Friday, June 10, 2016

Geek Girl: Head Over Heels

Title: Head Over Heels (Geek Girl #5) 
Author: Holly Smale
Genre: YA
Rating: 5/5

Cover: 6/10

Head Over Heels follows self-assumed geek girl, Harriet Manners, and her newly-acquired clique. After the disastrous happening of All That Glitters (Geek Girl #4), Harriet has decided to take a break from modelling, and just stick to what she does best: studying.

Of course, the fashion world stops for no one, and when Wilbur calls her asking to join his new modelling agency, Harriet finds herself agreeing to help her friend. As she later finds out, she is Wilbur’s only client, and quite literally the only thing standing between her friend and the end of his career.

Smale has always shown a great ability to create a character who is both quirky and unique, while also being uniquely relatable. And for her audience of young tweens and teens, it is vital to have role models such as Harriet Manners in their lives; Harriet tells them that being different is okay, that being clever doesn’t mean you have to be socially awkward or ugly — and that, no matter who you are, and how you relate to the world, there are people out there who see the world in the same way as you, and will be happy to spend time with you, no matter what others might say.

I think to me, however, the biggest gift of these books is always seeing Harriet discover a new and empowering truth about herself; last one was that her happiness wasn’t dependant on a boy, no matter how cute. In Head Over Heels, it was Harriet’s approach to modelling. While so far she’d been able to skate her way through with minimal effort to the actual job she was doing, Head Over Heels finds Harriet having to take it seriously in order to help Wilbur. That felt like such a huge turning point in her character development, and a step towards maturity; she’s learning to take responsibility for her choices and her actions, learning that modelling is an actual job that takes work and preparation and involves more than just showing up and hoping for the best.

What I liked the most about Harriet, from the very first novel, was how unapologetic she was about being herself, and it’s always an absolute pleasure to see this theme continue throughout the novels — Harriet is a geek girl, and very proud of it.

Overall, yet another great coming of age novel by Smale, and one in a series that I hope young girls everywhere will take heart; we need more Harriet Manners in the world. 

The Crown (The Selection #5)

Title: The Crown (The Selection #5) 
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: 5/5

Cover: 10/10

The Crown follows the events of The Heir, and we are once again swept up in Princess Eadlyn’s tumultuous life.

Following the Queen Mother’s heart problems, Eadlyn is thrust headfirst into the position of Regent of Illéa. Now not only does she have to navigate her own 
Selection, she also has to rule a country that seems to hold great dislike for her while her father stays by her mother’s side, and her brother has run away to get married.

Faced with the prospect of imminent rebellion in her beloved country, Eadlyn has to make some tough choices — both in her personal life, and in her public one, as Regent, and learn that sometimes in life, compromise is a must... and that others, a firm hand and steely determination is what is needed. Alliances are tested and truths are exposed as she tries to hold on to control of her own life.

I really enjoyed this last instalment to Cass’ series. Eadlyn’s journey felt true and relatable; her struggle to find a viable balance between her duty and work as a monarch, and her own heart and desires is one that is easy to relate to. And the way Cass presented Eadlyn throughout the novel made her an easy narrator to root for — an important factor, considering it’s a first-person narrative.

It was also nice that Cass managed to keep a level of uncertainty regarding Eadlyn’s chosen suitor from the Selection. Until it happened, we are kept unsure of whether or not she will actually go through with what her hearts wants her to — or if she will yield to the responsibility her birth has placed on her.

Cass presents an engaging novel about finding strength in yourself, learning to trust your instincts and be true to your heart. Eadlyn’s age and gender are never a problem in the novel, despite others trying to make it one. Cass’ protagonist is a spunky, take-no- prisoners kind of princess, who has no time for anyone’s thoughts on what she should or should not be allowed to do because of her age or the fact that she is a girl; she takes to her tasks with gumption, and proves that a woman can rule just as well — if not better, in fact — than a man, and be very happy while doing so.

Special mention to Cass’ excellent handling of the LGBT+ community representation in this novel. Until books are no longer advertised as ‘LGBT’ if the main character is queer, there will always be the need for better representation in literature, and especially in Young Adult Lit. The way Cass added it in here was both surprising and tastefully done. The characters weren’t defined by their sexuality, and were allowed storylines outside of it; their romance wasn’t rushed and neither one of them died — always a decided plus. 

Saturday, April 02, 2016

The Abyss Surrounds Us (The Abyss #1)

Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us 
Author: Emily Skrutskie
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-fi
Rating: 5/5
Cover: 7/10

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water. 
There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.
But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. And she's not about to stop.


After having had some trouble getting interested in books for a few months, The Abyss Surrounds Us managed to firmly get into the swing of things again.

The relationship between Cas and Bao was amazing to see develop: from reluctant trainer, to almost that of a proud mother. And the character development that Cas went through from start to finish was truly beautiful to witness. Skrutskie managed to make it so that Cas's journey felt fluid and natural - from her first day out on her own boat, to the self-discoveries brought on by captivity.

Another definite plus was the relationship between Cas and Swift. It started out so subtle, that by the time it is addressed in the text, it feels almost inevitable. But the way Skrutskie manoeuvred around the issues that arose from the situation both girls were in was what truly shone: at no point did the romance feel wrong, forced or even detrimental to Cas as a character in captivity. Much to the contrary, in fact: Cas's strength and determination when it came to Swift made her shine as a character that not only knows what she wants and deserves from life, but also one I hope young girls will look up to. The world needs more Cassandra Leung's in literature; not only to show that it is okay to love another girl, but also that love, in whatever form it comes in, should never come above your own sense of self, identity, freedom and morals.

Truly a very entertaining read right to the very end. Definitely recommend, and I'm very much looking forward to the next book, because that cliffhanger was a killer! 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

HPCelebration, Fantastic Beasts, Cursed Child... it's a Potter Year!

In case some of you weren't aware of this: I am a huge Potterhead. And as today, January 31st, begins, it dawns on me just how deeply entwined these stories have been with my life.

It's funny, because when my Dad came back from a business trip with this book "he just knew I'd love", six-year-old me had no idea that she was about to be introduced to some of the best friends she'd ever have.
Fifteen years later, and I'm lying here. It's 1am on my mother's birthday, and Harry Potter has made something of a comeback into my life. The irony isn't lost on me that it was five years ago, on July 15th 2011, that Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out in cinemas... and my mum passed away. It's funny how life is cyclical like that; that day five years ago, I said goodbye to my childhood in more ways than expected. And now, years later, on yet another memorable date, it's come knocking again. I, for one, am thrilled to have more Potter in my life, and very excited to go on new adventures in the Wizarding World.

For news, videos and more about both Fantastic Beasts and The Cursed Child, follow #HPCelebration on twitter.

Friday, January 08, 2016

The Impostor Queen

Title: The Impostor Queen
Author: Sarah Fine
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Cover: 10/10

Sixteen-year-old Elli was a small child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic. Since then, Elli has lived in the temple, surrounded by luxury and tutored by magical priests, as she prepares for the day when the Valtia perishes and the magic finds a new home in her. Elli is destined to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.
But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.
Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, the home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between the love she has for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must align with the right side—before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.


I really couldn't have picked a better book to get me back into the reading saddle... or a worse one, depending on how you look at it.
The Impostor Queen had everything I like the most in fantasy novels: beautifully set up worlds, strong characters with awesome powers and lots of action. It also had, much to my delighted surprise, an LGBT element. Now, this might just be me being too grumbly, because I can just as easily see it having happened exactly like it did if Mim was a guy, but dammit, I wanted more of Mim/Elli! I was so wary when I first picked up the hints of feelings there, and then when they kept on coming, I fell in head over heels. I mean, come on: a queen-to-be in a fantasy novel where the blurb never even mentions her sexuality, so it's not marketed as the selling point (which is good, btw, no matter my disgruntled view on the whole Mim ordeal, because, hey... we got a bisexual fantasy queen! And the book wasn't even marketed as LGBT, it just... happened! *dreamy smile* like I said on GR, surprise gays are always such a delight), and I got all happy and squeal-y because YES, a lesbian queen! Finally a f/f ship that could actually survive and be canon and fill me warm, fuzzy feelings!
Alas, I thought too soon. Elli loved Mim, but it was not meant to be, so Elli quickly moved on to Oskar. As amazing a guy as Oskar actually was (actually another rather rare thing in YA these days, so double the kudos to Fine for an actually likeable guy!), I could never quite get behind that pairing because I was still crying over the lost potential with Mim.
I'll get over it. One day. Maybe.

I did love the world that Fine created, and can't wait to see what happens next. Raimo's ominous warning gives me hope for the next book, and I can't help but feel that maybe some of the Sutari people we saw in this book will make a comeback in the next one.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Cover Love: The Crown

The cover for the last book in Kiera Cass's The Selection series, The Crown hit today, and, keeping up the tradition of stunning covers, here's another beauty:

What do you think of Eadlyn's new look?

The Crown is due May 3rd 2016.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Cover Love: Remembrance

It's finally here! After all the waiting, the cover for Meg Cabot's new Mediator book, Remembrance, is officially out there!

What did you guys think?

Remembrance is scheduled for a 2016 release.