Saturday, July 22, 2017

Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

Firstly, thanks to Pan Macmillan for this review copy <3



Date Read: July 15 - 19 2017
Date Released: July 1st 2017
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Synopsis:
"Linny has been living life in black and white since her sister Grace ran away, and she's scared that Grace might never come back. When Linny witnesses the return to Miami of a cult movie star long presumed dead, she is certain it's a sign. Surely Álvaro Herrera, of all people, can tell her why people come back - and how to bring her sister home?

Sebastian has come to Miami seeking his father, a man whose name he's only just learned. An aspiring astrophysicist, he can tell Linny how many galaxies there are, how much plutonium weighs and how likely she is to be struck by a meteorite. But none of the theories he knows are enough to answer his own questions about why his father abandoned him, and why it left him in pieces.

As Sebastian and Linny converge around the mystery of Álvaro's disappearance - and return - their planets start to collide. Linny's life is about to become technicolor, but finding the answers to her questions might mean losing everything that matters."

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If Birds Fly Back is one of those lovely contemporaries that warm your heart and move you with its deeper meaning.

Linny is still grieving over her sister leaving 5 months prior. With nothing but a note, her sister disappeared into the night leaving Linny behind. She feels completely lost without her sister as she believes she lived in her sister’s shadow. When a missing author/movie star suddenly reappears, she thinks that by spending time with him she can understand the reasons why he left and came back, and that this can in turn lead her to Grace. She thinks she’s wandering along listlessly through the book but she’s actually learning to be herself and realising what she wants. I liked her strength of character, the way she spoke her mind even though she considered herself shy. Sorosiak showed Linny’s love for film and photography through the way she perceived the world and noticed the small details in her surroundings.

Sebastian on the otherhand has been wondering his whole life where his father is. When he suddenly finds out said father is alive he literally jumps at the chance to meet him and ask him why he abandoned Sebastian and his mum. But his dad isn’t what Sebastian hoped for and the more time he spends with him, the more confused he is and more questions are raised. I guess Sebastian’s growth was his aim for his closure but I feel he didn’t grow as much as Linny. I wasn’t really sure about his love for astrophysics, other than being told this fact and he was going to Cal Tech to study it. He had more of an obsession with a particular book rather than astrophysics overall in my opinion.

I really liked the different secondary characters. Cass especially interested me. At first I thought she was the beautiful but mean girl who was using Linny to make herself look better. As I kept reading though I understood there was so much more to her. Then there’s Alvaro whose cryptic phrases added to Linny and Sebastian’s already many questions. I also really enjoyed Linny’s interactions with her parents, who she forgets are also victims in the whole Grace missing situation.

The romance is cute and the attraction is definitely there. I felt like Sebastian was attracted more to Linny especially in the beginning. Honestly though I can’t say I cared too much about romance as I was there more for their individual journeys.

The plot is quite interesting as they try to figure out where Alvaro’s been for the past 3 years. But it was quite obvious to me after a few chapters in what had happened to him. I can’t say it was anything profound for me but for the characters I guess it was a shock. While the plot was different, I didn’t feel like If Birds Fly Back astounded me as a lot of contemporaries out these days have deeper meaning plots too. I would have liked Linny’s chapter heading bits to actually relate to the chapter. The writing is well developed though and I couldn’t tell this was Sorosiak’s YA debut.

I think I might sound harsher than I intended in this review. I want to point out that I actually really enjoyed If Birds Fly Back, but I’ve been in a massive reading slump and almost nothing has impressed me lately haha. Great writing and interesting characters made for a lovely summer read about understanding why people leave.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Firstly, thanks to Date a Book (Hachette Australia) for this review copy <3



Date Read: June 8 - 24 2017
Date Released: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Hodder
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

Side note: This review has been a long time coming but I’ve been in a massive reading slump and by proxy, reviewing slump since coming back from Europe. I got really sick – I haven’t had such a debilitating cold in 10 years – and then work/life got in the way. BUT HERE IT IS.

Synopsis:
"The arranged-marriage YA romcom you didn't know you wanted or needed...

Meet Dimple.
Her main aim in life is to escape her traditional parents, get to university and begin her plan for tech world domination.

Meet Rishi.
He's rich, good-looking and a hopeless romantic. His parents think Dimple is the perfect match for him, but she's got other plans...

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways."

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When Dimple Met Rishi was so adorable I was fully set on recreating the cover for an Instagram post - me holding my Starbucks Green Tea Frappuccino (because I don’t drink coffee), biting my straw and grinning… but then Starbucks stuffed up my order (why does it always happen at this one Starbucks? Why do I never learn?) and I gave up. Anyway my point is, I loved this book so much I thought it was worth the effort had Starbucks not gotten my order wrong.

I was showing one of my Indian colleagues WDMR to help me translate some of the phrases and she said all the Dimples she knew had very happy/bubbly personalities. I can’t say that’s the same for this particular Dimple though. If I had one word to describe her, it would be FIERCE. I could relate to this girl so much – she’s a feminist but at the same time she cannot deny her culture which has conservative traditions. I loved how she felt conflicted because she wanted to uphold those values and make her parents happy, while still putting her ambitions and career first. She is driven, dedicated but also a great friend. During her 6 weeks at Insomnia Con, she’s on a journey to self-actualisation with the people around her and it was so endearing to watch her grow.

Rishi couldn’t be more of an opposite to Dimple if he tried. And yet they were also very similar. While Dimple tried to put her career progression over her parents’ traditional wants for her, Rishi embraced everything culturally. But they are both wonderful friends who stick up for others, loving children who want to please their parents, and all round great people who I honestly wish I knew in real life. Rishi, the hopeless romantic that he is, warmed my heart. I wanted to give him a big hug and tell him to step back and slow down. He seems to have everything sorted out, or does he? I loved that Rishi wasn’t there as just the love interest, he’s got his own story and things to figure out himself. Can I just say I would LOVE to see his art work?

The romance ermagherd. So so SO cute. I loved the way it started, with Dimple throwing her coffee at Rishi. I adore romances that start off with either party (or both) hating the other. Then watching them get to know each other, grow accustomed to one another, find out that hey, they actually like some of their qualities. The outings they planned with each other were so thoughtful (RISHI U R TRU MVP), like let me find a guy like that in real life. Not gonna lie, the romance was quite full on I was like HEY FRIENDS MAYBE HIT PAUSE YOU’RE- ok well if you must, carry on LMAO because I shipped it so hard. But y’all know it’s never quite that simple and remember they’re both only at this con for 6 weeks so…???

The plot doesn’t lose focus which I think Menon deserves extra brownie points for. There’s a lot going on with the romance, the side stories with friendships and family. I loved Celia and Ashish, and the way they juxtaposed Dimple and Rishi. At the heart of it all is Dimple’s purpose at Insomnia Con: to develop an app that will win the con and allow her to meet her programming idol. Dimple will do anything to win, and Menon has her step out of her comfort zone which really added to my belief in Dimple’s dedication. I want to add that I’m so appreciative of Menon for making the ‘bitchy/bad person’ the guys. In so many books I feel like women are demonised, labelled the ‘bitch’ but here the females all kind of stick up for each other. In my own personal experience, when guys want to be horrible/gossipy they’re a million times worse than girls – the stuff they say is more malicious and hurtful. So yeah, GIRL POWER.

Menon’s writing is fun and engaging, her characters multifaceted and the kind of real people you know in real life. She gives the whole San Francisco setting a little extra oomph by introducing us non-SF noobs to Karl. YES, APPARENTLY SAN FRANCISO PEOPLE HAVE NAMED THEIR FOG. I can vouch for this because I asked my SF friend and he said it’s an attraction. He then proceeded to show me a time lapse and Karl looks like this sea and it’s cool and also kind of creepy. This really gives the whole book the tech-vibe because ya know SF, Silicon Valley?



I hear Menon’s next book is called From Twinkle, With Love? Gimme!

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Review: A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

Firstly, thanks to Bloomsbury Australia for this review copy <3

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Date Read: May 1 - 8 2017
Date Released: May 2nd 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: High Fantasy
My Rating:

Warning: this review contains spoilers for the first 2 books (but NOT ACOWAR)


Synopsis:
"Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places."

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It’s no secret I’m SJM trash and waiting for the finale of the ACOTAR trilogy has been one of the most torturous waits of book releases for me. While I didn’t love ACOWAR as much as my all time fav, ACOMAF, I still loved ACOWAR’s story so much and thought it a fitting end to this arc.

Feyre has gone through so much and she’s got one last hurdle to get over with her return to the Spring Court. I really liked her strategizing and manipulation to get her revenge in the court. I would have liked her exercising her High Lady status and powers a bit more rather than hiding them or seeking other people’s approval. I mean yes I understand she’s fresh but by the end she should have been telling people what her decisions were and trusting that they’d support her in them rather than being secretive about her actions. This happened a lot. I also had issues with her decisions too. There was this one point in the book where I knew Maas was trying to make Feyre seem humane but it was the wrong bloody situation. I was like NO. LEAVE THEM. But nope, overly kind Feyre has to do this and NEARLY GETS ONE OF MY FAV PEOPLE KILLED. NO THAT IS NOT OKAY. It’s not worth it. Choose your battles lady. Your goal is to win the war.

I didn’t think it was possible to fall in love with the Inner Circle anymore. But I did. MY PRECIOUS SMOL CHILDREN. Especially Azriel and Cassian. They are so compassionate and strong and I want to give them all hugs. I loved Cassian’s humour and the little moments when we’d catch Azriel making a joke or slightly smiling at something. I can see them as two besties – the mischief maker and the quiet broody one – in real life who I could be friends with. Cranky Amren was as hilarious as always. I mean she’s meant to come off as scary but I can’t take her seriously when’s snapping at people. I love these guys so much. As for Feyre’s sisters, I still don’t get Nesta’s hate for Feyre. Like why? It pissed me off to no end how Feyre just gives and gives and Nesta takes it all but not for one moment does she seem grateful. Nesta’s great as a character – she’s strong and unflinching but the familial stuff was terrible.

Rhysand. *Sparkly eyes* Such perfection. I love this guy. I’m in love with this man. I’ll admit Rhys didn’t wow me the way he did in ACOMAF when we first found out about him, but he’s still awesome here. Lovely, charming, let’s Feyre do her own thing, funny, ruthless when he needs to be. I could properly see how he chose his battles, fitting for a 500 year old High Lord. He’s good at what he does and he knows it. Makes me weak at the knees hurhur.

I loved the exploration of the other courts. In typical SJM fashion, she paints her world vividly, with gorgeous colours and descriptions. The red and golden toned hues of the Autumn Court with its seemingly sentient forest. The chilling Winter Court, forever frozen in a white glaze. And then there’s the Dawn Court *sighs in wonder* I’m a sucker for the concept of castles in the sky. The fantasy element, the way it’s ethereal, majestic and so Final Fantasy-esque really draws me in. The palette of the Dawn Court, the food, the plush décor and silks makes me so darn happy. I was honoured to be welcomed into Thesan’s home.

Now let’s talk about the problematic aspects of this book. I felt like diversity was being forced down my throat for the sake of quelling the cries of the community. I’m fine with the High Lords of each court being coloured as SJM did mention their colouring in ACOTAR. But then there’s the LGBTQI+ representation that I thought wasn’t done right. So many LGB couples suddenly popping up? At one point it’s mentioned that the mating bond is whatever higher power determining that a male and a female would breed strong children but then at another point there’s same sex couples apparently having the mating bond? Is that a plot hole or did I miss something I don’t know. (It’s not even about the passing of the High Lord title since we see the Summer title being passed to other family members.) She tried but eehhh…

Nevertheless, the story is engaging and the brewing war instills a fear wrought from knowing the terrors that Hybern can inflict. The battle tactics are cleverly thought out and Hybern is really a force to be reckoned with, not just their numbers and the dark lengths they’ll go to, but for their millennia of existence and experience. War is painted in a realistically haunting and exhausting light. There is no glory in it and I’m grateful that it’s not romanticized for a fantasy.

A Court of Wings and Ruin is a fitting end to Feyre’s arc of the story. Maas has taken us across Prythian and beyond, and introduced us to many characters that I can’t wait to meet in the future.