Book Review | Sublime Karma by Peyton Garver

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Genre: YA Contemporary Romance

Publishers: Soul Mate Publishing

Publication Date: 30th November, 2016

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Brie’s stepfather moves the family for what he calls a new beginning, it’s not the new beginning the beautiful, yet guarded, senior would have hoped for. Brie is instantly targeted by jealous girls at her new school, and the only available seat on her bus is next to the school’s star wide receiver, Jake, who for some reason, finds her offensive. After a humiliating article and picture of Brie is posted in the online school journal, a demon she thought she’d overcome resurfaces, and her life unravels. A newly compassionate Jake has finally taken an interest in her, but can Brie learn to trust her heart, or will she miss out on the best thing that ever happened to her?

Jake has his own secrets and has built his own walls, but eventually his curiosity about the new girl gets the best of him. Unfortunately, now there is competition: the captain of her cross-country team. Jake’s romantic histories with the girl next door and the school’s queen bee, adds tension to a simmering tempest when all he wants is Brie. Is he strong enough to help the one he loves weave sense into her crumbling new reality while overcoming his own tainted past?

Disclaimer: Thanks to the author for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

I’m feeling so conflicted about this novel. Did I enjoy it? To my surprise, yes! I didn’t expect the novel to face the heavy topics that it did, so it wasn’t the fluffy romance I initially thought it would be (which is a good thing!). But though I enjoyed it, I still had a few big issues with it.

As the story progresses, readers quickly become aware of Brie’s mental illness, and it kind of shocked me. We’re warned in the synopsis that it isn’t appropriate for younger readers, but I think a specific trigger warning would have been more appropriate due to this books nature – there was a lot of heavy topics in this novel that affect people of all ages. I really wish books were published with trigger warnings, but that’s a fight for another day.

Our characters were an interesting bunch. When we’re first introduced to main character Jake, I didn’t like him. He seemed like someone that purely judges a persons worth by the way they look, and a few remarks he made about girls made me cringe (I found myself cringing quite a lot). It seemed like he was interested in every pretty girl he walked past.

However, without giving away any spoilers, about halfway through the book we see a change in Jake. The way his character developed throughout the novel was really positive to see, and I’m glad he stopped acting like such a douche. (Not to say he didn’t still have his worse moments, though.)

‘Jake gazed into her eyes and smiled with the short pause, then leaned down to whisper the next words in her ear as it was announced from the stage,

“We – are Sublime Karma.”‘

Brie is our other main character, and I’m not entirely sure what to think about her. I don’t know a lot about self-harm, so I honestly can’t comment on how accurately it has been portrayed in this novel. With the anxiety side to it, I could relate a little bit – we see her zone out a lot, and although sometimes I found it a bit too out of place, I could appreciate what the author was trying to do – concentration issues are a very common thing when it comes to anxiety.

In the book we’re also introduced to Brie’s brother (who I didn’t really like), and her mom. I would’ve liked to have seen her mother involved a bit more, but I also feel like her lack of presence was a clever thing to do – it really made it obvious to me the type of relationship Brie and her mother shared.

This is the type of book I’d sort of expect to see on Wattpad – which isn’t a bad thing at all (I used to be quite addicted to Wattpad stories a few years back). It’s almost like a guilty pleasure read – you know it’s not the best story in the world, and perhaps the characters aren’t the best either, but you sort of can’t help but like it.

 

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I had two main issues with this book: the detail and the grammar. I felt like there wasn’t really enough description in some places, which often led to me being confused. And I found quite a lot of mistakes in a grammatical aspect – commas repeatedly in the wrong place, and just a few other things.

I found the last two pages very cute (what can I say? I guess I am a sucker for romance after all). Though I did have issues with this book, I undeniably enjoyed it, and I’m very glad I had the opportunity to read Sublime Karma! It’s not something I’d usually go looking for, and it’s made me realise that branching out of my comfort zone isn’t a bad idea!

Topic Awareness:

  • Anxiety
  • Self-harm
  • Abuse
  • Death
  • Suicide

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Book Review | A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. Schwab

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Genre: YA/NA Fantasy

Publishers: Titan Books

Publication Date: February 23rd 2016

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

This book was amazing. My gods! A Gathering of Shadows reminded me of my love for everything fantasy and why novels within the genre used to be my absolute favourite – they have this ability, if done well, to take you to another place when you need to escape reality for a little while, and that’s exactly what this book did for me.

Once again, the world-building was brilliant. Schwab is one heck of an author to not only be able think up this extraordinary world, but to also have the ability to then write about it the way she does. And don’t even get me started on the plot – because sheesh, how original can this novel be? How unique? I can’t think of a single novel with multiple Londons, a cross-dressing thief and magical wonders such as this (and by wonders I mostly mean horrors, but still).

There were two things I didn’t love about this novel:

  1. The gore again (I’m just not a person that enjoys reading such detailed descriptions).
  2. This book absorbed me into the story-line – which is a great thing in truth, because that’s the purpose of a book, really – but it completely over took my life the days I was reading it. You think I left the house whilst reading this book? Ha, guess again!

In all seriousness, I’m so impressed. I said in my review of the first novel, A Darker Shade of Magic, that I didn’t really feel like it held up to the hype surrounding it, but that definitely doesn’t apply to the second because wow. I’m sort of feeling like this could be the best fantasy I’ve read all year (and I read Lord of Shadows by Cassie Clare this year, so that’s really saying something).

‘Kell would say it was impossible. What a useless word, in a world with magic.’

It’s strange, but after reading AGOS I feel a lot more love for the first novel. I mean, it has all these wonderful characters in it, so how could I not love it? If I ignore Lila’s some of their violent tendencies, I really like our main characters! How the characters interacted with each other was lovely to read (the feels struck me, I won’t lie)! I feel like they were developed a lot more in comparison to the first book, as I felt a connection with them whilst reading – I actually cared what happened, and may or may not have shed a tear or two over certain events that took place.

We definitely explored the relationship between Kell and Rhy more in this novel, which I really enjoyed. On a side note, I think it’s of utmost importance that I express my love for Alucard (and mention that I’m pretty much shipping him with everyone in this book haha)!

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Something else I enjoyed were the multiple POVs from our characters. I thought it was clever how we could see what was going on everywhere – from Lila and Kell’s own escapades to the dark risings in another London. Sometimes changing from different perspectives can be a bit confusing, but I thought it flowed really well in this novel.

And have I mentioned yet that our characters are diverse? From gender identity to sexuality and race, I was really happy that there was so much representation going on. Their personalities were all starkly different too, and they each stood out, which was awesome. I also have to say one of our primary characters is a strong woman who doesn’t need anyone to fight her battles for her, and I love it!

I didn’t want this book to end. It was absolutely brilliant, and I’m so glad I read it. I was hooked from beginning to end – and that cliffhanger! What a cruel way to finish a book! I started the third book the day after finishing it because I couldn’t deal with not knowing what happens!

If you like fantasy novels, read this book! It took me by surprise, and I really can’t express how great a novel it is.

Thanks!

– Emma

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Book Review | Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publishers: Usborne Publishing Ltd

Publication Date: 1st August, 2015

My Rating:  🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads synopsis:

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

This novel is so important! It packs an emotional punch that most wouldn’t expect going into it, and I think it could be a real eye-opener for people who don’t understand how mental health and sexism can affect people’s lives.

Before I start going in-depth about certain aspects, I want to quickly mention that the writing was really good – it flowed perfectly, and it was easy to get lost for a few hours within the chapters. I was completely swept up in the story, actually – it felt like I was almost going through what our main character was, which was such a vital part to the novel.

‘Bad stuff happens, people are mean, there are no steps you can take that ensure the world leaves you alone. All you can do is try not to be one of those people who contributes to the bad.’

I’m impressed with how OCD was depicted in this novel – I was surprised by how accurate it was. I’ve been left feeling emotionally exhausted after finishing it – we see our main character Evie struggling with her OCD, and it was so distressing to read for me, as I’m sure it was for everyone else who has read it. I have to mention how well thought-out it was to set it out with Evie’s Bad Thoughts interrupting the normal prose from her POV.

Evie has ‘cliche’ OCD – the typical washing your hands and cleanliness that most assume is all that OCD entails (which really isn’t the case). To see our author address the nature of Evie’s OCD through the character showing annoyance at feeling she is ‘cliche’ was important to me – it’s necessary for people to be aware that OCD is different for every person who experiences it, and is often not related to cleanliness at all.

I thought how our author expressed the effect Evie’s Bad Thoughts had on her, and the rituals that then appeared, could be a real eye-opener for people (and even the inclusion of Evie’s self-depreciation was so heartbreaking-ly accurate).

OCD, like many mental illnesses, is very misunderstood. It is not always washing your hands thoroughly and it’s not just liking organisation. It is both the Bad Thoughts and the after effects of having the Bad Thoughts. I feel like this book managed to show a glimpse into the nature of OCD, and I hope that all who read it can understand this mental illness better.

‘Because now people use the phrase OCD to describe minor personality quirks. “Oooh, I like my pens in a line, I’m so OCD.”
NO YOU’RE F***ING NOT.
“Oh my God, I was so nervous about that presentation, I literally had a panic attack.”
NO YOU F***ING DIDN’T.
“I’m so hormonal today. I just feel totally bipolar.”
SHUT UP, YOU IGNORANT BUMFACE.’

I’m so happy to say that this book was full to the brim with feminism! Besides seeing our MC struggle with her OCD, we also see her struggling to be a teenage girl in a world where sexism is still such a big issue. I won’t go into much detail because I really enjoyed discovering things for myself, but I will say you can expect some laughs as Evie goes through the usual trials and tribulations of dating, and the importance of the Spinster Club. My friend and I were actually inspired by this novel to start our own feminist club and blog with our other friend (which I’ll be sharing the link for the blog to very soon!)!

Am I Normal Yet? is such a crucial novel in this day and age, in terms of mental health awareness and the importance of feminism. I’m so thankful to Holly Bourne for writing this book, and I recommend it to everyone, because there are so many things to learn from it.

*I must mention this book isn’t appropriate for younger readers.

Topic Awareness:

  • Possible triggers for sufferers of OCD

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

‘Everyone’s on the cliff edge of normal. Everyone finds life an utter nightmare sometimes, and there’s no ‘normal’ way of dealing with it… There is no normal.’

Book Review | A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

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Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Publishers: Tor Books

Publication Date: February 24th, 2015

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads synopsis:

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black.

Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see.

Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

I really enjoyed this book, but it’s completely confused my emotions. Was it a great book? Yes, but I’m not sure it quite lived up to the hype that’s been surrounding it since its release day.

Let’s start with what was awesome: the world within this book. Our author is very good at world building, and I constantly found myself getting lost in whichever London the book had taken me to.

I loved the writing! I did struggle initially to get into the style, but I think I can put that down to the fact I’ve been binge-ing on easy-read contemporaries recently, so switching to such detailed, fantasy writing was quite a shock. However, once I was a few sections in I had adjusted to the style, and was lost within the novel.

‘Lila Bard knew in her bones that she was meant to be a pirate.’

Our characters were pretty cool – they were an interesting bunch with their individual personalities, and I enjoyed the humour that they seemed to share, too. The issue I had was that I didn’t really relate to any of them, and if I’m perfectly honest, I wasn’t really bothered about what happened to them, either. I didn’t feel any type of emotional connection, and it was only towards the end that I really started to care about what happened.

I have to mention we had a cross-dressing character! I think Lila might actually be the first cross-dressing character I’ve personally come across in a YA novel, and it was awesome to see this type of representation going on.

I was very much hooked in the story-line; I was eager to find out what happened next, and was disappointed when the book finished – I wanted more! I didn’t want it to end! The only thing that’s perhaps making me hesitate about reading the next novel would be the gore. I’m not a person for gore, and though many wouldn’t class the descriptions in this novel as gory, they were rather detailed (for me, anyways).

‘Word of mouth was its own kind of magic.’

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It’s completely deserving of the four stars I’ve given it, but unfortunately I just didn’t connect enough with it for it to be five stars. If you enjoy epic YA fantasy novels, I can’t recommend A Darker Shade of Magic enough!

Topic Awareness:

  • Death (detailed)
  • Violence / Gore (detailed)

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Book Review | If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publishers: Macmillan Children’s Books

Publication Date: June 29th 2017

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads synopsis:

Linny has been fascinated by disappearances, ever since her sister Grace ran away in the middle of the night without saying goodbye.

Sebastian can tell you how many galaxies there are, and knows how much plutonium weighs. But the one thing he can’t figure out is the identity of his birth father.

They’ve never met, but Linny and Sebastian have one thing in common: an obsession with famous novelist and filmmaker Alvaro Herrera, who went missing three years ago and has just reappeared. As they learn more about the mystery of Alvaro, Linny and Sebastian uncover the answers they’ve been searching for.

If Birds Fly Back was a lovely book! I really liked it, and was intrigued by the plot; I had no idea where this novel was going to take me, and that was possibly one of the best things about it.

I really enjoyed the writing style, but I will say that I wasn’t immediately drawn into the story-line. I felt like I really had to commit to sitting down with no distractions to get through the first few chapters. However, after those initial chapters, I found myself hooked and flying through the pages.

Our novel is told, in alternating POVs, by our two main characters Linny and Sebastian. I really liked how casually quotes (from Sebastian) intermingled with standard prose, and how sections of Linny’s script were included.

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I love this quote so much! (I must mention that this is a quote from the proof copy, and may be different in the finished publication.)

I’m delighted to say I’ve read another book that has diverse characters, including our main character herself (I’m on a roll with good YA books at the moment)! The representation in this novel isn’t just with race, but also sexuality and health – I can’t stress enough how important diversity is in YA books (well, in any book, actually).

Linny is our main character, and her life’s pretty confusing at the moment – she’s trying to deal with the fact that her sister left her behind to run away, whilst juggling over-bearing parents and their expectations at the same time. I sympaphised with her throughout the book, and I found her to be a pretty darn awesome main character (I liked that she took her camera everywhere with her!).

I came to like the sections of script that were shared with us in her chapters – it was an interesting addition to the story, and added another level of mystery – because while you were trying to figure out Grace and Alvaro, you also had to figure out what was going on in the fictitious script, too.

I liked Sebastian, as well (he was a nerd, and who doesn’t like nerds that are sweethearts?!), and together, him and Linny were such a cute couple. I enjoyed the quotes in his chapters – though I’ll admit I wasn’t a fan at first. When I finally understood how they related to what was going on within the novel I appreciated them a lot more, and by the end of the book I loved them.

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Alvaro was awesome. He was portrayed as this enigma of a man (which he was), and I love him. I’m not sure why I liked him so much, but I really did! Then there was Grace. Though I can’t say much about her as I don’t want to give the plot of the book away, I do want to mention that I can’t put my finger on what I think about her – was she selfish or brave? Stupid or strong? She, much like Alvaro, was an enigma herself.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Once I was a few chapters in, I was hooked. If you like mysterious, contemporary YA novels and cute romances, this one is for you!

You can pre-order this book on Amazon here!

Thanks to Macmillan for sending me an ARC of this book! This is no way affects my review or my thoughts on the book, as all of my reviews are honest.

Topic Awareness:

  • Death
  • Disappearances

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Book Review | A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publishers: Macmillan Children’s Books

Publication Date: January 12th 2017

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

Our author has done such a great job with this one. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is one of those books that when you think about it, it warms your heart and you feel this glorious feeling that resembles something like pure happiness. I loved it, and I’m so glad I read it.

First off, I’d like to talk about the diversity of this book. We actually have a realistic bunch of characters – people of different races, abilities, and states of mental health. Representation like this in YA novels is becoming more and more frequented, but there’s still such a long way to go.

‘Here are three separate but similar things: shyness, introversion and social anxiety. You can have one, two or all three of these things simultaneously. A lot of the time people think they’re all the same thing, but that’s just not true. Extroverts can be shy, introverts can be bold, and a condition like anxiety can strike whatever kind of social animal you are.’

Something I’d like to delve into more is the anxiety aspect within this book. Our main character Steffi was a selective mute, which was caused by anxiety. I was so impressed by the accuracy of the struggles Steffi had gone through and was still going through. I could relate to Steffi, and it was reassuring to see her confidence grow and watch her overcome certain things (or at least have a go at tackling them).

I’m not sure if Sara Barnard has experienced anxiety herself or did in-depth research for this novel, but how she’s expressed anxiety through words was very truthful and skillful. The prose was beautiful – it flowed nicely, and I found myself speeding through page after page.

Our characters were a joy to read about, and the reading experience was really rather unique from anything else I’ve read. Due to Rhys, one of our MC’s and the love interest, being deaf, they speak in sign language quite a lot through-out the book. It was really cool how it was set out when they were signing, and also with the inclusion of text messages between characters, too.

‘Little victories are everything in a world where worst-case scenarios are on an endless loop in your head.’

Steffi and Rhys’ relationship was so sweet (have I mentioned yet that I love Rhys?)! And the friendship between Steffi and her best friend Tem was great (and hilarious) to read.

Overall, this was a nice contemporary read – it discussed some hard hitting subjects, and there was some slight drama, but it wasn’t over the top and fit in with importance to the story line and our MC. I recommend reading this book on a sunny day outside whilst some of your favourite tunes are quietly playing beside you.

Topic Awareness:

  • Mentions of death
  • Injuries
  • Anxiety

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!

Mini Book Review | Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishers: Delacorte Books For Young Readers

Publication Date: 1st September, 2015

My Rating: 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

Goodreads Synopsis:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

This was such a sweet, touching novel. It’s the fastest I’ve read a book in a while, and it broke my heart, but also made me feel alive with the feels.

This is the first book I’ve read by Nicola Yoon, and to say I’m impressed is to say the least. The writing was stunning! I loved how engaging and easy to read it was with the illustrations along with the normal prose.

Our characters were great, and I really liked Maddy as our MC. I could relate to her in certain aspects (namely how much she loves reading), and I sympathised with what was going on in her life. I loved Olly, and they were both very interesting characters. As a pair, they made my heart swoon; they were just so adorable!

“Everything’s a risk. Not doing anything is a risk. It’s up to you.”

I only had one issue with Maddy: how she started acting towards a certain someone at the end of the book. I can understand why she felt the way she did, but it seemed rather cruel, considering the circumstances (I can’t say much else because we’ll be heading into spoiler territory, but hopefully that makes sense).

The plot twist didn’t surprise me if I’m honest, as I’d already guessed what was going to happen before I even started reading the book. I’ll be honest though: it still made me cry. And the ending – where do I begin? It broke my heart, and I wish it hadn’t ended where it did. I wanted to find out more; I wanted everything to be fixed. But life isn’t like that, and books can’t always tell the perfect story. There was a small plot hole right at the end of the novel, but the rest of the book made up for it.

Nicola Yoon tells a beautiful tale of love in this novel – the kind of love that warms your heart and gives you that feeling of happiness in your bones. If you enjoy Young Adult contemporary novels, Everything, Everything is definitely for you.

Topic Awareness:

  • Mentions of death
  • Illness

Thanks!

– Emma

Read On!