One of us is Lying, Karen M. McManus

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Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.
Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.
Bad body Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.
Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.
And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.
He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.
Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.

I found a murder mystery type book that I enjoyed. Wow.

I’d heard a lot about this book by the time I actually picked it up, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mainly started reading because I ended up getting a signed copy at YALC and thought I better read it.

And I was pretty impressed; I loved how so many characters had the motive to kill Simon, I loved how all their relationships changed throughout the book, I loved how, while I had guessed the ending well before hand, it still kept you guessing throughout.

When you have books with multiple narrations, you often find that a few have been only half baked to make way for the ‘big’ character, or that all of them fall flat and are unconvincing. But each of the main characters in this book felt fleshed out – you were rooting for Bronwyn and Nate, you wanted to stand by Addy and shake her because she didn’t see what her sister did. Each of them was real in their own rights, and each of them carried along the story, and even at half way, you wanted all of them to be innocent because you felt for all of them.

Don’t get me wrong; this book isn’t perfect.

One of the plot twists may upset some people – it’s understandable and in terms of the character, it is believable, but it’s something you wouldn’t want to be used as a ‘shock plot twist’ (I thought it was written well for what it was, but it will still upset some people)
Mental illness can also be argued as being handled not very well in the book, especially at the end.

But the problems with it don’t counter the fact that I did enjoy reading it, and it was a good book over all. It’s also one of the few books I’ve read where the character arcs are done really well; the characters are not the same at the end as they were at the start, mostly for the better.

four stars

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren James

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I’ve read in one go, in the middle of the night. I mean, part of me wishes I hadn’t because it really creeped me out (I have a wonderful imagination which decides that clearly when I’m reading disturbing things, it makes my room feel terrifying. I actually had to turn my fan on because the silence was getting to me.)

So… lets start with that blurb. Think you’re going to be reading some cheesy romantic thing, right? Lonely girl finds love in deep space, everything is perfect, yay? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO.

This book is fucking creepy. Lauren James managed to perfectly spread out everything that happened – from dropping hints of what happened in the past to what was happening currently. You were never quite sure who to trust – from Romy herself (who, lets be honest, can’t exactly be sane after so long ago and only TV characters really interact with) (TBH that was my theory for most of the book), to the emails she got from Earth, to the person on the other ship. Or maybe you could trust them all.

It was so cleverly done. Not just the storyline but what it says. Not just in the whole ‘dont trust the random dude you don’t know’ rule, (which I kinda stand by, but at the same time, I’m a random girl online who has a lot of online friends so I can’t really talk) but in the fandom sense of things. I think a lot of people will relate to Romy because she uses her love of a show and fanfic to help her through things. She writes her emotions into the characters. When she feels lonely (which, face it, is a lot) she buries herself in the fanfic she has – and a lot of us do that too. Maybe not with fanfic, but with fiction. Words, shows, fandom is a big part of life nowadays and a lot of us do travel to it when we need comfort.

From start to finish, I loved this book, even if it creeped me out. I want more. I want to know what happens next.

four stars

Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

I have a confession. Wonder Woman, the film that came out this year, was the first ever DC film I’ve watched. I had no idea who she actually was or what her story was, as I’m not a comic book lover (I think they are cool, but I find it impossible to read a story like that). However, the film is already a favourite of mine, and this book (kind of unsurprisingly) is one as well – and not just because it’s written by one of my all time greatest authors.

You jump straight into Diana’s story in this book, but you don’t feel like you miss anything, and from a relatively new fan’s point of view, you’re never confused about who the characters are, or the background of Diana and where she grew up. And, just like every superhero film, the book is full of action.

The main characters are all brilliant and well rounded – each one stands out on their own and is clearly well thought out. Their relationships with each other were well thought out, and one of my personal favourite things were that out of the five mains, three were female and had fantastic friendships with each other (wow that’s such a small thing to care about but it’s needed.) 

The writing itself, was, in true Bardugo style, full of warmth and humour and a hell of a lot of emotion, and some absolute gems of dialogue (which I can’t wait to talk about, but I’m writing this before the book has come out, so…)  and plot twists – one of which was so much of a twist that I wasn’t expecting it and actually had to stop reading to remember how to breathe. Which kinda sums up how brilliant the book is.

I just… I love this book. Really, with every book she writes, Bardugo doesn’t only get better but shows exactly why she’s one of my absolute favourite authors.

five stars

Show Stopper, Hayley Barker

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Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

Have I ever said how much I hate insta-love?

Okay okay so this book had a really interesting premise and a kinda interesting plot but it just… wasn’t pulled off well? Maybe I was expecting too much from it and that let me down. All I know is that it took me three weeks to actually read because I just kept putting it off.

The idea was good – it’s taken a world we seem to be heading towards and put it to the extreme, where ‘pure’ british people are the only people seen as human and everyone else is there to be abused and for entertainment and to starve. And it was interesting to see that world through both the eyes of a dreg and a pure.

And the circus, the chapters in Hoshiko POV were brilliant. Dark and dangerous and interesting, I was instantly swept up into her world and wanted to know more about it.

But then it failed.

See, this book is set over like, two days. And it’s narrated by both main characters. It’s rare I say this, but wow I would have happily cut out all of Ben’s chapters and not bothered with them. His story was dull, uninteresting and nothing happened in them compared to Hoshiko’s own.

And literally within the first few chapters, with nothing, Ben just decides that he’s completely and utterly in love with this girl who he has never spoken to (and when he finally does speak to, she just shouts at him?). He literally… becomes a stalker. Seriously, he knows nothing about her yet goes and searches her name, breaks into this circus and upturns his life just to talk to her and then they fall in love like NO.

This would have been such a better story if you took away that awful romance element that didn’t work and just had it as Hoshiko trying to survive in this awful place, maybe trying to break free or something.

Because Ben’s whole storyline just seemed unrealistic? Like he lived around dregs his whole life and didn’t seem to notice that he was part of the people hurting them and how bad the pures were until he magically fell in love with one?

Hoshiko’s chapters were brilliant and full of action – action I mostly was interested in. I loved her relationships with the others in the circus and loved seeing them battle against their rage and anger every day. She is the reason I’m giving it three stars – because her on her own made an excellent story.

three stars

Letters to the Lost, Brigid Kemmerer

 

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Taken at face value, this book might look like your average YA high school book. You know the ones; friends to enemies, Bad Boy with a Rep meets Gentle Loving Girl. With just a bit more angst than maybe normal. (I say maybe. High School/College Romance style YA/NA books seem to compete with each other for most amount of angst possible in one page)

But take that face value and… I dont know. Throw it out the window, or something just as fun. Because this book is more than that – and hell, while most people would count it as a romance (since the main characters are a boy and a girl talking to each other. That all it seems to take nowadays) I don’t.

This is a book about two people, who have both lost someone in their family, and that one thing has shaped each of them every day of their lives. Its a book about anger and friendship and love- not just romantic love – and mainly, grief.

Grief being the main thing the whole plot centres around.

I know grief. It and I have shaken hands on more than one occasion, and sometimes it likes to pop up again, just to remind me that now we are acquaintance, it will never truly leave. And reading this book – it was hard, at times. Because I understood how both characters felt. Their helplessness and anger and denial – not necessarily that the person is dead, but that you’ve lost them.

There was a part about a quarter through the book when Juliet’s dad pulls out all her mums stuff and starts talking about selling them, and Juliet screams at him and just starts crying. That bit, strangely, was one of the hardest parts for me to read, because it still happens.

People don’t understand grief. Not even those that have been through it. Because everyone copes (or doesnt cope) differently, and I think this book was amazing and putting that across. Not even six months after her mother dies and all her teachers and friends don’t understand why Juliet isn’t back to ‘normal’. They keep making comments about it, trying to stop her from going to the cemetery or hoarding her mothers things. Because people don’t get over things like that so quickly.  And this book – the grienf doesn’t just disappear to make way for a romance and oh mt god the fact that is so rare is wrong. It was wonderful to read and see how both characters struggled with emotions, both positive and negative, and watching their journey through the chapters to see how each changed the other.

The only thing I didn’t like was the formatting – in most double narratives, the chapters start by being headed by the character name. In this one, that doesnt happen, so the first few chapters can be hard to navigate through, especially as each chapter starts with a letter from the opposite character. But you do get used to it after a while so its not that bad.

five stars

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

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The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.
What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?
The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real?

Over two years ago, I wrote a review for Laini Taylor’s other series Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It was, actually, the first book review I ever did on this blog (wow, have I improved since then) and I stand by my thoughts back then; Laini Taylor is a stunning writer and her stories are always filled with magic and mystery and everything I love.

But the thing was… this book was dull. Not dull in a completely boring way, but dull enough that I couldn’t sit and read it all in only a few sittings. In fact, I read two chapters, then put it down for the day. And I don’t read well like that. If I have a book that I really like, I read it all in one day (or never!)

I was expecting it to be slow; after all, DoSaB isn’t exactly a fast read. Laini’s books have always been about the writing and watching the story uncurl along with the pages. But there is a leap. With her other series, there is always something happening. With this series… nothing happens for pages and pages, then it gets interesting, then it gets boring again.

I’m admitting this now – I am writing this review while just over half way through. Because its taken me over two weeks to get to this point, and I don’t know right now if I want to continue. Because I already know it turns into a romance and… I kinda don’t want it to?

Like, don’t get me wrong. I adore Lazlo, our adorable main character. I understand him more than I do with most other characters in books- like him, I spent my childhood stuck in the clouds (until I was told to grow up) and like him I ended up surrounded by books but mostly in love with fairytales. And like him, people laugh at me for it (no really, I was ordering a copy of Peter Pan for a customer at work and when I told them what edition I have – this stunning, like, pop up version for adults – they sneered at me and went ‘Well you’ve had that for years, I expect’ and I was like… no since last year at which point they went ‘You’re an adult so why are you buying childrens books like that’). I also love that its his love and knowledge of those tales that ‘save the day’ essentially.

I even like Sarai and her little gang of mini-gods. Their chapters were some of my favourites – I loved their interactions and seeing their powers, and I loved Sarai’s longing for the world below them.

However, once you got the hint that these two would end up as love interests… it kinda put me off slightly.

The writing, the backstory, the whole book (of what I’ve read) is stunning. It’s lyrical and beautiful and just like the title, it reads like a dream. I’ve never read anything as beautiful as Laini’s words.

So it is wonderful, it really is. But I just got bored. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t in the mood when I started it. Maybe I had been waiting for it so long that once I had it, it was always going to be ‘eh’. I don’t know. I just don’t really mind not finishing it – and thats kind of heartbreaking when I did love the characters and the idea behind it.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll try it again at some point.

THIS IS ACTUALLY 3.5 BUT LIKE, I CANT BE BOTHERED TO EDIT THE PICTURE.

three stars

Bright Smoke Cold Fire, Rosamund Hodge

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When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.
The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.
Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.
Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.
Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . .

So I officially DNFed this book this morning. I haven’t picked it up on over two weeks, and couldn’t actually remember half of what was going on, so I pulled the bookmark out and left it on my pile of abandoned to wither away (Until I give them to charity)

I’m seriously disappointed. Hodge was one of my ‘instant buy’ authors before – to this day, Cruel Beauty is one of my favourite fairytale retellings. And while I knew, picking this one up, that it was Romeo and Juliet rather than a fairytale, I assumed it would have the same sort of idea, the dark tones and interesting take on a well known story.

Well, it was an interesting take. But it also fell flat on it’s face and failed.

I feel like she tried to do too much. Like she was waving this book in the air and screaming ‘not like other books’ determined to be just that. But it was confusing and weird and just strange, rather than interesting and wonderful.

And it just… didn’t make sense.

Granted, I don’t know R&J as well as I really should, due to the fact it is my least favourite Shakespeare play, but I know enough of it to read retellings to know the basic storyline.

But this was less of a retelling and more of a ‘I’ve taken their names and done a love on two sides of a war‘ and… not much else.

So… the city they lived in is the last city standing against weird zombie creatures. There was a group of women who dealt with this magic wall that kept them all safe, but the wall was failing. Inside the city were a bunch of different people- Basically loads of different cultures/religions all together (I couldn’t actually work out what they were meant to be?) One group had ‘The Juliet’ who was raised to sense injustice on her people and punish the crims. Another group had Romeo and of course, he ends up as a crim (by killing Tybalt) but she refuses to kill him and makes him her guardian but everything goes wrong.

She ends up dead-but-not and linked with some girl in this Magic Place and  Romeo ends up linked with another guy and both are trying to find out whats going on in the city.

That is literally the bare bones without much of the confusion but my god was it confusing.

And not fleshed out at all. Like, the world building was dodgy at best, and I had trouble keeping up with the whys and hows and whats. Maybe it was because she had too many main characters- and too many side characters- that I kept mixing up, and the weird logic (lack of) in their magical system.

I just… I’m actually struggling to write a proper review on this because
1) I just didnt care. at all, about any of the characters, the plot, anything.
2) I didn’t understand what was going on in it.
3) I was bored. 

Basically, it is a huge huge disappointment from someone who previously had such a wonderful way of telling stories and it’s actually put me off reading her books again.

two-stars