Book Review: Eliza and Her Monsters

Eliza and Her Monsters – Francesca Zappia – Greenwillow Books – Published 30 May 2017

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Synopsis

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, anonymous creator of the wildly popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community, and has no desire to try.

Then Wallace Warland, Monstrous Sea’s biggest fanfiction writer, transfers to her school. Wallace thinks Eliza is just another fan, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart.

My thoughts

I’m sharing my review of this book early because it is so amazing I just can’t stop myself from talking about it.

Wow. Wow. Wow! WOW. This book. This book. No words. Actually, so many words, just none of them powerful enough to convey how absolutely perfect and beautiful and amazing and clever this book is. My mantra is simply going to be ‘Read this. Thank me later.’

Some books are so good they blow all other books completely out of the water. How can I give this book five stars when it deserves five billion? This just became my favourite book of the year. Yes, I realise the year is not even halfway through. It’s still my favourite book for the entire year.

Eliza is the creator of the online webcomic Monstrous Sea. Online she is in control, popular, and clever. Outside of the online world she is unpopular, shy, and counts the minutes until she can return to her drawing. Then, she meets a new student to the school. A boy who seems as shy as she is. A boy who is a huge fan of Monstrous Sea. A boy with whom she can finally be honest face-to-face as well as online – just not about her identity as the creator of Monstrous Sea.

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Book Review: The Upside of Unrequited

Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited – Becky Albertalli – Balzer+Bray – Published 11 April 2017

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Synopsis

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.

My thoughts

A forthright book about love, falling in love, that crazy feeling of falling in love, family, dating, and relationships.

Molly had has twenty-six crushes and counting. Her twin sister has had many dates, kisses and relationships, even if they only last a short time. But when Molly’s sister falls in love – for real this time – Molly senses that their close relationship is changing. And then there are the two boys – one, the boy her sister would like her to date and the other her geeky, new co-worker who makes her laugh and not totally tongue tied.

I admired Molly’s voice. It is so authentically and uniquely her. Her character is layered and realistic. I liked how there were so many little things that were just a part of who she is. For example, Molly has anxiety. She takes medication for it and she mentions it offhandedly a few times and feels anxious about some things and laughed about a few times anxiety got the better of her, but her anxiety wasn’t a defining feature of her character, especially not in her eyes. The same goes for her weight. She is totally upfront about her weight but she herself is ok with her size. The only thing she worries about is how others view her. She wishes they could be as accepting of her as she is. Again, just another facet that makes up Molly. But the majority of her focus and that of the book’s is on dating and falling in love.

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Book Review: Goodbye Days

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Goodbye Days – Jeff Zentner – Andersen (Aus/UK) (Crown – USA) – Published 6 April 2017 (Aus) 7 March 2017 (USA)

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Synopsis

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

My thoughts

Hilarious and heartbreaking, Goodbye Days is a winning combination. Perfection itself.

Goodbye Days is an incredibly poignant and relatable story. How many lives have been affected by the tragic deaths of teenagers – friends, classmates, sons or daughters? How many stories of death and grief are punctuation by questions of why, what if, if only? Guilt and sorrow mixing to form a potent poison. Goodbye Days captures all of that emotion and mixes it with a friendship so strong it can only be called a brotherhood. Mixes it with humour and levity and life so bright it dances in front of your eyes. I was crying one minute and laughing the next.

The day Carver Briggs sent a simple text message irrevocably changed everything. Now his three best friends are dead after a fatal car crash – a crash that may or may not have been caused by Carver’s text message. With a pending criminal investigation and guilt heavy enough to level him, Carver begins to form a new connection with Eli’s girlfriend as they both cope with their grief and he accepts Blake’s grandmother’s request to spend one final day celebrating Blake’s life.

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Book Review: Zenn Diagram

zenn-diagram

Zenn Diagram – Wendy Brant – Kids Can Press – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Eva Walker is a seventeen-year-old math genius. And if that doesn’t do wonders for her popularity, there’s another thing that makes it even worse: when she touches another person or anything that belongs to them — from clothes to textbooks to cell phones — she sees a vision of their emotions. She can read a person’s fears and anxieties, their secrets and loves … and what they have yet to learn about calculus. This is helpful for her work as a math tutor, but it means she can never get close to people. Eva avoids touching anyone and everyone. People think it’s because she’s a clean freak — with the emphasis on freak — but it’s all she can do to protect herself from other people’s issues. 

Then one day a new student walks into Eva’s life. His jacket gives off so much emotional trauma that she falls to the floor. Eva is instantly drawn to Zenn, a handsome and soulful artist who also has a troubled home life, and her feelings only grow when she realizes that she can touch Zenn’s skin without having visions. But when she discovers the history that links them, the truth threatens to tear the two apart.

My thoughts

For some reason I knew I would love Zenn Diagram. Something about the synopsis just hit me and I knew I had to read it. Math genius – check. Paranormal abilities – check. Dark, foreboding secrets – check. And yet it surprised me by being even better than I imagined. It was a combination of everything I love in a YA romance.

Eva is a math genius. But she also has another talent she isn’t so open about. When she touches people or their things she gets flashes of their feelings. She calls them fractals because (insert a complicated math explanation that I’ll leave to Eva to explain here). So Eva has learnt to keep her hands to herself. It has limited her social interactions and greatly increased her notoriety as a weirdo. But that’s okay, because Eva has a good family, a great friend and she can use her gift/curse to help find the solution to anyone’s trouble with math. It makes her a good tutor. But Eva lastest student makes her wish for the impossible – an uncomplicated relationship, a chance to touch and be touched, to have someone see her. But one accidental brush against Zenn’s jacket gives Eva the impression that Zenn has dark and haunting secrets.

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Book Review: But Then I Came Back

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But Then I Came Back – Estelle Laure – HMH Books – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Eden Jones, a 17-year-old girl, feels lost after surviving a near fatal accident. Unable to connect with her family and friends, Eden forms an unlikely relationship with Joe, a boy who comes to the hospital to visit Jasmine, a friend who may soon be gone forever. Eden is the only person who can get through to Jasmine, but is she brave enough to face a world that’s bigger and more magical than she ever would have allowed?

My thoughts

This companion novel to This Raging Light returns readers to the same cast of loveable characters and the same incredibly lyrical writing, but also brings new possibilities and ideas in a story of facing life, understanding death, and finding hope.

Eden Jones has been in a coma for weeks, but to her it feels like only a small amount of time has passed. She has to come to terms with life as it is now – her best friend dating her brother, no more ballet, smoothies and shakes instead of solid food, and mood swings that drive her crazy. She has questions about what comes After that no one wants to talk about, Oh, and now she can see things that no one else can see. It seems that the only person who might have answers is the girl in the hospital room next to Eden’s – but she’s still in a coma. And then there is Joe, the sole visitor for the girl in the next room over, to whom Eden is inexplicably drawn and yet seems so untouchable.

I don’t know why, but it wasn’t until quarter way through this book that I realised that Lucille was the Lucille from This Raging Light. And that meant Digby was Digby, the brother of her best friend with whom she wasn’t supposed to fall in love. And Eden, now our main character, was Eden the best friend, who slipped, cracked her head and entered a coma in the last section of This Raging Light. It was Wren’s name and a sentence about her cooking dinner that finally triggered my admittedly slow brain to catch up. For some reason I hadn’t pegged this book as a companion novel. And in a way, it doesn’t have to be. It is its own story, complete in its own right, but it is also seamlessly woven into This Raging Light.

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Book Review: Then Came You

Then Came You – Becky Wade – Bradford Sisters Romance #0.5 – Published 7 March 2017

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Synopsis

A leather-bound journal. A single father. A woman in pursuit of freedom.

Garner Bradford, heir to the troubled Bradford Shipping empire, doesn’t know much about babies. But he’s going to have to learn fast because he’s just become a single father to his newborn daughter. As he confesses through his journal entries, he’s not entirely sure how to keep a newborn alive, whether or not he’ll ever patch together his shattered heart, or how to forgive himself for his mistakes.

Career girl Kathleen Burke is wholly uninterested in settling down. She has big dreams, and none of them include Garner and his small hometown in Washington State. Yet she can’t seem to get her handsome boss out of her head or her heart. There’s something extraordinarily tempting about his beautifully sad green eyes. . . .

Told through journal entries, phone conversations, and letters, Then Came You is a unique, heart-stirring romance novella by acclaimed author Becky Wade.

My thoughts

Then Came You is an utterly charming romance told through letter fragments, diary entries, and phone conversations.

Then Came You is the prequel novella to Becky Wade’s new series, Bradford Sisters Romance. At first I was a little confused about how this story fit with the books in the series. Then I realised that this story is set a few decades prior to the first book in the series and Garner, our main male character, is actually the father of the Bradford sisters, around whom the series is based.

The story starts off rather sadly, as Garner makes mistakes and faces much tragedy. We are also introduced to Kathleen, who takes a job at Garner’s family company rather than fulfill her dreams of moving to and working in New York.

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Book Review: The Last Thing You Said

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The Last Thing You Said – Sara Biren – Amulet Books – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

My thoughts

The Last Thing You Said is a heart-wrenching and yet uplifting tale of love, friendship, and the grief felt when all that love and friendship is lost or irreparably damaged. I truly enjoyed sinking into the world that is The Last Thing You Said. The summer days, the smell of sunscreen and ice cream, two best friends who create adventures from the simplest things, and a story of love that was never spoken and had to be hidden away. I warn you, you may need tissues while reading this book, both for sad tears and for happy tears.

Isn’t it strange how book summaries can make things seem simpler than they really are. For example, the summary for The Last Thing You Said goes something like this: ‘once there was a girl named Trixie. She had a brother named Ben and a best friend called Lulu. And together they had the most wonderful time, until Trixie horribly, tragically died. And Ben and Lulu were so desperately sad they didn’t know what to do and so broke away from each other. But this summer they are pulled back together.’ It makes it sounds like a happy summer spent reconnecting with a lost friend; Ben and Lulu reunite after a time apart and everything is ok between them. But the thing is that Ben and Lucy have never really been apart, at least not physically. They go to the same high school and live in the same town, even work at the same place. They just managed to avoid each other since Trixie died and what was beginning to grow between them, something that made them more than friends, more than friends of their sibling, died a horrible death along side their grief and guilt. And so this book, this summer, is about them continually facing each other and not knowing what to do or say, and them continuing to make it worse between them. They fight, they stay silent, they watch from afar. It is far, far more traumatic and heartbreaking than the synopsis makes it sound, and for that this book is far more beautiful and sad and ultimately, in the end, hopeful. Through this summer, Ben and Lucy learn more about themselves, what is worth fighting for, and that it is only themselves who can make the changes they want.

At the start of the book the reader is slowly fed pieces of information about Trixie’s death, the way things were before her death, and why things are the way they are now between Ben and Lucy. I loved the little stories interspersed in this book. Once upon a time there was a girl named Trixie… Lucy and Emily, Trixie’s young cousin, call them Trixies. The stories of their friendship right the way through from kindergarten to high school. It gives this book depth and substance to the backstory, especially Ben and Lucy’s grief. And as the book progresses these little stories are used in other ways to further Ben and Lucy’s story.

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Book Review: Deep Extraction

Deep Extraction

Deep Extraction – DiAnn Mills – FBI Task Force #2 – Tyndale House Publishers – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

A pacemaker should have saved oil and gas magnate Nathan Moore’s life. Instead, it provided his killer with a seemingly perfect means of execution. A bombing at one of Nathan’s oil rigs days earlier indicates his death could be part of a bigger conspiracy, a web Special Agent Tori Templeton must untangle. But her first order of business is separating the personal from the professional–the victim’s wife, her best friend, is one of the FBI’s prime suspects.

Clearing Sally’s name may be the biggest challenge of her career, but Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan’s personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer–and to each other–the more intent someone is on silencing them for good.

My thoughts

With DiAnn Mills’ trademark whip-sharp writing, Deep Extraction is a suspense novel with plenty of twists and a spark of romance.

FBI Special Agent Tori Templeton is called in to investigate the murder of one of her friends, Nathan Moore. She will have to balance her desire to bring the killer to justice with her need to support her friend Sally through the grief of losing her husband. Working the case with Tori are her partner Max and US Marshal Cole Jeffers, also a friend of Nathan and Sally. But as Tori, Max, and Cole dig into the case they find information that changes the way they view both the investigation and the victim.

This crime caught my attention right from the start. I thought it very intriguing. A man killed by his own pacemaker. But as the investigation continues more information shows the crime is far more complex. Usually, with DiAnn Mills’ books the reader is given an insight into who the killer is, with more details about the why and how revealed as the story progresses. But with Deep Extraction even this aspect is given a nice twist, leaving the mystery even more fascinating.

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Book Review: Alex, Approximately

Alex Approximately

Alex, Approximately – Jenn Bennett – Simon Pulse – Published 4 April 2017

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Synopsis

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent half of her junior year falling for a sensitive film geek she only knows online as “Alex.” Two coasts separate them until she moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist trap, the oddball Cavern Palace Museum. Or that she’s being tormented daily by Porter Roth, a smart-alecky yet irritatingly hot museum security guard. But when Porter and Bailey are locked in the museum overnight, Bailey is forced to choose whether she should cling to a dreamy fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex. Approximately.

My thoughts

Mixed feelings. On one hand I enjoyed reading Alex, Approximately. It was predictable (and sometimes unpredictable) in a satisfying way. And yet there were a few things that made me disengage.

I didn’t even read the synopsis before knowing I wanted to read this book. I loved Jenn Bennett’s previous novel Night Owls, (AKA The Anatomical Shape of A Heart) and so it was an easy choice to put this book on my to-read list. And then the synopsis sounded pretty awesome too.

Bailey has moved across the country to live with her dad, moved to the town where her long-term pen pal, Alex, lives. She just hasn’t told him yet. As she settles in to a new job, new friends, and even some new enemies (the gorgeous, but annoying surfer workmate Parker), Bailey is determined to find Alex and see if they share the same connection face to face as they do online.

Alex, Approximately is set in coastal mid-California. Hot summer days, beaches, surfing – it’s a great setting and the smell of sunscreen almost seeps through the pages. As does the small, surf town vibe.

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Book Review: Vigilante

Vigilante

Vigilante – Kady Cross – Harlequin Teen – Published 28 March 2017

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Synopsis

It’s senior year, and Hadley and her best friend, Magda, should be starting the year together. Instead, Magda is dead and Hadley is alone. Raped at a party the year before and humiliated, Magda was driven to take her own life and Hadley is forced to see her friend’s attackers in the classroom every day. Devastated, enraged and needing an outlet for her grief, Hadley decides to get a little justice of her own. 

Donning a pink ski mask and fueled by anger, Hadley goes after each of the guys one by one, planning to strip them of their dignity and social status the way they did to Magda. As the legend of the pink-masked Vigilante begins to take on a life of its own, Hadley’s revenge takes a turn for the dangerous. Could her need for vengeance lead her down a path she can’t turn back from?

My thoughts

I have always loved Kady Cross’ series The Steampunk Chronicles, so I was very excited to read Vigilante – a change in genre but a book that sounded incredibly intense and with an interesting way to approach the subjects of sexual assault and a community’s response to rape.

Hadley’s best friend Magda was raped by four classmates. A few months later, Magda is dead, having taken her own life. Hadley is left with a drowning sense of grief and guilt. She has to see the four boys in her classroom everyday as the four of them were never charged. When a sudden opportunity arises, Hadley decides to create some of her own justice and plans to go after each of the boys who hurt her friend. But when a video of her going after the first guy in a pink ski mask goes viral, the Pink Vigilante is born and Hadley’s journey for revenge gets much bigger than she ever imagined.

Let me just say, some of the people of Hadley’s town and school totally deserved everything Hadley dished out to them, and more. Corrupt systems biased by influence and money are no doubt, sadly, very realistic in many cases. But I liked how so many people started to rally behind the Pink Vigilante. But that begs the question, did some people do that because they wanted to stop violence towards women or because it involved violence? This book will spark many important discussions, things that need to be talked about and not shuffled to the dark, hidden corners of our world.

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