Thursday, March 31, 2016

Review: Of Metal and Wishes by Sarah Fine

Title: Of Metal and Wishes
Author: Sarah Fine
Series: Of Metal and Wishes, Book One
Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books
Publication Date: 4 August 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

There are whispers of a ghost in the slaughterhouse where sixteen-year-old Wen assists her father in his medical clinic—a ghost who grants wishes to those who need them most. When one of the Noor, men hired as cheap factory labor, humiliates Wen, she makes an impulsive wish of her own, and the Ghost grants it. Brutally.

Guilt-ridden, Wen befriends the Noor, including their outspoken leader, a young man named Melik. At the same time, she is lured by the mystery of the Ghost and learns he has been watching her... for a very long time.

As deadly accidents fuel tensions within the factory, Wen must confront her growing feelings for Melik, who is enraged at the sadistic factory bosses and the prejudice faced by his people at the hand of Wen’s, and her need to appease the Ghost, who is determined to protect her against any threat—real or imagined. She must decide whom she can trust, because as her heart is torn, the factory is exploding around her... and she might go down with it.
(summary from Goodreads)


Of Metal and Wishes was something quite imaginative but I can't help wanting more.

I can't say I'm much of a Phantom of the Opera fan. I've seen a movie version once only. But the idea of a retelling set within a slaughterhouse with both steampunk and dystopian overtones? Colour me intrigued. And the world building was definitely what I liked most about Of Metal and Wishes, but it could have been better. I wished we could have read more about the history of the Itanyai and Noor. Fine does a great job bringing Wen's immediate world to life. Descriptions of The Ring, Gochan One (the slaughterhouse), and life within it's walls are effective. But there was always this hint of more that we just weren't getting. Telling us there's been war, prejudice and rebellion is all well and good, it's easy enough to accept, but Fine's allusions to the truth not being so simple or not actually what Wen's always been told kind of became frustrating. I get that Fine was building up to her next book in the series, Of Dreams and Rust, but when this story was so ultra focused on just Wen and her relationships with Melik and the Ghost, hints of more felt like unsatisfactory deviations. If the outside world had have encroached onto Wen's contained world more substantially, it could have worked. But here, all hell breaks look simply because of a jealous Ghost. Sure, the Itanyai's prejudice against the Noor played a part but to me it ultimately felt like too much of a plot device just to cause romantic obstacles. Of Metal and Wishes was a fast paced novel though, full of just enough action and violence to keep things from stagnating. It's another plus for Fine's descriptive prose. The Ghost and his machinery, the horrific 'accidents', and the disgusting behaviour of the Itanyai men towards Wen, and females in general, kept things somewhat shocking and terrifying. But again, it would have been even better if the mystery behind the Ghost and the murders wasn't so predictable. Wen might have been unable to figure it out, but I think it was a little too obvious for readers.

The downside to the fast pacing and predictability is that Fine's characters fell flat for me. I never connected with them. While I appreciate that Of Metal and Wishes was a quick and easy read, unfortunately character development was somewhat lacking, and most especially in regard to their relationships. Wen was in a tough situation, and there's no denying I felt for her - Mugo and Lati's attentions had my skin crawling - but for someone so aware of her own precarious position she was awfully naive at times. I liked Melik well enough, but he had so much more going on that we simply weren't privy to, what with the novel being from Wen's point of view. Much like the hints of a big wider world, when it came to Melik I felt like something pivotal was missing. It didn't help that with such fast pacing his and Wen's relationship went from hatred to love in pretty much the blink of an eye. I like the idea of the two of them together, I just would have enjoyed more build up of the affection between them. Wen risks a lot when it comes to Melik, and while it's unfair it is so because of terrible prejudice, I can't help but want to appreciate the anticipation, believe that it's real and meaningful, and that's not what I got. Am I asking too much? I'm thankful Of Metal and Wishes didn't develop into a full blown love triangle at least. Though 'not yet' seems to be more the case, judging from the reviews of Fine's sequel. As it is, I didn't much understand Wen's being drawn to the Ghost, let alone his being an actual love interest. I think Fine meant the Ghost to be a much more complex character than I found him to be. One, because I found the truth of the Ghost much too obvious, but two, my not caring for him is also personal taste. Psycho's are not my cup of tea, and all I saw in the Ghost is a sociopathic, child-like, stalking murderer. Right from the beginning Wen's feeling like she'd found a like-soul who understood her pain had me scoffing. I just never felt any connection throughout Of Metal and Wishes

Of Metal and Wishes had the makings of a fascinating retelling, unfortunately it just wasn't quite all it could be.

Rating: 

 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Waiting on Summer Days and Summer Days, Edited by Stephanie Perkins

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. It spotlights soon to be released books that can't come quick enough!

I'm definitely looking forward to reading...

Summer Days and Summer Nights, Edited by Stephanie Perkins

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: 17 May 2016
Pre-Order: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

Maybe it's the long, lazy days, or maybe it's the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.
(summary from Goodreads)


I recently read Perkins's other anthology, My True Love Gave to Me, and I really enjoyed all the stories. They were all so varied but cute and swoonworthy, so I'm definitely eager to read this anthology too. 

What has you counting the days until it's release?

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Top Ten Latest 5 Star and 1 Star Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started over at The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they have a specific topic for a top ten list. Link up, visit some new blogs and add to your ever growing TBR list! This week's topic is:

Top Ten Latest 5 Star and 1 Star Reads

Top 5 Latest 5 Star Reads

Aristotle and Dante

Top 5 Latest 1 Star Reads

Frankie Landau-Banks

I don't give out many 1 star reviews, that's for sure. Those 5 are from the last year! It takes a lot, I think, for me to mark a book as 'hated'. I definitely don't hold back on the 2 star reviews though. As for the 5 stars, they come a little more frequently too.

How about you? What books have you recently given 5 or 1 star reviews to?

Please share a link to your Top Ten and I'll have a look!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Book One
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: 21 February 2012
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

"This book took my breath away."
―James Howe, author of The Misfits

Dante can swim. Ari can't. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari's features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side
. (summary from Goodreads)


A gorgeously written story that weaves itself through your heart.

I love this book so much. This is the second time I've read it and I love it all the more now. This time I appreciated the nuances just that little more, knowing how it ends. Sáenz is amazing. The way he says so much with so little awes me. There's no over telling throughout Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe that's for sure. There's a starkness to Sáenz's writing style that is so raw. With seemingly so little, there's such exposure. This novel packs a hefty emotional punch. It wraps a fist around your heart, it takes your breath away, has you reading through tears, laughing along, and most definitely swooning. The feeling of Aristotle and Dante resonates. This book consistently surprised me when first reading it. I didn't really have any particular expectations, but I never could have predicted how this story goes. As the prose is quite beautifully simple, the hard hitting moments really stand out. I'd have to pause to take it in, thinking 'did that really just happen?'. Even my second read through was full of pauses to marvel and take it all in. Sáenz's narrative delves into family, friendship, love, sexuality, stereotype and identity is such a unique way. It's thoughtful and gut-wrenching and honestly, Aristotle and Dante is the kind of book that really does stay with you long after you finish it.

You won't soon forget Ari and Dante either. The novel is told entirely through Ari's point of view, and the style and tone sure is fitting. Ari is such a closed off character in many ways, even to himself. It's what's so original about Aristotle and Dante, that we don't get flooded with every bit of Ari and his inner thoughts because he simply doesn't acknowledge his own feelings sometimes. I really found Aristotle and Dante quite painful to read the first time because I wanted so much and seemed not to be getting it, but it's so good when the truth becomes clear and you look back with that knowledge. It was so interesting to read this book a second time knowing everything. I read it all, most especially Ari, in a new light and it was fantastic. Like I said, I appreciated Sáenz's writing that much more and I actually found Ari's experiences even more emotional because I could read between the lines more and just get it. I think those of you who have or will reread Aristotle and Dante will understand. I have a lot of love for Dante too. I enjoyed getting to know Dante through Ari's eyes. He's so sweet and a little quirky, honest and forthright, and that Ari didn't always know what to make of Dante is amusing. Their friendship is definitely the thing I love most about this book. That ending! It's genuine and heartfelt and the ups and downs they experience move the story. Family relationships also drive Aristotle and Dante. It was brilliant to see Ari and Dante's parents as strong and present characters. Their respective relationships with their sons are heartwarming. Ari's story is most effected by that of his parents. Their silence - about his older brother and the actions that put him in prison; about the effects of war on his father - shapes Ari, defines him and his own choices. Sáenz teaches us that silence is not equated with inattention though, and oh, how I love it. Their parents are truly there for each of these boys and it is beautiful.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is a book that blows me away still. It is just stunning. I cannot wait to read Sáenz's sequel.

Rating:

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Review: The Hidden Twin by Adi Rule

Title: The Hidden Twin
Author: Adi Rule
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: 22 March 2016
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I received this book from St. Martin's Griffin for review.

For eighteen years a girl with no name, a Redwing, has been hidden away in a small attic room within a city of hissing pipes and curving temples perched on the side of the great volcano, Mol, while her sister, Jey-identical except for her eyes-has lived her life in public as an only child. Their father had hoped the hidden girl would one day grow up to be a normal human girl and not the wicked creature mythology has promised, so he secretly spared her life as an infant.

But when she switches places with her sister, striking up a flirtation with the son of the Empress while working in the royal gardens and gets attacks by two suspicious priests on her journey home, she is forced to call forth fire to protect herself, unleashing her previously dormant powers and letting her secret out. She soon catches the attention of a cult with a thousand year old grudge as well as a group of underground rebels, both seeking her for their own gain. But when her sister goes missing and the Redwing uncovers a great plot to awaken Mol and bring fiery destruction upon them all, she is forced to embrace her powers.

In Adi Rule's stunning new novel, The Hidden Twin, the girl with no name, must finally choose a name and a path for herself, drawing a line between myth and history to prove herself more than a monster if she is to save both her sister and her home.
(summary from Goodreads)


Rule has created an enchanting world, full of fairytale-like quality, but it lacks an emotional connection.

Reading The Hidden Twin was a hard one. I found myself putting it down a lot. It just couldn't keep my attention long. Finally I had to sit and force myself to just get it finished. The thing is, The Hidden Twin isn't terrible, really. It's certainly not perfect, but it's not outright terrible. It's just missing something vital - that connection that keeps you hooked and wanting more. A lot happens throughout this novel and Rule keeps the pace moving, moving, moving. But for all that there's plenty of action, there's no real build up, no anticipation to the narrative. There's no suspense or tension, no emotional investment. It's a cliche analogy, but reading The Hidden Twin felt a little like listening to really fast sport commentary. You know the kind, where they seem to barely draw breath? The story was too much this happened, then this happened, then that, then this, then that, then the end. I started feeling lost. I don't mean that I didn't understand what was happening, but rather because I wasn't invested, I found myself simply not caring enough. Rule describes her fictional world well enough. I could easily picture Caldaras, and the idea of the Others, Mol, the Temple, Dal Roet and Bet-Nef were really interesting, as well as the mythology of the twins, one human and one Redwing, born to an Other and a human. This mythology that the whole of The Hidden Twin builds upon is quite awesome. If only it had developed more of an emotional punch. The Hidden Twin was unfortunately just too much telling. Nothing was ever expanded into a complex story. That ending was especially disappointing. I'm under the impression that The Hidden Twin is a standalone novel, but seriously, that ending is really wide open for more story. There's practically no closure to this novel, for me at least, and that is something I can't get past. 

The lack of connection is a big issue for Rule's characters too. I felt like we never really got to know them. Things just kept happening too fast that we never delved deeper into them and their stories. The end, with it's revelations about Lin, Nara, Corvin and Zahi Zan, is proof of this. We're told their motivations finally but it's all so 'wham bam!' that it's practically meaningless. Lin is our main character, though for most of the book she's actually nameless. She's the Redwing twin and as such has spent most of her life hidden from the world. I think we're meant to take this as explanation for most of Lin's actions. She basically spends the whole book following blindly the orders of others. Lin was so flippant about everything, like she never realised the serious nature of her circumstances. Like hey, I was just captured, tortured and executed, but I didn't die, so I'm going to sneak back into the temple - and take a bath. Then I'll go off and make out with a stranger. Sure, why not? I kept waiting for Lin to come in to her own, to learn and follow her instincts - to actually have instincts! - but nope. The impression I'm left with is that Lin was not a fighter, at all. She just got plain lucky. This actually annoyed me because Lin had power, and Rule hints at some serious history, so she could have been a complex, daring character, but instead she's just meh. But hey, at least she's consistent. The same cannot be said for Jey, Lin's twin, or Zahi Zan, Lin's love interest. Talk about 180° turns in personality. I never liked either though, before or after their personality shifts. Jey was much too immature and selfish, and Zahi's relationship with Lin was such insta-love there was no chance to truly learn to care about him. I really wish Rule had developed Nara, Corvin and Fir more. They had potential to be interesting, but what they brought to the story was never expanded on and it was severely necessary that Rule did so. Everything that could have provided The Hidden Twin some genuine emotion and anticipation is simply cut too short. Even the villains of the story were mere blips. Honestly, I ended The Hidden Twin feeling like a whole half of the story was still missing.

The magic and mythology of The Hidden Twin is great, but the story suffers poor narrative, characters and emotion.

Rating: 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Waiting on Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. It spotlights soon to be released books that can't come quick enough!

Gimme, gimme, gimme...

Aerie by Maria Dahvana Headley

Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication Date: 4 October 2016
Pre-Order: Amazon | The Book Depository

Where is home when you were born in the stars?

Aza Ray is back on earth. Her boyfriend Jason is overjoyed. Her family is healed. She’s living a normal life, or as normal as it can be if you’ve spent the past year dying, waking up on a sky ship, and discovering that your song can change the world.

As in, not normal. Part of Aza still yearns for the clouds, no matter how much she loves the people on the ground.

When Jason’s paranoia over Aza’s safety causes him to make a terrible mistake, Aza finds herself a fugitive in Magonia, tasked with opposing her radical, bloodthirsty, recently-escaped mother, Zal Quel, and her singing partner Dai. She must travel to the edge of the world in search of a legendary weapon, The Flock, in a journey through fire and identity that will transform her forever.

In this stunning sequel to the critically acclaimed Magonia, one girl must make an impossible choice between two families, two homes—and two versions of herself.
(summary from Goodreads)


We have a cover and it is stunning!! Magonia was my favourite read last year so I'm beyond eager to get my hands on this book! Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait! But oh, I have to wait until October. Cue sobbing!  

What book can you not possibly handle waiting for?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Top Ten Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't Talked About in a While

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started over at The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they have a specific topic for a top ten list. Link up, visit some new blogs and add to your ever growing TBR list! This week's topic is:

Top Ten Books I Really Love But Feel Like I Haven't Talked About in a While

The Time Traveler's Wife
Aristotle and Dante

Many of these I was always recommending too, but yeah, these days I feel like I barely mention them. And I included Shakespeare as a whole because, well, it encompasses a lot. And it's been so long since I really talked Shakespeare or read anything of his. I think I'm due a reread to remind myself why I love all of these. I recently reread Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe for a book club and it was so great. So at least I'll be talking about it a bit more once I write my review!

Apologies too that it's been quiet around here. I've been ill the last few days and found I can't be motivated to do much more than binge watch Full House. I'm so into it actually that I can't decide if I am still feeling poorly or if I just don't want to stop watching!

What much loved books do you feel like you haven't talked enough about lately? And while we're on the subject, do you like Full House? Did you watch Fuller House? Share your Top Ten posts with me and I'll be sure to visit!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Stacking the Shelves (88)

Stacking the Shelves is hosted by Tynga's Reviews. Share all of the bookish goodies you got during the week!

I attended the Penguin Teen Australia YA Squad event in Brisbane last night and picked up some books while I was there.

Bought:

Frankie by Shivaun Plozza
Yellow by Megan Jacobson
The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Freebie:

Penguin Teen Australia Super-Proof 2006 - many thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for this. It's full of excerpts from a number of upcoming releases.

I had a lot of fun at the event. Authors Shivaun Plozza, Megan Jacobson, Kylie Fornasier and Will Kostakis were the YA Squad and it was great hearing them speak and meeting them. I'll share more about the event in a write up tomorrow. 

What books are new to your shelves?

Friday, March 18, 2016

Feature & Follow Friday: Top Ten Favourite Book Covers

Feature & Follow Friday is hosted by Rachel over at Parajunkee's View and Alison of Alison Can Read. This is a chance to get to know fellow book bloggers and have them meet you. Be sure to pop over and meet this week's featured bloggers! Also, don't forget to pop back over in a couple of days to vote for next week's featured blogger.

Top Ten Favourite Book Covers

Made You Up
Nevernight

I do love these covers. I find them very eye catching. It's often colours and glow that draw my eye. I like all of the covers in the Newsoul, Shatter Me, Starbound and The Raven Cycle series's to be honest. They're all so pretty! There are probably other covers that I've completely forgotten about too.

What are your favourite covers? Do you love any of those here? Thanks for following me!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Waiting on The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Jill of Breaking the Spine. It spotlights soon to be released books that can't come quick enough!

I'm looking forward to reading...

The Things I Didn't Say by Kylie Fornasier

Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Publication Date: 27 April 2016
Pre-Order: The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia

I hate the label Selective Mutism - as if I choose not to speak, like a child who refuses to eat broccoli. I've used up every dandelion wish since I was ten wishing for the power to speak whenever I want to. I'm starting to wonder if there are enough dandelions.

After losing her best friend that night, Piper Rhodes changes schools, determined that her final year will be different. She will be different. Then she meets West: school captain, star soccer player, the boy everyone talks about. Despite her fear of losing everything all over again, Piper falls in love - and West with her - without Piper ever speaking one word to him. But will it last?
(summary from Goodreads)


This definitely sounds like my kind of read. I'll be meeting Kylie Fornasier, along with a few other Aussie YA authors, this week and I'm hoping to get my hands on an early copy of this one. We've had some great YA contemporary coming out of Australia recently and I'm sure I'll be loving this one too. 

What book caught your attention?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme started over at The Broke and The Bookish. Each week they have a specific topic for a top ten list. Link up, visit some new blogs and add to your ever growing TBR list! This week's topic is:

Top Ten Books on my Spring (no, wait, Autumn) TBR

The Raven King
More Happy Than Not

I am counting down the days until The Raven King is released! I think I should aim to read all the books on this list before The Raven King though, because I don't doubt it's gonna knock me for six and leave me with the worst book hangover ever. Still can't wait!

What books are you planning to read over Spring, or Autumn if you're below the equator?