.
6. Do you have any book recommendations for readers who loved Rebel of the Sands?

I love giving book recs! I’ll give a few “if you liked X you’ll love Y” style if that’s ok?
If you liked the girl finding her strength a desert setting, I’d point you towards Rae Carson’s GIRL OF FIRE AND THORNS and Robin McKinley’s THE BLUE SWORD.
If you liked a girl defying gender expectations by cross-dressing, you have to read Tamora Pierce’s ALANNA.
If you liked the action sequences I’ll point you towards Marie Lu’s LEGEND Trilogy.
If you liked the world building, I’ll point you towards Marie Rutkoski’s THE WINNER’S CURSE and Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW & BONE.
7. I’m so curious for the story behind this quote on your Twitter profile: ”You’re quite intimidating.’ – Hugh Grant to me once.’
Ha! I used to work for an auction house. It was actually the day after the U.S auction for the book, and day before the UK, so I was feeling a little like I was floating outside of my body at all times so I have no idea what expression I must’ve been wearing. But I had signed up to work overtime doing reception for the charity auction of Paddington bear sculptures because I needed some extra cash to buy Christmas presents. There were a few celebrities on the list, Hugh Grant was one of them, and he arrived about 5 minutes late, after everyone else had gone in. So instead of a friendly crowd of people milling around as a buffer, he was greeted by me, and two other girls wearing all black, standing behind glowing podiums, framed by a huge sweeping staircase, controlling the guest list. He stepped through the doors, looked startled and said: “Oh, you’re quite intimidating.” I was so tempted to pretend I didn’t know who he was and make him give me his name for the guest list to live up to this description.

Book Review & Tour: Who’s Afraid

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3star

Title: Who’s Afraid

Author: Maria Lewis

Series? Yes.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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WhosAfraid

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of this book by Hachette Australia in exchange for an honest review.

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I was excited about Who’s Afraid the moment I read the blurb. It mentioned rural New Zealand (for those who don’t know, I spent my formative years in NZ and have all the love for it), werewolves and promised action. It’s been a while since I’ve read urban fantasy as well, so I was eager to dive back into the genre. For the most part, Who’s Afraid was an engaging read, filled with elements you’ve come to love about paranormal tales, but with enough twists to stand on its own.

Aotearoa – With Werewolves!

For all her life, Tommi’s mother has never been frank about her heritage – hiding her in Scotland with brutal half-truths about her father and his family. With the help of her best friend, Tommi discover he may be a Maori man residing in rural New Zealand. As mentioned above, I was most excited about New Zealand being mentioned in the blurb, and basically could not wait for Tommi to land in Rotorua. From the get go, the setting is fraught with tension – she’s there to find her biological father and alleged rapist of her deceased mum. The truth she finds is even more horrifying, involving a Maori tribe of werewolves (I know! What a premise!) and truths about herself she’s not quite ready to uncover.  Continue reading “Book Review & Tour: Who’s Afraid”

Book Review: The Peony Lantern

peony lantern

3star

Title: The Peony Lantern

Author: Frances Watts

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Series? No

Booktopia

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Note: This is a pre-scheduled post. I am still on vacation. Apologies for any delay in commenting back!

This is part of the small list of books I read in preparation for my trip to Japan this year. The Peony Lantern follows the life of a commoner turned lady in waiting in 1800s Japan. It makes for a breezy, yet somewhat forgettable read. The tale is penned by an Australian author, yet the research into traditional Japanese culture is sound. This is a great first look for any teenagers interested in Japanese history.

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The Culture

I think where this book excelled was definitely in the research into Japanese culture. In fact, The Peony Lantern was less book and more a love letter to Japan. I could feel that the author was enamoured with the country (a sentiment I share!). You can read all about the research Ms Watts did for the book here.

The story carries us through a full year, letting the reader experience a piece of Japan’s love for seasonal changes and celebration. It starts at the beginning of summer, evocative in its imagery of the rain season (called tsuyu). The book then follows through to those muggy summer days, vibrant with the colours of irises, hydrangeas and firework. We then get the luscious autumn scenes, dressed up in gold and reds through chrysanthemum and maple leaves. Finally, we get the intimacy and mystery of snowy winter; seen through frost and steaming bowls of oden.

Through Kasumi’s inexperienced eyes, the readers also get to see her first glimpse at ikebana, painting, and ukiyo-e. The book is a crash course in all that foreigners celebrate about Japanese culture. You know: geisha, sashimi, beautiful sweets and tea ceremonies. However, I did not get the sense that the author was misappropriating the culture – just that she loved Japan very much and wanted to share her experiences. My knowledge of the Japanese culture is limited to my short holidays there and specialised books or website – yet from what I could surmise, the information conveyed were accurate.

The Story and Characters.

Unfortunately, in the book’s zeal to display Japan and all its many faces – it forgot its human characters somewhere along the way. While Edo was a character unto itself, the same cannot be said for Kasumi, Misaki, and the rest of the cast. Kasumi, our main character, was an bland vessel through which the reader viewed Japan. She never lifted off the page and became a real person. Kasumi’s conflicts felt like a check box of: love interest, ‘passion’ in painting, and her relationship with her mistress, Misaki. While Kasumi’s father touted her as the disobedient and free-spirited child – she sadly did not live up to his snide remarks.  All I learned of her was a sleepy curiousity and a love for art of all kind – both a necessity of the plot.

I did find her mistress, Misaki, a lot more engaging, as was the mystery surrounding her. However, given the neo-Confucian societal structure of Edo Japan, I find her situation quite farfetched. I don’t want to risk spoiling the ending for those interested to check out the book – but needless to say, it is wishful thinking.

The actual story itself is a part mystery and part political intrigue, however – there was not enough content or investment on the heroine’s part to make the storyline engaging. I did enjoy the fact that the story is a loose retelling of the Japanese Ghost Tale:  The Peony Lantern – the reimagining has a great feminist spin that I appreciated!

I would say that this book is 60% a crash course in Japan culture, and maybe 40% plot. Take that as you will, though I personally enjoyed it because my main draw to this story was Japan.


A Tour Through Japan

As I did during my previous posts, included in this post are photos of my travel, in relation to this book!

We left the Kiso Valley. I had thought I’d be sad as we moved further and further away from my home, and I was a little, but more than that I was entranced, my eyes travelling over new landscapes: the sight of the sacred Mount Fuji from the Shiojiri pass; the bleakness of the Asama plateau, so wide and flat, the desolate air broken by the porters from Oiwake singing a song about the inn of the moon and flowers. Then Mount Asama, the mighty volcano, so unlike the comforting embrace of the mountains in my valley. I saw lakes and bustling towns and the grand Korigawa shrine, and crossed a wide river on a ferry boat: my first time on the water.

Hakone

‘Tell me about Hakone,’ I urged. Her expression became rapturous. ‘It was so beautiful, Kasumi — I wish you could have seen it.’ She described the blazing autumn colours of the forested hills, the view across the lake to the sacred peak of Mount Fuji.

Lake Ashi

I didn’t pass through the Kiso Valley region in Japan, so my journey was a little different to Kasumi’s own. I did attempt to glimpse at Mt Fuji by traveling through Hakone. Unfortunately, I did not get to see the elusive Mt Fuji – the sky was clear and blue everywhere BUT over the mountain top!  Damn you, condensation laws and physics!  However, like Kasumi, I did get to travel on a ferry across Lake Ashi – which was stunning. It was liberating seeing the azure sky, emerald mountains, and open water – especially after spending a week in the concrete metropolis of Tokyo.

‘I know. They boil it in the hot springs and it turns the shell black. But eating it will bring you seven years of good luck.’ ‘Thank you.’ I cradled the egg in my palm, touched that Misaki had thought of me on her travels. What would seven years of good luck mean for me?

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I also had the famed blackened eggs at Owakudani valley in Hakone. Misaki is right, they are touted to increase longevity – although once cracked they’re just ordinary boiled eggs. I remember this batch of 5 costing us 700Y! There are also many other gimmicky foods sold in this area: such as black ramen and egg flavoured ice cream – I was not brave enough to try either, so I cannot report on their taste!


A series of stepping stones led to a small stone bridge, which we crossed into a cool glade of ferns, at its centre a large stone lantern covered with moss… Whoever had designed the garden had ensured there was a colour for every season, I noted. It was like the world in miniature.

Kinkakuji

The gardens in Japan are resplendent, each plant carefully curated to mimic nature. My favourite is the garden surrounding Kinkakuji: The Golden Pavilion. The temple lies in a middle of a completely still pond, filled with koi fish. There are numerous little rocky islands in the pond, rumoured to represent Japan’s many islands. It’s a beautiful space for quiet contemplation, if you could ignore the gaggle of tourists behind you. It took me ten minutes to get this particular shot, this temple is so popular it would be packed whatever time of day you arrive – but the view is completely worth it.

I am also going to visit Kenrokuen and Korakuen when I go back to Japan this year. They are famed to be 2 of the 3 leading gardens in Japan, so I will be sure to share photos if I am able to get reliable wifi!


Book Review: Illuminae

3star

Title: Illuminae

Authors:  Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Rating: 3.5/5

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No one is sadder than I am that I did not enjoy Illuminae. I have THREE copies of the book, mainly bought because I couldn’t wait to get started! This is coming from a girl who never bothers to buy physical copies (my existence is held together by a Kindle).

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Image credit goes to Freepik, edited by me.

I can’t say it’s a complete waste because the book itself is GORGEOUS. The designers and authors deserve much credit for tying the story together in such a visually stunning manner. Yet, that’s about all the positives I have on Illuminae.

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As you all know, Illuminae is a book surrounded by immense hype and built up by an army of ringing endorsements. By the end of BEA 2015, I was convinced 70% of bloggers in US have read the book, and they all seem to agree it’s the best thing in fiction since Harry Potter.

In general, I’m 50-50 with popular books – I either lap it up and turn into a crazy fangirl along with the adoring public (see Six of Crows, or Throne of Glass from book 3 onwards) – or I just feel underwhelmed. Unfortunately, the latter happened here. I built up too much expectations, and what I got in return is a fairly standard YA scifi – complete with obligatory romance and sketchy world building. It sets itself apart by being brilliantly marketed and packaged, though I don’t feel it’s enough for me to award it more than 3.5 stars. Continue reading “Book Review: Illuminae”

Book Review: The Bone Season

3star

Title: The Bone Season

Author: Samantha Shannon

Rating: 3.5/5

Series? Yes, 1 of 7

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Book Depository


While I really enjoyed The Bone Season, I felt for every single positive I could list for the book, I found another negative as well. I am just so conflicted about all my reads recently! For this review, I’ll discuss both the goods and the bads to the various factors in the book.

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There was no normal. There never had been. “Normal” and “natural” were the biggest lies we’d ever created.”

Continue reading “Book Review: The Bone Season”

Book Review: Zeroes

zeroes by scott westerfeld

3star

Title: Zeroes

Author: Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti

Series? Yes, 1 of 3

Rating: 3.5/5

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Book Depository


While I finished Zeroes in one day, meaning it was a fast paced and riveting read, I did have some issues with the book. The things I loved and the things I didn’t are split quite evenly in for this novel, so I have conveniently broken the review into two section for you all to peruse!

Zeroes-Pros

  • Unconventional Superhero Powers:  Forget about the old flying, invisibility and superhuman strength – the protagonists of Zeroes have wickedly original superpowers. There’s Ethan, with the omniscient ‘voice’ that can talk him out (and into!) all sorts of trouble. There’s Anon, who’s so forgettable his own mum couldn’t pick him out in a hospital – making him a formidable criminal. There’s Flicker, who’s a twist on the old Oracle: she’s blind but she can see through other people’s eyes. I love seeing these unique powers and how creatively the authors apply them to the plot line.

Continue reading “Book Review: Zeroes”