Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Review: The Girl at Midnight (The Girl at Midnight #1) by Melissa Grey

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

(Also, my sincere apologies I never got the time to paint my nails for the competition.)

Date Read: March 15 - 19 2015
Date Released: April 28th 2015
Publisher: ATOM
Source: Review copy via publisher
My Rating:

"Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire."


"But war makes monsters of us all, and the people who least deserve it pay the highest cost."

I’m happy to say that so far, 2015 is a really good year of YA debuts. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by so many releases and The Girl at Midnight doesn’t disappoint! I will warn you though that The Girl at Midnight DOES hold some similarities to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor and I think it’s marketed that way. That doesn’t mean tGaM doesn’t have its own unique qualities.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect when I started tGaM but I knew that I immediately liked the MC. At just 7 years of age, Echo left her family which is hinted abused her. She resides in the New York Library when the seer (the Ala) of a species called the Avicen finds her and takes her in. Ever since, she’s called these bird-featured people her family but she still feels out of place as a human. These Avicen have been in a centuries old war with dragon-featured people (like humans but with scales on their cheeks) called the Drakharin and supposedly something called the Firebird can stop the war. And what do you know, it’s Echo’s journey to find it!

I immediately fell in love with Echo and her voice. She is so sarcastic and snarky but also an extremely loyal person with morals. Despite being a thief she actually does try to do the right thing (steal from the rich give to the poor?) and I loved the way she protects her friends. The best thing about Echo is she knows when to run. That is so important in books like these. More often than not, the protagonist tries to act the hero and plunges herself into a situation that she can’t get out of because for some unknown reason, even though she can’t fight, she thinks her jumping in will help… Yeah no. As a thief, Echo has honed her skills for running and she can run FAST. Sticky situation? Echo doesn’t stick around to find out how she’s going to get pummelled, she runs! I also loved her motives for finding the Firebird what with her need to fit in. She tries to use humour/sarcasm when the situation is too serious/deadly and I loved that because it’s her coping mechanism. I can relate to this because I do it too and I think sometimes people in real-life don’t get that about me. She’s just a great character overall.

I really loved the secondary characters and friendships in this. The Ala who is like a mother-figure to Echo, Dorian whose loyalty to his prince goes beyond that of a Captain of the Guard, and Echo’s best friend Ivy who is so sweet and just this constant in Echo’s life no matter what. Add on the flamboyant Jasper who adds some colourful flavouring and Grey really has me invested in this motley crew!

Cringe time. Love triangle. Yup. I’m sorry to break it to you but there IS a love triangle but to be honest I could easily see who was the clear love interest. I thought it was awesome that there was no real bad guy that made it so easy for Echo to choose. Either way, there was one clear winner and he made me swoon so much. So he might be a little cliché with regards to male love interests of this genre but oh he’s lovely and beautiful and sweet and gosh WHERE DO I FIND ONE?

The plot was very well thought out with these clues placed throughout for Echo to follow. Yes it may have been a bit coincidental but the way Grey writes is so fun and action-packed you just speed through and overlook all the flaws. I couldn’t put this down and I’ll admit that while one of the major plot points was very predictable, I did get a bit of a shock at another.

Overall, I enjoyed The Girl at Midnight so much! Grey’s writing is fun but also beautiful, Echo is a fabulously snarky protagonist, the love interest is swoony, the friendships are so great and add in an action-packed plot and you have a recipe for a wonderful book one in a series. What a great debut!

"Schwellenangst... The fear of starting something new,"

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Do You Change Book Ratings?

Hi guys, just checking in quickly here. I'm still alive! I've got some reviews coming up soon and my A Court of Thorns and Roses blog tour stop is happening week after next I'M SO EXCITED.

April has been an exceptionally slow reading month for me - it took me 3 weeks to read The Hero of Ages, the last book in Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy. Not because it was bad, on the contrary, solid 5/5 but because I just had too much going on. I'm only on my 3rd book for April (another Sanderson book) so maybe I'll squeeze in 1 more before month end... hopefully.

Anyway the real reason for this post is a question for you: do you change the rating you've initially given a book?

Are you the type of person that thinks, if that's what I gave it at the time I read the book, then that's the rating. And then you might re-rate after a re-read because giving a new rating could be biased without re-reading. Or for whatever reason. But basically you don't change the rating.

Or are you like me and go back and re-rate books after a while because I think back and go "actually... it really wasn't that great/bad". I do this since I'd have read more books since then, and have more to compare to. I don't re-read, so re-rating is based on what's stood out for me for that book and what I remember as time goes on.

I have a tendency for dropping ratings after a while. I've been known to drop a book from 5 stars to 3 and from 3 to 1 lol! And I've been doing this a lot more recently and wondering how many of you do it too.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Review: Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Firstly, thanks to Penguin Teen Australia for this review copy <3

Date Read: March 20 - 25 2015
Date Released: March 25th 2015
Publisher: Penguin Teen Australia
Source: Review copy via publisher
Genre: Contemporary
My Rating:

"Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met."


(The style of this review is based on the email exchanges between Simon and Blue in the book.)

FROM: jaz@pixelski.com
TO: penguinteenaus@au.penguingroup.com
DATE: Apr 12 at 7.26pm
SUBJECT: That incredibly cute and wonderful book you sent me with a character called Simon…

Dear PTA,

You know that book you sent me called Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda? The one that the YA world is going crazy about? Well holy crap it was amazing and I JUST CAN’T EVEN.

Firstly, I was so impressed at how real this book was. Gone were the stereotypical cliques I was getting sick of in American YA books. For once, I read a YA book where I could relate to my own high school experience. Simon’s smart, nerdy even, but didn’t you find it so refreshing to see that he hung out with sporty people too? I really liked that he’s actually sort of popular and also hangs out with popular people that also do well in school. Everybody had a mix of hobbies, strengths and weaknesses but Simon’s friendship group still got along really well. Were you as happy about this as I was?

I absolutely adored Simon’s character and I know you did too! I wonder if it’s for the same reasons? He’s intelligent and funny but also has his own insecurities. The first-person POV was absolutely fantastic wasn’t it? I really liked how he swore a lot and that he wasn’t perfect – he judged people and bitched about others in his head (and with his friends too). I mean let’s be honest here, just because you’re smart and generally a nice person, doesn’t mean you don’t have opinions about other people too. You feel me? I certainly did those things myself back in high school. Through his emails to Blue especially, I understood his fear of coming out and got a glimpse of what it’s like to be gay in high school. I mean, seriously, bloody Martin blackmailing Simon over it? I’d be shitting myself too. I’m sure you loved his character growth as much as I did. He’s still not perfect by the end of the book, but through his interactions with all the other characters, he really grows into himself!

Simon’s friends were all real (I’m sorry, I keep using that word but that’s one of my favourite things about this book) and diverse (yay!). Did you find it awesome that Simon admitted he was sometimes ignorant of people’s cultural differences because he was white? I liked how supportive Abby always was, that she was really pretty but didn’t hang out with the popular kids. I loved that Nick was essentially a ‘jock’ but also loved video games and spent time with non-sporty friends and sporty friend alike! Then there was Simon’s family, who made a big deal out of everything and as a result his siblings Nora and Alice didn’t tell each other things. And yet they still really cared about each other and Simon grows so much throughout the book as he realises things about them.

Underlying Simon’s progression through the school year and his play rehearsals are his emails to Blue. Tell me you swooned and squealed as much as I did? Aka A LOT. While the emails didn’t give a clear indication of who Blue was, I thought it was through these exchanges that we could see Simon’s deeper and emotional side. These heartfelt messages showed how Simon and Blue connected and my goodness they were so sweet.

Basically, this is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Realistic portrayal of LGBT characters, relatable contemporary and through it all, Albertalli’s writing carried the story through. The feels were real. GIVE ME MORE BOOKS LIKE THIS PLEASE?


Sunday, April 12, 2015

March Wrap Up and Book Haul

Ha you guys I'm ultimately failing to keep up with blogging these days. My mission to find work-blog balance is still in progress it seems. I don't even know what I do when I get home from work each day... It's just a whole lot of procrastination. 12 days into April and I'm STILL on the same book I started at the beginning of the month (granted, that book is >700 pages but still).

Anyway, as usual March included a massive book haul and I still managed to read quite a number of books.

Sadly, I only posted 2 reviews in March. Not for lack of review copies certainly (posting those closer to release date) but for general laziness *sighs*

I posted quite a comprehensive list and explanations of where I buy my books.

Following on from that, here are all the books I acquired in March!

Review Copies

Thanks Penguin Teen Australia and Hachette Australia for these review copies!

  • Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Thanks Amie <3


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Review: After Eden (After Eden #1) by Helen Douglas

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

Date Read: November 28 - 30 2013
Date Released: January 1st 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Source: ARC via publisher
Genre: Sci-fi/time travel
My Rating: 

"When mysterious new boy Ryan Westland shows up at her school Eden Anfield is intrigued. On the face of it, he's a typical American teenager. So how come he doesn't recognise pizza and hasn't heard of Hitler? What puzzles Eden most, however, is the interest he's taking in her.

As Eden falls in love with Ryan, she stumbles across a book in Ryan's bedroom - a biography of her best friend - written fifty years in the future. Unravelling Ryan's secret, she discovers he has one unbelievably important purpose ... and she might just have destroyed his only chance of success."


I’m not quite sure how I feel about After Eden. I’d wanted to read this since hearing about it in 2012 but the Australian release date kept getting pushed back; by the time I got my hands on this I think the hype just sort of died and I wasn’t as excited to read it anymore. There was also the issue that I’d read another time travel book before this, and the former really blew me away. I couldn’t help but compare the two which meant After Eden wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be.

In a small English town, new kid, beautiful and mysterious Ryan, is drawn to seemingly ordinary Eden. As the two become closer questions arise, friendships are tested, and there don’t seem to be enough answers for Ryan’s presence and his mysterious ways.

Eden was so bland and boring. She’s not ambitious or strong, just sort of goes with the flow with wherever life is taking her. A lot of the time I thought she was lost in her own little world, going about her daily life in the here and now and not thinking at all about her future. I guess that’s alright given that I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after high school, but the fact that she doesn’t care… well it made me not care for her. I couldn’t really relate to her.

Ryan was sweet I guess. I liked that he wasn’t damaged or broken. However, his secrets and mysteriousness coupled with how keen he was on Eden made me just a little wary. Let’s be honest, in real life, his enthusiasm would border on obsession and I just wasn’t as ok with that as I wanted to be.

In the face of the actual plot dealing with time travel, I thought After Eden lacked the focus it should’ve had on this aspect and instead concentrated too much on the high school life. I got none of the impending rush or doom that usually accompanies a revelation of this scale. For ¾ of this I felt like I was watching everything on mute, or through a hazy veil which significantly dulled my emotions and response to this book.

I really liked the astronomy aspect to this book – it gave it a very romantic feeling. Instead of accentuating the time travel and supposed seriousness of the plot though, I thought this took away from the point of the book and made it a fluffy high school read.

Not much else to say because I just have this sense of ennui after reading this book. Hopefully the sequel holds more promise.