Book Reviews

Daughter of the Burning City – Amanda Foody Review (& Giveaway!)

Giveaway details at the end of this post! 

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Taken from: @inkdropsbooks 

Rating: ★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

YA fantasy, carnival setting, murder and mystery and magic, there was a lot to be excited about here. The setting and the story felt new and unique, but there were aspects of the storytelling that felt flat to me.

Sorina has grown up in the Gomorrah Festival, a travelling circus city filled to the brim with wonder and magic, a safe haven for jynx-workers who have been rejected by their own people for having magic. Sorina is one of those, adopted by the proprietor fo the festival, she now runs a Freak Show alongside her family. There is Nicoleta who has superhuman strength, Hawk who can fly, Gill breathes underwater, conjoined twins Unu and Du, and more. But, when they begin dying in unusual circumstances, Sorina has to race against the clock to discover who is behind the crimes before she loses them all. To make things even more complicated, Sorina’s family shouldn’t be able to die, because they’re not real. Sorina’s magic talent is the ability to create lifelike illusions, and her masterpieces are her family themselves. Each member of her family is a figment of her own imagination. On top of this, Sorina can see without having any eyes. As you can see, there is a lot of interesting magic in this book. It was a lot of fun to read about these different skills, and the characters felt new and original. One of the plots of this book is her investigation alongside newfound friend Luca to try find the murderer inside Gomorrah. They meet different jynx-workers everyday, trying to find someone with the ability to kill illusions. This plot was fun to read because of the different magic skills that Foody creates. Further, if you’re into romance, there is a sweet, if somewhat predictable, relationship that develops between Luca and Sorina to keep you entertained.

 

However, in my opinion, the world-building fell flat once you left Gomorrah. The second investigation that Sorina undertakes is alongside her father, who believes the murderer is outside of Gomorrah, and is trying to attack him through his daughter. The issue was that the whole story from there on out was complex, but undeveloped. There was mention of a mysterious Alliance, built of the different cities that Gomorrah travelled through, and they were plotting to start a trade war (from what I could understand). There was very little development to this story into the characters outside of Gomorrah, or the locations. In fact, they were barely mentioned in passing! It was a shame that this part of the book was so underdeveloped because it played such a vital part to the plot, and I feel like if this had been done properly, it would have really elevated the book. I love fantasy worlds with interesting structures and societies, but I would have preferred it if Foody had just left this out of the book and focused on Gomorrah. It would have been simpler, but sometimes less is more, and this story just weighed the book down.

Further, some of the logistics of the world and the plot just didn’t make sense to me. For one, I didn’t understand how Gomorrah travelled. Did everyone pack up their tent and just walk? Are there animals to pull the caravans around? How do the city walls travel with the city itself? This might not be important to the story itself, but I found it difficult to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy the story sometimes, because I kept wondering just how the city worked. Second, sometimes the plot felt a little clunky, particularly in the way that Sorina figures out the truth about who is behind the murders of her relatives. There were details that were very clunkily ‘hinted’ at, and revelations that just came too easily to Sorina. I would have preferred it if the mystery had unravelled more subtly, but I would have been able to accept this weakness of plot if the world had been better written.

Overall, Daughter of the Burning City had a lot of potential to be great but I just felt like it fell flat. I was hoping that perhaps it was the first book in a series, and maybe Amanda Foody would go on to develop the world more and salvage the first book with the second. I would have probably read a sequel to this book, because there were aspects of the world building that captured my imagination, but unfortunately it is a standalone. It’s a shame that this book didn’t impress me as much as I hoped, but there were definitely good aspects to it. It is worth giving a chance if you enjoy fantasy and mystery, and maybe you will love it more than I did!

GIVEAWAY: Would you like to win a copy of Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody? Head over to my instagram account (@inkdropsbooks) for a chance to win! 

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Book Reviews, Sci-Fi & Fantasy, YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy, Young Adult

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – Julie C. Dao

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I’ve been following this book for what feels like ages, ever since I stumbled upon a tweet by Julie C Dao celebrating getting a book deal. In the months since, I’ve seen excitement for the book continue to grow, with readers and authors alike talking about it, so I was chuffed when I finally got a copy. I’m so pleased to say that this book actually surpassed my expectations, feeding my love for morally grey characters and leaving me wanting more and more of Julie’s writing.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is an East-Asian inspired fantasy novel about a young girl, Xifeng, who is determined to become Empress of her kingdom, Feng-Lu. It seems impossible, after all, she is only a seamstress, far from the Imperial City, but her aunt’s fortune telling cards tell of her destiny as Empress, and she does not question fate. After leaving home to head to the Imperial City, it seems that the stars have aligned to help Xifeng reach her goal. She is accepted into the Emperor’s household, but as a maid. A bigger problem is the fact that the Emperor has a wife, two other concubines, and four sons. How will Xifeng secure her fate, and how far will she go to get it?

My favourite thing about this book was that Xifeng was not a nice girl. That seems harsh, and perhaps it is, but it’s also true. I don’t mean this in a nitpicking way. Xifeng is selfish, ambitious, and determined to the point of being willing to walk over anyone else to get what she wants. She has set her sights on being Empress, and she will do anything, and does more than the unimaginable, to get it. There were scenes that were difficult to read, and events in the book that change your opinion of Xifeng for good, but it all adds to the complexity of the tale, and of Xifeng herself.

When the book begins, we don’t yet know if she is an unwilling pawn in a game of her aunt’s, whether she even wants to follow this path that has been set out before her, but as Xifeng takes step after step down the path, and as she knocks opponents and obstacles out of her way, we see her accepting her own desires, and embracing her ambitious selfishness and the darkness that lies within her soul. By the end of the novel, there is no doubt that Xifeng is not the pure, innocent girl that we thought she was at the start of the novel. She is dark, evil even, but having followed her along her whole journey, it is difficult to ignore the humanity in her that even she has set aside. Xifeng’s characterisation made this book so easy to read for me.

I loved seeing the exploration of her character reach new depths, and couldn’t get enough of deciphering her morals, or lack of them. What seemed like a bit of a cookie cutter female protagonist in the first pages, turned out to be a character of many layers, with surprises lurking beneath each and every one. When the book ended, I was shocked. I kept expecting a redemption arc, a sorrowful and repenting protagonist, eager to right her wrongs, but Xifeng doesn’t regret anything that she has done to get what she wants, and as horrifying as that is, I also found it refreshing and exciting to read a character do so confidently.

Overall, I really adored Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, and I’d love to read it again in the future to explore Xifeng some more. Whilst this book might not be for readers who like to like their protagonists, or for those who don’t like violence and gore, I would still recommend giving it a try and letting it challenge you. I like morally ambiguous characters, and still, Xifeng even challenged me. Julie C Dao writes Xifeng in a way that you still hold out some hope for her, and you’re so reluctant to let go of it, and that made reading Forest of a Thousand Lanterns a really interesting experience for me personally. I really think that this book has pushed the boundaries of YA fiction, and I hope to see more books like it.

Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

There’s Someone Inside Your House – Stephanie Perkins Review

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Rating:★★★

I mentioned this book in my End of the Year Book Tag post a few months ago as the book I was looking forward to reading this autumn, and I finally got around to it! There’s Someone Inside Your House was great, and even if some aspects fell a little flat, the story was fun enough for this to not bother me.  There’s Someone Inside Your House is a blend of teen fun and gruesome slasher fiction, with thrills and suspense to keep you hooked until the end.

Makani Young has been living in Osborne, a small town in the middle of nowhere, for a year since she ran away from a haunting past in Hawaii. Life with her grandmother has been quiet, normal, but that all ends now, because someone is murdering teenagers in Osborne in gruesome attacks, and it seems that there is nothing anybody can do to protect themselves. As the attacks draw nearer and nearer to home, Makani not only has to try to protect herself and the ones she loves, but also has to ask herself if the killer’s identity could be someone she knows.

First of all, I’ll start by saying that Stephanie Perkins is great at writing really tense scenes. The parts of the book that walk us through the attacks had so much suspense that I could not bear to put the book down during them. She drops nuggets of information throughout the text to tease you, and you feel yourself getting more and more anxious even though the characters often have no idea what is going on. These scenes were by far my favourite parts of the book, and the tension in them was high enough that, even though other parts of the book were not, I could ride on the coattails of that tension in the quieter parts of the book.

That being said, one weakness in the plot of this slasher/horror story was that, without spoiling the story, for much fo the book, the actual serial killer plot at the heart of the novel felt too detached from the main characters. At various points in the novel, Makani and her friends try to decipher the identity of the killer, or his motive for choosing particular victims, but it is difficult to try and take part in this activity yourself as a reader because we never meet the victims before they are killed. I knew nothing about the people in Osborne outside of Makani and her friends, I didn’t understand the different high school cliques and friendships, so how was I supposed to try and come up with my own theory?

This links into a more overriding weakness which is that of the characters being a bit too flat for my liking. Makani and Ollie are the main characters, and they aren’t boring to read, but there isn’t much to them. They have already hooked up before the novel begins, and they start dating more seriously. They’re a cute couple, but that’s about it. Makani and Ollie both have their own tragic backstories, but that does not make a vivid character. Similarly, I could not tell apart Makani’s two best friends Darby and Alex, which is lucky because they served no other purpose than to show that Makani had friends. All of the characters in There’s Someone Inside Your House are entirely two-dimensional; the victims are just there to die, the murderer is just there to kill, the cop character just drives around answering phone calls, Makani’s grandmother is just there to be a parental figure.

If it weren’t for Stephanie Perkins’s ability to build tension in the few scenes were action does happen, the whole novel would have been completely flat, because I wouldn’t have cared at all. I didn’t read because I cared particularly about the characters, but rather because it was exciting and got my adrenaline pumping a little bit to read the scenes where the attacker made his appearance.

Overall, There’s Someone Inside Your House isn’t a fantastic book, but it is good fun. I enjoyed it while I was reading it thanks to Stephanie Perkins’s writing, but the substance of the book, when you take a second, deeper look at it, isn’t really there.

Book Reviews, Contemporary

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

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Rating: ★★★

I have found it so hard to review this book because it is so unlike most of the books I have read. Junot Díaz’s writing is unique and effortless, it is a beautiful read and loved the intertwining of stories, but I sometimes felt like the overall story and unity of the various plots suffered under the weight of them all.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is, obviously, about Oscar. He is an overweight, nerdy, and eternally lovesick Dominican boy who lives with his mother and sister. He wants desperately to experience love, and although he experiences it very often, he has yet to have it be returned. Díaz’s narrative spreads not only across Oscar’s formative years, but as far back as previous generations, exploring the curse, or Fuku, that they believe has overshadowed their lives for decades.

I did enjoy this aspect of intergenerational storytelling, and particularly in the context of talking about an immigrant Latino family, it felt very appropriate. In my own Latin American upbringing, I have always been raised to consider my family history to be as strong a part of my identity as my own likes and dislikes, so I could really relate to this method of exploring Oscar’s life and beliefs and the events that had formed him. The experiences of his relatives even years before directly impacted his life, and by the end, we not only see a clear chain of events across generations, but also wonder whether the Fuku is real.

The downside to this was that sometimes I just found this secondary stories to drag on a bit. There were things that I didn’t understand the importance of, meanwhile other storylines were left by the wayside and I would have liked to have had the chance to explore more. As interesting as the stories of the different characters were as standalone stories, and even though by their end I could see how they linked in to Oscar’s story, sometimes while reading them I felt lost in their story and struggled to see the importance of some of the detail. Also, despite understanding that these events and people formed Oscar’s own identity and life, I felt like Oscar’s own story at times felt weak. For example, the final chapters of his story felt simply silly at times, and whilst his neediness and desperation for love had been endearing, I simply grew frustrated with his narrow-mindedness and decisions, and the ending, rather than feeling poignant and moving, just felt a bit – dare I say it – stupid.

Overall, I do appreciate Junot Díaz’s talent in writing this book, and I do appreciate the various features of its structure and storytelling, but I simply didn’t like the plot. It felt disjointed at times, and the main plot and character disappointed me.

Book Reviews, Contemporary, Historical

The Penelopiad – Margaret Atwood

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Rating: ★★★★

I’ve wanted to read more work by Margaret Atwood since I read The Handmaid’s Tale at school, but I’ve never gotten around to it. When a friend recommended this book to me, and then by lucky coincidence I found a second hand copy a few days later, I decided to give it a try. I was not disappointed. Atwood’s writing is so easy to read but its simplicity is wound up with subtle commentary on the world around us.

The Penelopiad is a retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey. In the original tale, Odysseus leaves his home and wife to fight for Helen in the Trojan War, setting off on a decades long journey battling monsters and sleeping with goddesses. When he returns home, a hundred suitors are vying for his wife’s attention, and he kills them all, and his wife’s twelve maids, for betraying him. Atwood’s version, however, gives Penelope a voice of her own, agency, and strength. In this story, Penelope’s role is more than just that of a sitting duck. She develops a scheme of her own to, alongside her maids, keep the suitors at bay, by lying to and manipulating them. Although when Odysseus returns home her experiences are ignored, the story gives her a life, depth, and character.

Atwood shows us Penelope’s life before she met Odysseus, her views of him, or her cousin Helen, of the island where he takes her, of her life when he disappears. We see the life of a woman who hears nothing of her husband for decades but rumours of his exciting travels, death-defying feats, and different sexual partners, all whilst she remains at home trying to be the perfect wife. My favourite part of it, however, was the fact that Margaret shows us Penelope’s life after death. The story is told by Penelope from the other side of the River Styx, looking back on her life. It’s interesting to hear a story told by someone who has the benefit of hindsight, and even better, we see her interactions with the people that she knew in life, and so, in a very small amount of pages, Atwood shows us all of these ancient characters in a variety of different positions, and at various times of their lives. For example, Penelope’s twelve maids appear as a chorus after every chapter, giving their own commentary on the events.

The Penelopiad is a very short book, and so it was a quick, single-day read, and I really enjoyed it. I have not read The Odyssey, but I was familiar with the story, and I always find it interesting to see retellings of familiar stories. I loved the focus on the women in the story, who are relegated to minor, background roles in the original, but are now given a starring role. I also liked how Atwood gave Penelope depth, but that her character was not typically ‘nice’. She is a faithful wife, but that is not all that she is – she has a mind of her own. Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Penelopiad, and I can’t wait to read some more of Atwood’s work.

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Book Reviews, Sci-Fi & Fantasy

Red Sister – Mark Lawrence Review

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Rating: DNF at 30%

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was so conflicted about this post, but remembering my previous post on not forcing myself to read books I’m not enjoying (Giving Up On Books) I knew that I had to be honest. DNF reviews are tough, but I think they’re just as valid as other reviews. I haven’t given a rating for Red Sister a rating specifically because I didn’t finish it, but even so, here are some brief thoughts on why Red Sister didn’t work for me.

I was really looking forward to Red Sister. For one, I judge books by their covers, and the cover of this book felt inspiring. I wanted to know the story of the girl on the cover. Further, the convent of the setting really excited me, with the promise of lots of women living in close quarters, and together with them fantasy world and the fact that the nuns in the convent are not normal nuns, but murderous nuns, I could not wait.

Unfortunately, these various aspects just didn’t slot in properly for me and Red Sister fell flat from pretty much the first chapter (I’ll excuse the prologue from this, because with an opening sentence of “It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men” it was definitely not boring. It’s a shame that the rest of the book didn’t feel this inspiring. The first third follows a young girl Nona as she is rescued from being executed for murder by a nun, Abbess Glass, and taken to the Sweet Mercy Convent. At the point of DNF-ing, Nona had been at the convent for only one day, but it felt like I had been reading for months. We went to various classes with Nona, heard her telling other girls her life story various times, meeting other girls, but it all blurred together into something vague and foggy that I couldn’t figure out. As I was reading these scenes, I kept finding myself wondering what the point of them were. Was there a meaning to the conversation? Why is this character important? But as various scenes came and went without any apparent plot, I just lost interest.

I could have kept going with the weak plot if the characters had grasped my attention, but they also fell flat in my opinion. Nona was interesting in terms of her story, and there were moments where my interest was piqued, such as a moment where she challenges a nun in a lesson, but generally she just felt like an empty space and didn’t bring much to the scene. To be honest, there were complete passages where I was completely unaware of what Nona was doing, what she was thinking, or even that she was there – which is surely not what is supposed to happen with the protagonist. The other characters, the nuns and the other novices were bland and one-dimensional, and they all felt like the initial ideas behind really good characters, but they just didn’t feel alive on the page.

This book had so much potential and I wish that I could have enjoyed it. I wanted the magic, the characters, and the setting to come to life, I wanted to be excited about nuns trained in the martial arts, but it just did not happen. The writing was not bad, rather, sometimes it was beautiful, but the story just felt dull on the page. I couldn’t make myself care about the characters or their story. Perhaps if I kept going, I would have found something to enjoy, but in my opinion, I had simply read enough of the book without encountering what it was I was looking for.

Other

Top 5 Favourite Book Covers of 2017

We all know the saying, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. We’ve probably all muttered it once or twice – particularly when recommending a book that we loved to someone and they don’t think they’ll like it. However, I admit, I judge books by their covers all the time. There is actually a lot that can be deduced from a good cover, or at the very least, a good cover will draw you in.

Here are my favourite book covers of 2017, some of which I’ve read, some of which I haven’t, but all of which drew me in with their cover art.

1. Naondel – Maria Turtschinanoff 

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The wavy blue  lines, the ship mast that looks like a face. This book cover is as dreamy and mysterious as the story inside. This book is one of my favourite reads of 2017, and you can read my full review here.

2. Unconventional – Maggie Harcourt 

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This cover is so bright and colourful that there’s no way it can’t catch your eye. I also love the way that the cover plays off of the conventions setting of the book, with the queue winding its way around the cover, and people dressed in costumes. The little references like the two main characters standing on either side, and the pineapple, make the cover even more enjoyable once you’ve read the book. You can read my full review for Unconventional here.

3. Wing Jones – Katherine Webber 

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The Wing Jones cover is beautiful. I love the way that the pink and purple laces spell out the title in such a beautiful font, but even better, the book’s sprayed edges in the same colour make this book one of the most beautiful books of this year. You can read my full review for Wing Jones here.

 

4. We Are Okay – Nina Labour 

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I had never seen a cover like this before, and it amazed it the moment that I laid eyes on it. I love the eeriness of the image, which means that you can’t quite tell what kind of book this will be. The girl in her bedroom suggests contemporary, but the landscape is dark and mysterious. I still haven’t read this book, but the cover meant that its earned its space on my TBR list straight away.

5. The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

 

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I love the illustration on this image, with the heart looking like a planet with houses and plants growing on it. The font wrapping around it, and the simple colour scheme tells you suggests that the story will probably be mystical, with dark undertones and perhaps a little bit of haunting eeriness. The magical vibes from the art and the title meant that this book interested me from the moment I heard about it, and I really hope that I get a chance to read this book soon.

This was such a difficult list to create, and a lot of beautiful covers missed the cut, but tell me what your favourite book covers of 2017 are, and if you’ve read these books, what you thought of them in the comments below.

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Book Reviews, Poetry

peluda – Melissa Lozada-Oliva Review

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Rating:★★★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t read a lot of poetry, but I knew I had to get this one. I’ve loved watching videos of Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s spoken word performances on YouTube, finally feeling represented by her words and stories. My Spanish captures exactly how I feel about feeling like I’m not fluent enough at my native tongue, and Bitches makes me laugh as I think of all the brilliant women in my family. Peluda didn’t disappoint. Melissa has a way with mixing humour and emotion, so that I didn’t know whether I wanted to laugh or cry at her words.

Peluda explores so many topics in its 21 poems. In a single poem, you’ll find explorations of Latina identity, beauty and femininity, class and family relationships, all seen through the lens of the immigrant experience. ‘Peluda’ is Spanish for ‘hairy’, and Lord, being hairy is one thing that I can relate to. I initially thought that the poems would simply be humorous, but Melissa takes a simple feature, hair, and uses it as a vehicle to show so much more. It is about owning your identity, even though you struggle with it, and know that other people don’t understand it. It’s about the girl who is ashamed of her thick, black body hair, and who has to shave to look and feel acceptable, and is criticised for being superficial by her white friends who let their own body hair grow as a political statement, but not only that. It’s also about wanting to shorten your name, to have a whiter name, less Latino, less immigrant, about your identity not being wholly your own but consisting of your family and their experiences. Even though the poems discuss the struggles of the Latin-American immigrant experience, it isn’t about being ashamed. It’s about fighting to feel proud, no matter what other people say or how they act, seeing the beauty through the struggle, and seeing the beauty in the struggle.

I love finding chances to read #ownvoices literature, but finding literature that captures my own experiences as a Colombian girl, growing up in the UK, has always been difficult. I have never found a book that captures so many emotions as these poems have. I have honestly never felt so represented since I watched In The Heights, and it made me get teary-eyed quite a few times just at the feeling of seeing myself in these poems. If you are looking for #OwnVoices authors to add to your reading list, I could not recommend this enough.

I cannot recommend this collection enough. The poems are beautiful and fun to read, filled with humour and emotion. I can’t wait for my own copy to arrive in the mail so that I can show this to everyone who will listen!

Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Geekerella – Ashley Poston Review

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Rating: ★★★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book was surprisingly good! I wasn’t expecting this book to make me feel as much as I did whilst reading it. I naively assumed that this book would be lighthearted – perhaps to the point of lacking substance – a bit of fun, but without much impact. Man, was I wrong. Of all the books that I would guess would make me start crying, it wasn’t Geekerella, but the characters and the story are so easy to delve into and get attached to.

Geekerella is, as you can probably tell by the title, a Cinderella retelling. I don’t mean this in the way that you often hear YA fantasies call themselves fantasy retellings whilst changing the story altogether, I mean it is literally a Cinderella retelling. Right down to a pumpkin carriage – albeit, a pumpkin food truck. Since her father’s death, Elle has been living a miserable life with her stepmother Catherine and her step-twin-sisters Cal and Chloe. All that she has left to hold onto is Starfield, the sci-fi television show that her father introduced her to as a child. She knows everything that there is to know about it, and runs her own little blog dedicated to it. When she sees a cosplay contest at this year’s ExcelsiCon, she knows that the prize money is exactly what she needs to get out from under her stepmother’s thumb and make her own way in the world. All she needs is to find a costume. Meanwhile, Darien Freeman, teen superstar actor, has been cast in the lead role, and is struggling with fan expectations. He has always loved Starfield, but being a nerd doesn’t quite fit with his image, and Starfield’s hard core fanbase are ripping into him, so judging this years’ cosplay competition is the last thing that he wants to do. Both Elle and Darien struggle in their respective worlds, only finding solace in the text messages that they swap with a mysterious stranger, as obsessed with Starfield as they are.

The characters in this novel had depth and detail, they were interesting and had their own struggles and storylines even apart from the romantic one. Elle’s friendship with Sage, her relationships with her sisters and step-mother, were all important. So was Darien’s struggle with his job and relationships. Apart from this, Starfield itself was also incredibly well-developed, which, for a novel which explores fandom so much, was vital to the characters feeling real. Although Starfield is a made-up television show, I found it easy to relate to how much the characters love the stories and the characters, their passion for it, and how much they care about the remake. I also liked how Starfield was the background against which the characters’ personal struggles play out against, because it meant that we understood their motivations and feelings. For Elle, Starfield is at the heart of all her memories of her parents, which explains not only why she cares so much about the remake but also why she is so desperate to win the cosplay competition – to make her parents proud. For Darien, his internal struggles with confidence are made clear in his playing the lead role in Starfield. He doesn’t believe that he is good enough to play his favourite character, and he finds it difficult to be surrounded by actors who don’t care about the show in the same way that he does. The characters, the story, and the show Starfield itself, were equally important in making Geekerella as good as it was, because they all bounced off each other to create a really moving and fun story.

I also loved how much this novel is inspired by Cinderella. Of course, there was still so much original content to this book, but it was fun to spot the comparisons. For example, instead of a pumpkin becoming a carriage, the pumpkin themed vegan food truck that Elle works at it her carriage, and her fairy godmother is her colleague Sage, who helps her to make her costume and encourages her to keep fighting for what she believes in. It was also nice to see more development to the characters, like in Darien and Elle’s own storylines, and also in the minor characters. Catherine, the evil stepmother, and the sisters Cal and Chloe were nuanced characters, and I especially looked forward to the scenes with Catherine where she showed a bit more of her human side, and the redemption arc for Cal. All of the references to the fairytale were interesting to find and made reading Geekerella even more fun to read.

Overall, Geekerella was a really enjoyable book and I sincerely regret leaving it unread for so long. The story is sweet and simple, with nuanced and interesting characters, and told in a fun way. Definitely give this book a chance, even if it doesn’t seem like it’s quite your type. You might find, like me, that you judged it too early.

Book Reviews, YA Contemporary, Young Adult

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel Review

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Rating: ★★★

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Juniper Lemon’s sister Camilla died two months ago, but the Happiness Index that they began together, where Juniper notes down all the positive things that have happened to her, helps her feel closer to her. When one of her cards go missing, one that holds a dark secret about the night Camilla died, it is as though Juniper’s life has lost all semblance of balance once again, and to make things worse, she discovers a secret love letter from her sister to an unknown lover. Juniper sets out on a desperate journey to find her lost index card and deliver her sister’s letter, one that brings new friends, more secrets, and possibly even the ability to find peace with herself.

There was nothing wrong with this novel, but it just didn’t hit the spot. Usually, stories about relatives dying set me off on a path of helpless sobbing, but for some reason this book didn’t have that emotional power with me. I think that one reason for this was that the plot felt a little disjointed. For example, Juniper makes various friends throughout the course of the novel, and although I did enjoy some of their scenes, sometimes it felt like their storylines were diverting attention from the main story, whilst not being strong enough to justify it. Her new friends were fun to read at times, with wit and jokes, but with the exception of Brand, they were pretty flat and felt irrelevant, and frankly, I didn’t really care about them. It felt like the story about Juniper’s grief and recovery was not only being left on a back burner but being completely forgotten at some points. On the other hand, I did really enjoy Juniper and Brand’s relationship. I am a sucker for bad boys who are actually not that bad, and Brand falls right into that category of a bad boy that is actually a softie. Their relationship felt sincere and loving, even if it did feel like it deepened a bit too quickly once it began.

What really weakened this novel though, was the completely unsatisfactory ending. Now, beware, because this next paragraph will be spoilery, so read at your own risk!

Here we go. The ending. Not only were there loose ends, but the story was left completely wide open, unfinished, and fraying at the edges. The mystery of the identity of Camilla’s lover was the driver of the entire plot, and after an entire book with Juniper hunting for clues, and us going along with her, at the end, we are simply not told. It felt like a betrayal to lead me along on a goose chase for answers only for the mystery to be left completely unanswered. I don’t care if Juniper moved on and saw her duty to her sister has been dispatched, I don’t care if she only cared about delivering the letter and not about finding out who the mystery person was, I WANT TO KNOW. I HAVE THEORIES. I HAVE SUSPICIONS. I DESERVE TO KNOW. Honestly, endings like this don’t feel emotional or poignant, they just feel like the author couldn’t figure out how to end their book. If a mystery is going be at the heart of your story, you should answer the mystery. Don’t make me turn on my detective brain only to not answer my questions.

So, this book was neither here nor there. I would have given this book 2 stars instead of 3, but the reality is that for the most part, this book wasn’t boring and it wasn’t bad. It was a little disjointed in tone, and the plot was disappointing, but mainly it was the ending that ruined it for me. Yes, I feel disappointed and misled by the book, but there were positives and until I began to suspect that the ending would disappoint, I was enjoying reading this book.

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