Hey everyone! In case you’re new here, I am obsessed with the YA Book Prize. Every year I challenge myself to read the ten book shortlist in its entirety before the winner of the prize is announced so that I can choose my own winner,…
Tag: three star review
As if we weren’t already reading enough books in April, we decided to take part in the Stay Home edition of The Reading Rush from the 16th to the 19th. Adding three more books to an already bursting TBR might not have been the best choice, but we ended up managing to complete all three over the course of the weekend, so I thought I’d pop some little reviews up and share my thoughts on the books we chose for each of the four prompts.
Autoboyography by Christina Lauren – 4 stars
Autoboyography is the second book I’ve read by Christina Lauren, and I enjoyed it much more than The House (which was a YA romance masquerading as a horror novel and didn’t live up to my expectations in the slightest).
Autoboyography, however, is exactly what it looks like: a m/m YA contemporary romance.
This story follows Tanner, a bisexual character living in a Mormon state, afraid to come out for fear of being completely cut-off. However, things change when he decides to take the Seminar, a renowned course where students are challenged to write a novel in a semester. In their first lesson the students are notified that a Seminar alum will be helping out, and as soon as Sebastian Brother – who is not only a Mormon, but is the local priest’s son – walks in, Tanner is instantly smitten.
Luckily, Sebastian feels the same, but this isn’t a cut-and-dried happily ever after. Sebastian struggles to reconcile his sexuality with his religion, sending him and Tanner on a will-they-won’t-they rollercoaster which makes it impossible for you to resist rooting for them.
There are so many things I loved about Autoboyography. Books about books are always a good time, but I love the fact that Tanner writes the story of him and Sebastian as his Seminar project, giving this Inception vibes. It does make the ending a bit of a rapid shift, as it switches from first person to third person and suddenly becomes a dual perspective, but I can’t think of a way that would have worked better… Something about it just threw me out of the story and made me feel a bit disconnected by the time the book resolved, which was a shame.
There’s also an incident which occurs about three quarters of the way through the book which left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not going to outright state what exactly happens, and I can begrudgingly admit that Christina Lauren manage to resolve that subplot in an acceptable way, but it was something I didn’t see coming and which didn’t feel necessary to the story at all. It could have been removed and literally nothing would have changed, but it felt as though it was reinforcing some damaging stereotypes regarding bisexual characters. I would have probably been able to overlook the clunky style change and given this one five stars if I hadn’t also been a bit ticked off by this inclusion.
That being said, I can see why so many people rave about this book and I’m glad that I decided to check it out when I spotted it on Riveted Lit’s Free Reads. A lot of people recommend Christina Lauren for their adult romances, so my next step will be to check out one of those and see if it ticks all of the boxes for me.
I read Autoboyography to fulfill the prompt: Read a book that will make you smile.
The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson – 3 stars
I’m going to write a series review for Truly Devious at some point, but this is one of those trilogies which gets worse with each new release.
I had high hopes for this series ender, but unfortunately for the majority of the book literally nothing happens. There’s lots of Stevie ruminating on possible links between events, rapid jumping backwards and forwards to the 1930s to join long-dead characters doing nothing particularly interesting, and one huge twist in the first chapter which pretty much gives away the entire plot of the novel. As soon as we finished the first chapter I turned to my partner and said, “Oh, so that means this and that and this!” all of which were proven to be correct between two- to three-hundred pages later. Yawn.
In fact, the plot for this book was so far from compelling that I found myself not even caring about the characters anymore. Whereas during The Vanishing Stair I found myself rooting for Stevie and a certain someone, during this last installment I just couldn’t muster the energy to give a shit about what happened to any of them. The ending is very predictable and wholly unsatisfying, and although I gave it three stars at the time I’m now thinking I might have been generous based off of how warmly I still feel towards the first two installments.
As I said, full series review to come at some point (if I can find the energy to write it…), but this has gone from being my most anticipated release of 2020 to being my biggest disappointment of 2020, which is a huge glow down.
I read The Hand on the Wall to fulfill the prompts: Read a book in the same room the whole time, and Read a book set somewhere you wish you could go (Canada/New York).
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – 4 stars
We decided to pick up The Bear and the Nightingale after seeing a few people raving about the end to the Winternight series, The Winter of the Witch, on BookTube over the past couple of months. Going into this knowing basically nothing about it, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by this magical debut novel inspired by Russian folklore.
Vasilisa’s mother dies in childbirth, but life goes pretty smoothly for her despite that fact until her father decides it’s time to remarry. He goes to Moscow and brings home a wife (and gets a priest thrown into the bargain) and before you know it the folk who live near Vasya begin neglecting the household spirits who have kept them safe for centuries, bringing grief and misfortune to their village.
The Bear and the Nightingale is a book which I think I would give five stars to if I reread it. A lot of this story is confusing first time around, as nearly all of the characters have three or four different names (something which I was aware of from other Russian fairytales I’ve read over the years, but a fact which I always struggle to get my head around) and there are a couple of characters who appear in different guises throughout the story, making it seem as though there’s a much bigger cast of characters than there is. I had to stop reading a couple of times to puzzle everything out, and once I got my head around things I felt comfortable with carrying on, but I can totally understand why quite a lot of people have DNF’d this one. It can be a bit of a mental obstacle course to make sense of all the goings on!
However, that is exactly the reason why I’m so excited to continue on with the rest of the series. Now that we’ve been introduced to all of the characters and I have a solid grasp of the Russian mythology woven into this tale, I think I’ll be able to enjoy the next couple of installments without as much brain strain. I might be wrong – things might get more confusing from here on out! – but based off of the way this first book wraps up I feel as though The Girl in the Tower is not only going to start much quicker but is going to be much easier to understand.
This is such an accomplished debut, and makes me so excited to read more of Katherine Arden’s work in the future. It’s not like me to pick up a book without knowing a fair amount about it, so I’m glad that I went with my gut on this one (and that it nicely fulfilled one of the Reading Rush prompts, so I had no excuse but to give it a go).
I read The Bear and the Nightingale to fulfill the prompt: Read a book with a house on the cover.
That’s all of the books I read for this Stay Home edition of The Reading Rush! I’m pretty proud that I managed to squeeze all three in. I was certain that I was going to end up finishing one of the books after the weekend was over, but I guess that’s the only good thing about the current lockdown situation that we are all experiencing.
Did you take part in the Stay Home Reading Rush? If you did leave your comments down below and let me know which books you picked up to fulfill the four prompts!
I’ll definitely be taking part in the next edition of the Reading Rush, which is happening from the 20th to the 26th of July. I hope you’ll join me, it’s a lot of fun (and you can get badges for fulfilling the prompts – who doesn’t want badges?!).
Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down.
Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart try to get to the bottom of why she was kidnapped and how she ended up living on the other side of the world. Having lost her ‘mum’ years ago and unable to get the truth out of her stepfather, Kim has no choice but to dive into the deepest, darkest parts of Manson. Of particular interest a snake-obsessed cult called The Church of the Light Within, who seem to have brainwashed her mother shortly prior to her abduction…
When I first finished The Nowhere Child I gave it four stars, because it filled me with adrenaline. It has a hugely climactic ending that had me rushing to finish and a twist-filled resolution that I didn’t see coming, and it’s not often that thrillers surprise me!
However, after a couple of days reflection I’ve realised that one of the reasons I didn’t see the ending coming was because the red herrings placed throughout are done in an extremely unskillful manner, purposefully duping the reader and not making much sense to the wider plot.
The detective in charge of the case arranges a date with someone with the surname Leamy, making it impossible to believe it’s anyone other than Kim’s kidnapper – it’s a very unusual surname, after all – but she’s dropped in and then never revisited, so it’s not very satisfying to be misled in such an unsubtle way.
Then there’s the surname of the main family. A girl with the surname of Went gets kidnapped? Jeeeeeesus, that’s some heavy-handed naming. Cringe.
The plot of The Nowhere Child is intelligent, but these simple choices definitely detract from the impact of the book. It’s frustrating, because they’re such easy things to change, and I’m surprised that they weren’t altered during the editing process: if the red herrings had been gentle hints rather than forceful shoves in the wrong direction it would have been a far more enjoyable novel.
However, those aspects are only enough to get me to drop my rating down to three stars, because I still enjoyed the majority of The Nowhere Child. Bouncing from the present day back to when Sammy was taken, we get to learn more about the Went family and the people of Manson, and I found myself interested in all of their stories.
This book features a very strong cast of characters, from Sammy’s mother – struggling with post-natal depression and embraced by a cult – to Sammy’s father, who himself is struggling with his sexuality. Although I didn’t like some of the characters, I enjoyed reading about all of them, and I would have happily read this as a duology – one book taking place at the time when Sammy was taken, and one picking up the story twenty years later when Stuart managed to track Kim down.
I’m certainly going to be looking out for Christian White’s work in the future, because The Nowhere Child shows an author with a lot of potential. It’s not a surprise that it’s won the same award that The Dry by Jane Harper took home a few years ago (and you all know how much I love The Dry!) so hopefully I’ll enjoy Christian White’s future novels just as much as I adore Harper’s.
‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that…
New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see. While the other students…
Jon Keller never though he’d be at a conference in a hotel in Switzerland when the world ended, but that’s exactly how it happens. One moment, he’s having a hotel breakfast, the next there’s a woman screaming at her phone, devastated to learn that there’s been a nuclear attack in Washington.
Before long, more news rolls in. Bombs have detonated across the globe. Scotland is lost. The president is dead.
Chaos erupts. Some people flee from the hotel, while others are frozen in fear and can’t comprehend the idea of leaving. Luckily for us, Jon is one of the people who chooses to stay, dedicating his time to keeping a record of the events that unfold at L’Hotel Sixieme.
Things spiral out of control quickly. The water supply is tainted, so Jon and two of the hotel staff members head up to the roof to see if they can figure out the problem and are devastated to discover the body of a little girl in one of the water towers.
One of the other survivors is a murderer, and Jon is determined to find the killer.
The Last has one of the most intriguing taglines I’ve ever encountered, but unfortunately it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I’m going to resist giving too much away because I’m very aware that it’s not published until the 31st, but I’m thinking of revisiting the story and writing a more in-depth review next month because I have a lot of feelings about this book.
The first half of the novel is gripping because it plays with your head. Surrounded by strangers and certain that one of them is a killer, Jon’s mind plays tricks on him, twisting him into an unreliable narrator and hooking you instantly. This is helped by the first few entries in Jon’s journal being short and snappy, causing fifty pages to fly past in the blink of an eye.
I did find my mind wandering towards the end of the book. As the setting changes so does the focus of the novel, shifting from a small group hellbent on survival to the fate of the world, which I’ve seen done so many times that I wasn’t all that interested. If I’d been craving action and the introduction of real danger, it would have been perfect, but I was charmed by the well-crafted and realistic cast in the hotel (who get extra points for being multicultural, featuring characters from across the globe, of various ages and sexualities).
One of the aspects that I appreciated the most was the characters trying to charge their phones and get internet after the power had already begun running out. That’s concern is bound to plague people if the world does end, and it’s realistic to feature it rather than implying that the entire population could adjust to the loss of technology instantly.
However, The Last is at risk of becoming a zeitgeist. There are thinly veiled insinuations that the nuclear war is the fault of an unspecified president (clearly intended to be President Trump), while there’s also a brief exploration of the #MeToo movement. It’ll be interesting to revisit the novel in a few years and see whether the concerns remain relevant, because I can imagine that the yearning for social media updates will become more pertinent as time passes.
I hadn’t heard of Hanna Jameson until this novel was announced, but I’m planning on going back and reading some of her previous releases, as I really enjoyed her writing style (particularly the fact that she made me care about Jon despite him being such an unlikable character!).
Before I go, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Viking for sending me an advanced copy of this book. It’s highly anticipated, so I’m very grateful that I could count myself as one of the lucky readers who got to check it out early. The Last is released on January 31st, so if you’re interested you should definitely get yourself a copy.
Hello there, and welcome to my stop on the Before I Find You blog tour. Sorry for the radio silence over the past couple of weeks: we’ve moved home and trying to get WiFi installed has been a nightmare, so it’s been a blogless fortnight for me.…