9 December 2015

The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass 
Release Date: April 24th 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Add It: Goodreads

The best chocolate chip cookies I've ever had are full of delicious, "bad-for-you" ingredients, are only $3 and I often find myself devouring almost an entire packet in one sitting despite knowing I probably shouldn't eat that many cookies. But, I can't help it, I just enjoy them so much. The Selection is a bit like that. It's cheap, nasty and has everything I could possibly hate in literature, yet I found myself addicted and it was so much fun.

(I still stand by my opinion that the controversy surrounding this a few years ago as a result of a couple of individuals was weak and really fucking poor on their behalf)

Aside from my disgust at certain people involved, this book was so fluffy and fun to read. The first 100 pages were an absolute drag, but after the initial slog, I couldn't put it down at all and just enjoyed the ride, although it's not without flaws.

As I expected, the characterization in The Selection was weak. America Singer (I will never get used to that name - ever.) is portrayed as compassionate, down to earth and is generally pretty likable. However, she's also kind of a special snowflake... She is portrayed as better than the other girls because she goes "light on the makeup" and likes to wear jeans instead of dresses. America is also constantly told how pretty/beautiful she is, and you guessed it - doesn't believe it! WOW! What a surprise!!! The way America is written as a special snowflake would normally annoy the ever loving fuck out of me, but I actually really enjoyed her as a character and loved her banter, wit and her overall personality.

The other girls in the competition are portrayed as vapid, shallow bitches and America calls them "fake" etc. Essentially, this is just another tool used to make America stand out as a special snowflake among a sea of other women. They don't have a lot of personality as it's clear the reader is supposed to hate other characters, particularly Celeste, because they're the stereotypical nasty, pretty girl in a YA novel.

The worldbuilding isn't that great either, in fact it's pretty shit. All of the world building and history is given to the reader in the form of "History lessons" in classes at the castle which are really just a disguise for lots of gigantic infodumps in which we may as well be given a page of dot points instead of it being mushed together with dialogue. The actual caste system itself is sketchy and disorganised, and I still don't understand why we're meant to feel sorry for America and her family for being Fives. Oh, you're middle class musicians and can "only" afford to eat pasta and chicken for dinner and can "only" afford the bare minimum of makeup? Please.

The writing is unremarkable, and at times just straight up bad. The dialogue is stilted and at times cringy, but I suppose it was easy to read.

Also, let's get one thing straight. While this book is marketed as a dystopia, it should not be considered a dystopia at all. The competition in which the girls do not have to participate in (sure, there is monetary gain for the families, but they're not exactly being forced against their will), has no negative outcomes, in fact the outcomes of losing the competition are still pretty positive. As I said before, the caste system is sketchy and the only thing that could possibly point to this being a dystopia is the poverty, which even then, is not explored in enough depth to even be considered a huge deal compared to the extravagant risk-free competition to win the heart of the hot, kind, caring Prince Maxon. Oh wait, there is also a minor threat of rebels who attack the castle every now and again, but they're kind of just a tacked on thing to add a little bit of drama that isn't fuelled by the bitchiness of the competition. This is not a dystopia. This is pure fluff, but that's okay and I love it. (Just don't fucking call something like this a dystopia, please - there is no social commentary in this, when there was so much opportunity for it and dystopia is typically used as a platform to discuss serious world issues).

This could have been so much more than it was, however I can't deny that I had fun reading it. I read 250 pages of this in one sitting and I enjoyed it, dammit.

9 November 2015

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Release Date: November 1st 2015
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Add it: Goodreads

I don't really know where to start with this review. All I really know is I was SO excited to read this. There is so little representation of people who identify as genderqueer and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, but I ended up so incredibly disappointed.

Also to note, for the purposes of this review, I will referring to Toni as'T' as to not spoil anything.

To start with, the writing felt forced and read like a collection of short essays or even a textbook, and there was barely any resemblance of a plot. The plot essentially follows T and Gretchen's first year of college apart from eachother and how this affects their relationship. The plot was incredibly weak and essentially just served as a tool to try and educate readers about being genderqueer or transgender.

I wouldn't normally have a huge problem with this as this is so rarely discussed in YA (or at all), however among the info-dumps about how things can be problematic, was in turn, pretty problematic in themselves.

Now, I understand that this might seem a bit rich coming from the mouth of a cis, straight girl, but I had a lot of issues. One of the main issues I had with this was the misrepresentation of what it means to be genderqueer. From my understanding, genderqueer is a kind of umbrella term for those whose gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the binary of female and male. It is also within my understanding that genderqueer is not PURELY a period in which you decide which gender you belong to. This book implies that genderqueer people just haven't made up their minds about which gender they'd like to be, kinda like how bisexual people just haven't made up whether they like men or women, right? *rolls eyes*

T's friend group at Harvard consists largely of transgender people, and it's fantastic to have such a huge cast of diverse characters, instead of having just one or two here and there. There is a lot of discussion about language and pronouns, which I found somewhat interesting and T spends a giant chunk of the novel trying out several gender neutral pronouns to see what T likes. As a general rule, T hates pronouns, which is fine. However, while experimenting with pronouns and deciding which ones fit best, T also calls everybody by gender neutral pronouns and ends up misgendering as a result. It would be one thing if this was a mistake, but T continues to do so even after being called out on it.

The conversation between T and a transguy in the group, Andy goes along the lines of:
"I never use gendered pronouns at all, I don't want to reinforce the gender binary"
Andy snorts, "Please. Don't be one of those hypergenderqueer people who's always ragging on the rest of us for wanting to look like guys"
"That's not what Toni said at all," Derek says. "Relax, dude."
"I'm just saying, I had to go through a lot of shit to get people to call me he," Andy tells us. "I don't need some kid coming in here and deciding I don't get to just because binaries are evil"

Following that exchange and being called out on it, T continues to call Andy whatever T likes and intentionally misgenders him, among many other people. It's just downright disrespectful to go OUT OF YOUR WAY to misgender someone, particularly after they've asked you not to, and yet T does it ALL. THE. TIME.

Another thing that really grinded my gears was how this book tried to portray feminism. Two of the only cis, straight females in this book (apart from T's sister, Audrey), were straight up transphobic arseholes, but also just served as a platform to have shitty views of what feminism means be thrown at us. According to our main character, feminists aren't allowed to conform to gender roles and aren't allowed to wear bikinis or take photos of themselves in them. God forbid feminists are comfortable with their bodies and want to show themselves off.

Joanna gets up at six in the morning to start a ninety-minute hair care regimen, and Felicia wears designer high heels every day even though they always get caught in the sidewalks. Joanna and Felicia are the ultimate gender conformists. Neither of them has the right to talk about feminism until they stop posting pictures of themselves in bikinis.

Are. You. Serious.

As I previously mentioned, I loved how many diverse characters there were, however I didn't particular like how there is so much animosity toward white, straight people, not because I feel sorry for white, straight people, but because it reinforces the misconception that gay or transgender people harbor hatred toward white, cisgendered, straight people.

As a character, Gretchen grew much more so than T did. I still didn't really like her and I am still trying to figure out why she decided to become best friends with a transphobic gay guy who regularly calls T a "shemale". Not once did Gretchen call him out on his fucking apalling behaviour, and it just seemed so weird for this to be accepted by Gretchen of all people.

I could probably write a 10 page essay discussing why things in this book were problematic and how disappointed I am, but I will stop here. The truth is, I am struggling to put my thoughts together coherently enough to even write this review. I am so beyond disappointed and it worries me that authors or publishers will be hesitant to write/publish more stories about genderqueer or transgender characters because of how much of a disaster this one was. Considering there are no other mainstream YA books out there that tackles this topic, I think Talley tried her best. However, that doesn't mean this wasn't riddled with problems. Misrepresenting people in an attempt to simply include diverse characters for the sake of ticking the "diversity" box, and pumping out these sorts of books because we all want to read books with more diversity, is not the kind of representation that is needed.

Please let me know in the comments if I've made a mistake or need to clarify anything (it was a little hard to put my thoughts together!), I mean no offense but please let me know if I have.

Thankyou HarlequinTeen Australia for providing me with a review copy. This has in no way affected my review

17 October 2015

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas

Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Release Date: September 11th 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Books
Add it: Goodreads
Overall: ♥ 1/2

I just want to start off by saying that it takes me roughly 3 days to read a book if I'm busy or 1-2 days if I have no other commitments. It took me a full month to read this. Although I don't think this book is entirely to blame, I almost fell into a reading slump and had to put this down for a week or so while I read other things.

After Crown of Midnight, my expectations for this instalment were pretty fucking high (that book was AMAZING), but everything was boring, angsty, predictable and just not very exciting, making this the weakest of the series so far. Heir of Fire is like one gigantic anime filler; there are long, shitty training arcs for the hero, and you get to meet characters you kinda care about, but not enough to invest your heart and soul into. I'm also seeing a pattern with these books so far: Celaena trains. Has flirty banter with cute boy. Some monster is killing people. Celaena beats the monsters. End.


I was pretty hyped up to meet Rowan, but I didn't really care for him and I am still firmly a Chaolaena shipper. Don't get me wrong, I like Rowan and Celaena (after Rowan stopped being such a prick), but I love them platonically and I don't think there is enough friendship in this series as it is (with the exception of Chaol and Dorian because BOY I LOVE THOSE TWO. YOU BIG CUTIE PIES), so having these two have a friendship would be pretty cool, not to mention badass. Rowan just didn't do it for me. I dunno, I get that he's muscly and hot and all, but... is that supposed to make me fall in love with him?


I also hated Manon's chapters and was oh so tempted to skip every time she came up. I actually liked Sorscha somewhat, she was a bit vanilla and boring, but I was interested to see where her character was going. Aedion was again, very boring and I didn't care for him at all.
To summarise, I didn't give two shits about any of the new characters. I just wanted to know more about what Chaol and Dorian were up to, which we sadly don't get much of until the end of the book.

If you can't tell already, I adore Chaol with all my heart, and I really felt sorry for him in this instalment. He puts everyone before himself and it never turns out well for him. The way he was treated by some of the characters pissed me off a little bit, but the ending made it all okay (in a heartbreaking kind of way).

Maas' writing has improved tenfold since Throne of Glass which I appreciate, however apart from being shockingly slow for the most part, Heir of Fire was incredibly inconsistent in pacing. A few times I found myself getting really immersed, only for the chapter to end or switch over to a new point of view (often Manon's, which as I've established, I don't care about) and a new wave of boredom would wash upon me. The worldbuilding in this series is still absolutely phenonmenal and getting to read about an entirely new continent was great (I want a map of Wendlyn SO FREAKING BAD).

I dunno, I just really struggled with Heir of Fire and wasn't really enjoying it until about 400 pages in (the book is 550 pages altogether). I'm about halfway through Queen of Shadows at the moment and I'm still looking forward to where this series goes.

30 September 2015

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, Illustrated by Jim Kay
Release Date: September 15th 2011
Publisher: Walker Books
Add it: Goodreads

A Monster Calls is one of those books that sticks with you for a long time after reading and you're probably going to need tissues.
I could have easily finished this in one sitting were it not for life being extremely busy at the moment!

Conor is a 13 year old boy who's mother has terminal cancer. He has had recurring nightmares since she started her treatments and in addition to this, his grandma is fast-paced and doesn't understand him, and his father lives in another country with his new family. On top of that, the teachers at school see him as invisible and he's constantly made fun of by other kids.

I read this for something to try and get me out of an oncoming reading slump, and it worked. By the end I was sitting on the couch just staring at, and rereading the pages because although I knew what was coming, it didn't make it any easier to read. This book explores grief and loss and the effects it can have on anybody, let alone a 13 year old boy.

The monster that Conor meets in his mind and dreams (not nightmares, that's a different monster), tells stories of others he has helped and I suppose the moral of each is that things are quite often not so black and white as one might think. Conor struggles with these ideas at first due to his grief and denial, but grows to realise that the monster is there to help him through things. I loved the monster. He was scary in the way a monster should be, but also ancient, wise and he genuinely cared about Conor.

Conor's relationship with his mother is heartwrenching and you feel the love they have for one another. That's the thing about this book, there is so much love and I think that's what makes it so sad. Rather than simply telling us, Patrick Ness does a wonderful job of showing you the relationships between characters and how they care for Conor in particular, in different ways.

The only thing I didn't quite understand was why they all seemed to treat Conor like he was a baby, when he was 13 and was more than capable of doing a bunch of things himself. Although I kind of understand considering how people tend to treat others with extra care in delicate circumstances.

There's not a lot I can say about this book except that you should definitely read it, although you should prepare tissues if you do! Oh, and PLEASE get the proper paperback/hardback of this rather than an e-book version, because the illustrations that accompany the story are magnificent in themselves.

A truly brilliant novel, and one that will stay with me for a long time.

27 September 2015

Four years blogosversary and Giveaway!

Hello lovely people!

So four years ago today, I made this blog (well, I *technically* have posts before that but I was on WordPress and the whole transfer thing was a hot mess)... Ahem. I made this blog as part of a project for uni. Little did I realise the beautiful friends (in real life and online!) or the memories it would create!

There were times (in fact about 2 years) where I wasn't exactly a present blogger. I took A LOT of time off and life got in the way, and I felt so guilty about that. But my love and drive to want to continue blogging has never stopped. I'm so happy to be back :)

If you've been here since 2011 or have just come across my blog today,


I hope you enjoy browsing and thankyou to the moon and back for reading, commenting or stopping by :)
The past 4 years have had it's very high ups, and some very low downs but I'm so very happy and proud of getting to this point at all! Book blogging introduced me to wonderful friends in real life and online and I've been able to have some amazing experiences because of it. Interacting with like-minded people, other bloggers, authors and attending signings and events have all been thanks to that one little uni project I started 4 years ago and entering the book blogging community. I'm so grateful for it all. Aaaand now I'm getting a bit emotional so I'll stop!


There is a giveaway open only to Australian residents only and another international giveaway in which anybody can enter! 

Aussies will be able to win 1 signed paperback of On the Jellicoe Road (one of my favourite books ever) and 1 paperback copy of Snow Like Ashes:) 
International entrants will be able to win $30 AUD to spend on book/s of their choice from the Book Depository as long as they ship to your country (please check here to make sure they do).

If you're lucky, you may win twice ;)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thankyou again, to the book blogging community and my friends made over the past four years. You wonderful, wonderful people! 

22 September 2015

Top 10 Books on my 'Fall' (Spring) TBR!

Top 10 Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish, and this week's Top 10 theme is, "Books on my Fall TBR". Although, here in Australia, the season of hayfever and lovely, mildly hot weather is upon us (spring), yay!

I'm absolute rubbish when it comes to reading a preplanned TBR (I'm much more of a mood reader), however basically every unread book on my shelves is TBR so I'll just pick 10 that stand out to me at the moment :)

1. Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

2. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

3. Half Bad by Sally Green

4. Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman

5. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

6. Rebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins

7. Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

8. What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

9. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

10. The Young Elites by Marie Lu

What books are on your TBR pile at the moment?

16 September 2015

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Release Date: April 7th 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Add it: Goodreads


Oh my god. I don't know what I was expecting when I read this, all I knew was that a handful of my friends had loved it and one of those lovely friends literally handed this book to me and said "You HAVE to finally read Simon" and that was that.

Simon is a gay teenager and emails with the mysterious Blue - a boy who goes to his school, but whose identity is unknown (Simon's identity is also unknown to Blue). After forgetting to log out of his email, Simon is blackmailed by asshat another student, Martin, who threatens to publish his personal emails with Blue.

This book was brilliant from start to finish. While it focuses on serious themes such as sexuality, gender, race, coming out and blackmail, it's all surprisingly very lighthearted and an adorable read. While it's lighthearted, funny and just downright cute, that's not to say it belittles the seriousness of those themes. It's just a wonderful mix and makes for a fantastic read.

Simon is witty, sassy, honest, clever and just downright adorable. He loves Oreos, Harry Potter and good grammar, and I so want him to be my friend. The relationships with his friends and family were realistic and while they weren't perfect (aka: teenagers are mean to eachother), it was so well done and I still LOVED ALL OF THEM. (Except Martin. Martin's an asshat and his behaviour was not cool).

Simon's family and friends were super supportive of him coming out and while this might be too neat and tidy for some, I think it was wonderful and I only wish every LGBT person had the same support group as Simon. While his friend group is imperfect, it was REALISTIC and I loved all of the supporting characters (petition to have a spin off novel for each of them). The little things his family does made me laugh and their dynamic is so loving and wonderful to read about. Simon's family is hilarious and I can TOTALLY relate to the Chipmunk's Christmas thing. Simon and his siblings joke that they're named after Alvin and the Chipmunks, but aside from that, they listen to the Chipmunk Song at Christmas. I probably freaked out way too much over this one tiny sentence but my mum and I would listen to Alvin and the Chipmunks on record EVERY SINGLE CHRISTMAS UNTIL I MOVED OUT OF HOME. I'm serious.

We get to understand more about Blue through emails and reading the conversations back and forth between the two had me internally screaming BECAUSE I JUST WANTED THEM TO MEET EACHOTHER BECAUSE AHSDGKSK. ALL of the cute. Their relationship blossoms throughout the novel and while things begin to unfold, I found myself so attached to Simon's character, I would get angry when he was angry or sad when he was sad. This sounds pretty standard for books to have characters we give a shit about, but I dunno, Simon is pretty awesome.

When we finally find out who Blue is, I felt so incredibly happy for Simon and could not stop grinning. It. Was. Perfect.

(If you can't tell already, this book turned me into a raving fangirl and I am not ashamed)

Becky Albertalli is a brilliant story magician and I am absolutely going to read anything she writes in the future.

I want to shout from the rooftops and tell everybody to buy this freaking book. It's amazing.