Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

29486766The 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 to 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?

In this sweeping and breathtaking new novel by National Book Award finalist Laini Taylor, author of the New York Times bestselling Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy, the shadow of the past is as real as the ghosts who haunt the citadel of murdered gods. Fall into a mythical world of dread and wonder, moths and nightmares, love and carnage.

Laini’s Goodreads | Website | Twitter 

 Amazon US | Amazon AU | Booktopia | Bookdepository

Thank You Hachette Australia and Netgalley for allowing me a copy to read and review.I don’t think I’ve ever been more full of wonder when reading a book then during Strange the Dreamer. I finished it over a week ago and I am still just contemplating. THAT ENDING! I wanted to cry. I wanted to break something. I needed a hug. Love, love, loved it! You’re a brilliant woman Laini Taylor and your imagination is phenomenal, but damn you, that epic cliff hanger has caused me one of the biggest book hangovers I’ve had in years.

At the start of the story we meet Lazlo, dubbed Strange the Dreamer, as a small energetic orphan boy with a vivid imagination and love of stories. We get to see him grow and find himself a safe haven with a job as a junior librarian, where his love of stories and desire to learn all he can of the lost city of Weep flourishes. Lazlo becomes a mild mannered, intelligent and kind hearted young man. A twist of fate sees Lazlo going on the adventure of a life time, taking his lifelong dream by the reins and traveling to find the answers his heart truly desires.

Straight from the start I felt a strong connection to Lazlo and Sarai (The Muse of Nightmares) and I grew to love many more characters along the way. The Characters were deeply developed, most likeable, some lovable, some scorn worthy and with one to be feared.Laini’s writing is beautiful, her world building is intricately beautiful, the underlying plot is beautiful, the whole gosh darn book right down to the cover, is beautiful. Actually beautiful really isn’t even a good enough word. This story has it all; mystery, adventure, magic, romance, forgiveness and revenge.

I was in Weep. I ran with Lazlo straight towards danger. I felt my hands pass into the Mesarthium. Strange the Dreamer is an enthralling story, cover to cover you can’t step away. I give it Five “just go and read it” Stars.

Review: The Limbo Tree by T.N. Suarez

32452755An accident. A secret. The truth.

Something is wrong with Samantha McCallister. Her baby brother is dead, and she has only one memory of the accident: the canned version her parents impressed upon her. But piece by piece, Sam struggles to make sense of it.

Cast aside by her self-involved family, Sam seeks out a friendship with the next-door neighbor, Hazel, until Hazel inexplicably goes missing, leaving nothing but a note and a jar of jam.

Determined to uncover the truth about Hazel’s disappearance, Sam finds out more than she bargained for. Bizarre episodes and nightmares consume her, vicious and unstoppable.

Meanwhile, an adolescent muse moves into Hazel’s abandoned home. Sam is immediately drawn to him—discovering the beginnings of true love—when the unthinkable occurs. Sam is alienated to a world in which she no longer feels she belongs. Try as she might, Sam cannot escape these nightmares or the truth behind them—the truth that lies in the Limbo Tree.

Brilliantly crafted, shimmering with uncertainty, The Limbo Tree is as mystical as it is moving.

Links: Goodreads | Website | Twitter | Facebook

My Thoughts: This book was nothing like I expected. It was spooky and made my skin crawl a little bit at times. If I had to sum the book up in one word I would say it was HAUNTING.

The first half of the book frustrated me. It all felt very creepy and I kept expecting something bad to happen. Early on I was confused as to whether Sam (Samantha, the fourteen-year-old main character) was dropping in and out of alternate realities or if she was hallucinating. The story irritated me and yet I couldn’t stop reading. With so much confusion and many unanswered questions I had to keep reading. I felt compelled to find out the truth behind Sam’s life.

I assumed early on that the story was set in the 1980’s with all the references to Madonna headbands, The Lost Boy’s, The Go-Go’s, KISS and The Cure. Indiana Jones the Last Crusade playing at a movie theatre later in the story verified it. I was born in the late 80’s and understood all the references, but I do worry that today’s teenagers won’t.

Sam spends nearly the entirety of the book not being able to remember what happened to her baby brother, just that her parents said his death was a tragic accident. Early in the story on one page she says she misses him and then the next she calls him a little beast. I found it very confusing and rather disturbing. Later, Sam even starts to suspect her mother of murdering her baby brother! We do finally learn the truth and the detail in which T.N. Suarez goes into is heart wrenching. I was internally screaming at the characters for the whole last chapter. Once I finished reading I went in and checked on both my boys, making sure they were both sleeping safe and sound.

Sam is an unreliable narrator and even she can’t trust her own version of events. You think you may have figured out what is going on and then everything twists again and you’re flailing around confused right alongside Sam.

The truth of Sam’s life and the ending of the book are rather sad and I think will continue to frustrate and haunt me for quite some time.star.3

Mini Reviews: The Duff & Lucy’s Chance

25076514The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger

Seventeen-year-old Bianca Piper is cynical and loyal, and she doesn’t think she’s the prettiest of her friends by a long shot. She’s also way too smart to fall for the charms of man-slut and slimy school hottie Wesley Rush. In fact, Bianca hates him. And when he nicknames her “the Duff,” she throws her Coke in his face.

But things aren’t so great at home right now, and Bianca is desperate for a distraction. She ends up kissing Wesley. Worse, she likes it. Eager for escape, Bianca throws herself into a closeted enemies-with-benefits relationship with him.

Until it all goes horribly awry. It turns out Wesley isn’t such a bad listener, and his life is pretty screwed up, too. Suddenly Bianca realizes with absolute horror that she’s falling for the guy she thought she hated more than anyone. GOODREADS.

My Thoughts:  This book impressed me. I was expecting the overused and abused trope of the ugly nobody gets the hot jerk etc. And OK it was there, but there were some truly beautiful girl power, love thy self, don’t judge others moments in this book.
The main character of Bianca was easily likable as were her two besties. Experiencing them navigate boys, high school hierarchy and family drama was actually quite entertaining and heart warming.
Keplinger’s writing flowed smoothly and I can actually see myself re-reading this book again if i’m ever in need of a quick fun feel good pick me up. I gave it FOUR what a pleasant surprise STARS.

Also: I watched the movie adaptation straight after the finishing the book, in which they changed so much the story was barely recognizable. Sadly I felt that they left out all the girl power friendship moments that actually made the book worthwhile! 😦

21969488Lucy’s Chance (Red Rock Ranch #1) by Brittney Joy

Sixteen year old Lucy Rose is spending her first summer away from home and she has two things on her mind: an abandoned, violent horse and a blue-eyed cowboy. Only neither is hers. Lucy has never attracted much attention from boys, but she can’t seem to ignore her blue-eyed co-worker, Casey Parker. A true cowboy, Lucy is fascinated by his gentle way with the horses at Red Rock Ranch. However, she is very aware that Taylor Johnson, rodeo queen extraordinaire, already has her spurs in him. And, there’s no crossing Taylor. . . . Not until a mysterious horse appears on the ranch and pushes Lucy and Casey together. The two are willing to do anything to save the black gelding that doesn’t want a thing to do with them or the human race. But, every step forward with the broken animal makes Lucy fall harder – for him and for Casey. GOODREADS.
 
My Thoughts: An enjoyable read filled with wonderful horsey goodness 🙂 Perfect for any young horse lover. The writing was sweet and easy to read. The story had a nice balance of action riding scenes, a young girl out to prove herself, developing young love and an adorable horse getting a second chance at a better life. I gave it FOUR warm and fuzzy STARS.

Review: Clancy of the Undertow by Christopher Currie

26802671We’re sitting there with matching milkshakes, Sasha and me, and somehow, things aren’t going like I always thought they would. We’re face to face under 24-hour fluorescents with the thoroughly unromantic buzz of aircon in our ears and endless flabby wedges of seated trucker’s arsecrack as our only visual stimulus.

In a dead-end town like Barwen a girl has only got to be a little different to feel like a freak. And Clancy, a typical sixteen-year-old misfit with a moderately dysfunctional family, a genuine interest in Nature Club and a major crush on the local hot girl, is packing a capital F.

As the summer begins, Clancy’s dad is involved in a road smash that kills two local teenagers. While the family is dealing with the reaction of a hostile town, Clancy meets someone who could possibly—at last—become a friend. Not only that, the unattainable Sasha starts to show what may be a romantic interest.

In short, this is the summer when Clancy has to figure out who the hell she is.

Goodreads | Twitter | Website | Instagram | Facebook | Amazon

fullsizerenderMy Thoughts: Where do I start with Clancy? The only negative thing I can say about this book is that it ended! I would have happily kept on reading and reading.

I loved following Clancy discover who she is and how she fits into the world. I loved the supporting characters of Nancy, Reeves and Angus. Actually all the characters, I saw bits of people I know in all of them. It was a believable and beautiful coming of age while coming out story.

I love that Clancy’s dad named her after Banjo Paterson’s Clancy of the Overflow. Banjo’s Clancy is one of my all-time favourite characters and I quite often find myself quoting lines of the poem in my head, like while writing this review – In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy, Gone a-droving ‘down the Cooper’ where the Western drovers go – Banjo’s 1889 Drover and Christopher Currie’s 2015 lovable self-loathing teen have nothing in common, other than my eternal love and a semi-unusual name.

I highly commend Mr Currie for managing to capture the pure hell and internal conflict of being a teen. The abusive conversations Clancy has with herself were so familiar – as in I had them with myself repeatedly when I was Clancy’s age. I don’t think there is anyone that hasn’t at some stage felt about themselves the way Clancy feels. She is relate-able, even if you don’t identify as homosexual or even admit to ever having desires for the same sex, we’ve all been teens AND being a teenager sucks. Teenage-suck-ism transcends generational and racial gaps. I think Clancy of the Undertow will go down in history as a teen classic along with the time capsule likes of Puberty Blues and The Outsiders.

FIVE another brilliant #LoveOzYA story STARS.
Five Stars

Review: Weregirl by C. D. Bell

30090014Eager to escape the small town of Tether, Michigan, once home to 90s corporate polluter Dutch Chemical, high school junior Nessa Kurland is focused on winning a college scholarship for cross-country running. Motivated to improve her times, she fits running into her busy schedule between school, helping out at home, and a weekend job at a vet’s office. One night she is out on a stealth training run when she comes across a trapped wolf. Trusting her animal skills from working for the vet, Nessa tries to free the animal but is bitten badly instead. The first clue that something has changed is her freakishly quick recovery. A wound that should take weeks to heal is gone in days. Other changes, both powerful and frightening, begin to emerge. She can hear conversations a quarter of a mile away and smell the cold weather coming. Finally, one day, she is transformed into a full werewolf. In this state, she begins to see and understand things about Tether that powerful people want to keep hidden. What is a Nobel laureate doing working one day per week in a small-town medical clinic? Is the interest from some top college track scouts genuine or a ruse to get her off the scent? Managing her power drastically alters the course of her daily life. The question is what will Nessa do with the secrets she learns, and what will others do once they realize what she knows? Now Nessa must navigate the social, romantic, and academic challenges of junior year while coming face to face with true human darkness, all while she tries to make peace with her new, wild nature.

Weregirl by C.D. Bell is a contemporary YA thriller filled with humor, romance, adventure, and a real-world relevant storyline. This fall’s must-read, set for release on November 1, 2016, Weregirl is a breathtakingly fun, not-to-be-missed addition to one of today’s most exciting literary genres – crafted by a truly feminist team of authors who passionately believe that teen girls deserve a better teen girl protagonist.

Created by a talented group of six female writers and inspired by the working tradition of television team writing, C. D. Bell is a Chooseco author pseudonym developed with teen author Cathleen Davitt Bell, who has written I Remember You, among other novels for young adults.

Expected publication: November 1st 2016 by Chooseco. TEEN ages 12+.

Book Links = Website | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

img_7448 My Thoughts: Firstly, thank You NetGalley and Chooseco for allowing me a review copy to read.

“All stories are about wolves. All worth repeating, that is. Anything else is sentimental drivel.” – Margaret Atwood, The Blind Assassin. This was the quote at the start of the copy I read. Now I might not totally agree Wolves are the only thing worth writing about, but I do love stories about wolves and I liked this quote.

The Basics: The story follows Nessa as she struggles and strives to reach her dreams of earning a college scholarship through hard work and dedication. Nessa’s world is turned upside down by a run in with two wolves in her local woods and some revelations about her towns so called saviours, a malevolent corporation by the name of Paravida.

The Good: The supportive friendship between Nessa and Bree and the way the two girls interacted kept the book feeling warm and inviting even as some rather nasty goings on within the town setting were being discovered. Nessa & Bree were both easily likable characters. Actually other than the Paravida employees all the other characters were likable, so the good / bad set up was simple, but strong.

I liked the way it felt being with Nessa in wolf form and I enjoyed the way this book did the whole ”werewolf thing”. The wolf pack Nessa enters into is beautiful and they were easy to connect with. Their mission was more about keeping balance in the natural world then any kind of solo personal agenda. I would even have to list Paravida’s genetically modified ”bad” wolves as a positive because their plight at the end of the book is what I think will get people to read the second book, wanting to find out what becomes of them.

The Bad: I really enjoyed the first 80% of this book and was thinking it was going to be a solid Four Star read, but the last 20% felt wrong somehow and kind of lost me. I’ve spent the last week trying to rationalise why I felt this way.

There is a werewolf “The Grey Wolf” and as the reader you have suspicions very early on as to who he is, but it felt like Nessa never had a big ”oh my god the grey wolf is” moment. I think the story needed her to have it. Nessa is supposed to be this strong, smart and capable young woman and I felt It made Nessa look stupid that she doesn’t figure it out sooner. I feel like if it had happened after her first trek into the Paravida’s compound it would have made the two characters’ connection stronger and the ending more solid. I didn’t need her to confront the Grey Wolf on his human identity, but just to have her identify him.

Conclusion: I would have liked to have found out more about all the wolves and I will be interested to see what becomes of the Paravida pack in the next book. All in all, I’m happy I read this book, it was well worth it and over all I did enjoy it. I want to rate this at 3.8 stars, that’s how I’m feeling.

Review: The First Third by Will Kostakis

17185857Life is made up of three parts: in the first third, you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you’ve made.

That’s how Billy’s grandmother explains it, anyway. She’s given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it’s his job to glue their family back together.

No pressure or anything.

Fixing his family’s not going to be easy and Billy’s not ready for change. But as he soon discovers, the first third has to end some time. And then what?

It’s a Greek tragedy waiting to happen.

* * * * My Thoughts * * * *

I read The Sidekicks and loved it. I’ve now read The First Third and loved it. I must get my hands on more! You, Mr Will Kostakis are brilliant and I love your humorous and heartwarming style.

In The First Third we follow 17 year-old Bill as he navigates first love and the monumental task his ill Grandmother has given him to put his broken family back together. With the help of Bill’s best friend Lucas and a pretty girl named Hayley, Bill manages to make some major progress with his family and help some other people out along the way. The ending leaves you with tears in your eyes, a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart and hope for the future.

Bill is a total sweetheart and reading along with his interactions with his friends, family and especially his Yiayia is a treat for the soul.

As with The Sidekicks the story flows beautifully, the characters are engaging and feel real. There is no denying that Mr Kostakis has the ability to tell a meaningful and captivating story. I am looking forward to reading more by him in the future.

Five Stars

Kostakis Links: Goodreads | Twitter | Website | Facebook

Booktopia | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Bookdepository 

Review: Raelia (The Medoran Chronicles #2) by Lynette Noni

Review: Risuko by David Kudler

Can One Girl Win A War?

Review: The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis

25574212

The Swimmer. The Rebel. The Nerd.

All Ryan, Harley and Miles had in common was Isaac. They lived different lives, had different interests and kept different secrets. But they shared the same best friend. They were sidekicks. And now that Isaac’s gone, what does that make them?

Will Kostakis, award-winning author of The First Third, perfectly depicts the pain and pleasure of this teenage world, piecing together three points of view with intricate splendour.

* *

Paperback, 256 pages. Published February 29th 2016 by Penguin Australia.
* * *

Goodreads WebsiteTwitter – Facebook

Amazon AUBooktopiaAmazon USBook Depository

* * * * * * * My Thoughts * * * * * * *

Set in northern Sydney The Sidekicks is the story of three very different boys. While on the verge of manhood they suffer the loss of a mutual friend. We follow each of the boys as they go on to deal with their friend’s death. The trauma initially separates them, but by the end of the book it has brought them together with a closeness they never had before. This is a story of love, loss, friendship, sexuality, homophobia and just wanting to fit in.

The Boys:

“The Swimmer” I was immediately drawn to Ryan (Thommo). His character straight up felt kind hearted and genuine. My heart wanted to reach out and hug him. The poor boy not only had to deal with the loss of his best friend, but with coming out to the world.

“The Rebel” Scott (Harley) is bloody adorable. Harley was the kind of boy I swooned over in school, and rightly so, thanks for proving me right Harley. Harley really grows up after losing his mate and he does everything he can to put things right. I outwardly applauded him (seriously my husband looked at my like a was mad clapping at a book) as he ran off to find and support Ryan.

“The Nerd” I was most afraid for Miles after the loss of Isaac. He really ends up in a dark place, but thankfully that big beautiful dastardly brain of his sees the light and lets the other two boys in. I wasn’t as drawn to Miles as the other two boys at first, but seeing the world through his eyes and his projected vision of the future, was a really strong and brilliant way to finish the story off.

star.5

Review: The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina

13552764“There will come a day when a thousand Illegals descend on your detention centres. Boomers will breach the walls. Skychangers will send lightning to strike you all down from above, and Rumblers will open the earth to swallow you up from below. . . . And when that day comes, Justin Connor, think of me.”

Ashala Wolf has been captured by Chief Administrator Neville Rose. A man who is intent on destroying Ashala’s Tribe — the runaway Illegals hiding in the Firstwood. Injured and vulnerable and with her Sleepwalker ability blocked, Ashala is forced to succumb to the machine that will pull secrets from her mind.And right beside her is Justin Connor, her betrayer, watching her every move.

Will the Tribe survive the interrogation of Ashala Wolf?

 * * * * *   MY  THOUGHTS   * * * * *

The last few Dystopian novels I’ve read have been let downs, so I was holding off starting this series as it is labelled a Dystopian. I saw it at my local library when I was there last and my interest in the Author’s Bio caused me to borrow it and boy am I glad I did.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is the first book in The Tribe series by Australian author Ambelin Kwaymullina. Within the first few pages on a coffee fueled Sunday morning this story had reeled me. I didn’t put it down until I finished it later that night! Devouring a book in one sitting doesn’t happen to me very often.

This story felt fresh and exciting. The story is action packed, high danger with just the right about of young romance. Ashala is amazing, in fact so are all the Tribe members and Ashala’s connection to natural world is truly beautiful.

I think the dystopian world, set 300+ years into our future, that Ambelin Kwaymullina has created is brilliant and enthralling. I love the terrifyingly possible way the earth was destroyed by our toxic behaviors and the way humans have evolved because of it. In this future earth there isn’t enough humans left to be concerned with the colour of someone skin, but as we humans are horrible creatures who fear anything different from ourselves, the future government hunts down anyone showing any signs of extraordinary abilities; Ashala and her tribe all have these extraordinary abilities.

Thought-out this story we see the world as Ashala sees it. We meet allies and enemies and experience some vivid dreaming scenes and painful memories as she does.

While I was really enjoying the first half of the book, there was a twist half way though that I didn’t see coming that for me turned the second half of the book into a frenzy. I was running a mad race with myself to find out how the book ended.

Ambelin Kwaymullina writing flows beautifully and is filled with powerful energy. This book was a real pleasure to read. I’m off to get my hands on book number two!star.5

the tribe

Ambelin KwaymullinaAmbelin Kwaymullina loves reading sci-fi/fantasy books, and has wanted to write a novel since she was six years old. She comes from the Palyku people of the Pilbara region of Western Australia. When not writing or reading she teaches law, illustrates picture books, and hangs out with her dogs.  Links: Website | Goodreads | Amazon AU | Amazon US | Book Depository