First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Smith Publicity for accepting my request to read and review this book via NetGalley. Heaven Has No Regrets tells the story of cousins – and best friends – Makenzie and Faith. Jumping between …
I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley. Scent tells the story of Clémentine, a perfumer trapped in a failing marriage. Tensions between Clémentine’s son Bastien and his father Édouard have been …
To begin, I’d like to thank SOURCEBOOKS Jabberwocky, for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley.
The List introduces a dystopian world where vocabulary is being restricted and words are being systematically destroyed. The story follows Letta, the Wordsmith’s apprentice, as she begins to question why the leader of the Ark is limiting people to using the words on the List, and whether his decision is as wise as it seems.
My main problem with The List is that I was expecting it to be more unique. The concept is brilliant. I’ve never read a dystopian novel about a society which is restricting words, and I was expecting a nuanced discussion about how constricting people’s vocabulary also limits their ability to express themselves and their thoughts. Unfortunately, as a Wordsmith’s apprentice, Letta is allowed to use words that aren’t on the List when she is in private. This means that the narrative is normal prose, where I’d been expecting – and hoping – that the story would also be told in List, demonstrating effectively to the reader exactly how few words you’re left with if you’re only allowed to use 500 words in total.
In fact, the List isn’t even strictly limited to 500 words. People come to Letta throughout the novel requesting extra selections of words that they’re allowed access to based off of the requirements of their work. If you’re a builder, you’re allowed to have words about construction and materials, while healers are allowed to have words relating to symptoms and treatments. This cements the fact that this concept is great in theory, but is too difficult to produce in an impactful way.
However, other than my issues with the way that the List works in general, I also found this book incredibly boring. Nothing really happens! There’s a fake out death – a trope which is rocketing to the top of my most hated list – and the majority of the book revolves around the fact that a character might have died… Only for that character to come back into the story so that they can die on the page a chapter or so later. A bit of an uninspired choice.
I didn’t realise that The List was the first book in a series until I’d nearly finished reading it. I have no interest in picking up the sequel (if you have, and you would recommend it, please let me know down in the comments), but I don’t think this needed to be a duology. If you cut out all of the scenes where nothing is really going on and combined it with whatever happens in the sequel this could have made a very well-structured and gripping novel, as the world that Patricia Forde has crafted is very interesting (even if the characters populating it aren’t).
There are two reasons that I decided to give this book two stars instead of one. The first is the fact that there isn’t a romance in this novel! That’s refreshing in a YA dystopian, particularly for a series starter. I’m expecting that this will change in the sequel – another reason that I’m not overly interested in carrying on with the series – but it was nice that Letta was focusing all of her attention on the events going on around her, rather than fixating on her (potential) feelings towards Marlo. The other reason is that the world is very well-crafted. It might have bored me, but it was a brilliant setting and it could have been a very successful novel if it hadn’t been stretched into a duology.
One last point before I go: I’ve just been looking at the Goodreads page for this novel, and I’ve discovered that it was marketed as a middle grade. This is NOT middle grade! There are some pretty harrowing descriptions of torture, and I would not recommend this book for a younger than teenage audience. Just because a dystopian doesn’t have an obvious romance, it does not mean that the story is middle grade. Jeez.
Thanks for reading, and see you again soon!
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read and review Rules For Being a Girl via NetGalley. Rules For Being a Girl is a book I wish I could give to my …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Michael Joseph for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. How To Disappear tells the story of a girl called Zara, who has to enter witness protection after lying …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley.
All Our Hidden Gifts is a book which tries to do too much, but is still very enjoyable.
Following a girl called Maeve, Caroline O’Donoghue’s first YA novel dives into female friendships, magic and the conservative nature of Ireland.
While in detention, Maeve finds a pack of tarot cards. She quickly discovers that she has a skill for tarot; a nice surprise for Maeve, who has always struggled at school and failed to live up to her successful older siblings. Maeve makes a name for herself at school and soon finds her readings in demand.
However, things take a turn for the worst when Maeve is forced to do a reading for her ex-best friend, Lily. Lily draws a card which doesn’t exist in the traditional tarot deck. The Housekeeper spooked Maeve so much the first time that she saw it that she hid it in her drawer at home, and Maeve can’t understand how it possibly appears during Lily’s reading. That doesn’t stop Maeve from saying something she regrets during the reading, which turns into a heated argument in the blink of an eye. Maeve’s comment is something that she can’t stop thinking about when Lily doesn’t turn up to school the next day, and it becomes apparent that she has gone missing.
Teaming up with her new friend Fiona, and Lily’s brother Roe, Maeve and the gang have to get to the bottom of Lily’s disappearance, even if it might put their lives in danger…
As soon as I discovered that All Our Hidden Gifts was about tarot reading, I jumped on the request button. I love books about witches and magic, but I can’t remember ever reading a book about tarot before. Unfortunately the readings are consigned to the beginning of the novel before Lily’s disappearance, but the idea of this mysterious, sinister card appearing sent a shiver down my spine.
My favourite thing about All Our Hidden Gifts was the representation throughout this novel. Fiona is half-Filipino, so there are a lot of discussions about how white-centric Ireland – and particularly Maeve and Fiona’s Catholic school – are, and the way that Fiona is demonised in the street due to the colour of her skin. Roe is non-binary (although still uses he/him pronouns) and bisexual, and throughout the novel he experiments with his portrayal of gender, wearing nail varnish and performing on stage in luxurious capes and dresses. Similarly to Fiona, Roe experiences transphobic bullying and hate crimes due to his gender identity, furthering Caroline O’Donoghue’s commentary on the regressive nature of certain members of Irish society.
This is primarily explored through a hate group called the Children of Brigid. Founded by Americans, the Children of Brigid claim to be aiming to turn Ireland back into a good old Catholic country, and they’ll stop at nothing to get their way.
The subplot with the Children of Brigid is left wide open, so I’m sincerely hoping that All Our Hidden Gifts is the first book in a series. If it is, I will be amending my rating and rating this either 4 or 4.5 stars, but as it currently seems to be remaining a standalone, I’ve had to round that rating down to 3.5 stars. As a standalone, I don’t find All Our Hidden Gifts as satisfactory as I would if it was the start of a bigger story.
Reviewing this as if it were a standalone, there is just far too much going on in this story. Lily’s disappearance becomes the least interesting aspect of the plot, and I found myself wishing there was more of a focus on the Children of Brigid. I also wanted to see more of Maeve and Roe’s relationship. She is unquestionably accepting of his sexuality and his gender identity, and the communication between the two of them is the stuff of dreams. Despite the fact that they have a lot against them – and that it takes them at least half of the book to finally admit that they like each other, because they’re far more focused on Lily’s disappearance – I think they’re going to end up becoming one of my favourite ships.
Also – without giving spoilers – something happens at the end of the book which will be completely pointless if the story isn’t continued. I was expecting the Children of Brigid story to begin to wrap up in the last few chapters, but instead an entire new dynamic gets introduced and I just want to know what Caroline O’Donoghue is planning to do with these characters next. If this is the first book in a series, I am HOOKED.
I’m not completely sure when All Our Hidden Gifts is actually being published anymore. It was originally scheduled for release in February, but now Waterstones claims it’s arriving on the 20th of May, while Goodreads thinks it’s not being released until the 1st of July. Either way, this is a book that I’d recommend keeping an eye out for.
Thank you for checking out this review,
It’s hard to review It Sounded Better in My Head, because the reality is that not a lot happens in this book. That being said, I bloody loved it. Main character Natalie gets a nasty surprise for Christmas when her parents announce that they are …
Stepsister is a brilliant fairytale continuation with a lackluster ending (and far too many chapters!). I wrongly assumed that Stepsister was going to be a fairytale retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of the ugly stepsisters. Instead it’s a continuation of …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin for accepting my request to read Breathless via NetGalley.
Breathless was my first Jennifer Niven read, and it didn’t live up to the hype. Following a girl called Claude as her parents decide to get divorced and she goes away with her mother for the summer, this novel should have had a very strong emotional impact but left me feeling disappointed.
The main issue that I had with Breathless is that Claude doesn’t sound like a contemporary teenager. She speaks as though she’s older than her years, wiser than her peers, and it’s wholly unrealistic. I’m not a fan of YA novels trying to be literary fiction. It’s one of the reasons I struggle to enjoy John Green’s writing, so if you’re a fan of him I’d definitely recommend you give Jennifer Niven a try.
It also felt as though the book was set in the past, rather than in the 21st Century. Putting your character on a remote island with bad signal to interrupt their communication with their best friend (and to give the love interest an excuse to refuse to hand over his number) is a bit of a lackluster plot device. It would have made more sense if the novel had been set before smartphones were readily available. That would have also gone some way towards explaining why Claude didn’t feel like a modern teenager. If this had been a historical YA I would have enjoyed it more.
Those two issues combined kept throwing me out of the story, and I found it hard to emotionally connect with Breathless. While talking about this book in my January wrap up I couldn’t even remember Claude or Miah’s names, which shows how impactful I found them!
That being said, I did like Miah’s character. He has a bit of a damaged past so he has a lot of layers, and the reason I kept coming back to this book (rather than DNF’ing it, which Sean ended up doing) was because I was interested to learn more about his character. His relationship with Claude developed in an interesting way – it starts off as a summer fling but quickly becomes apparent to both of them that they’re feeling more than just lust for each other – but the ending left me feeling frustrated.
My favourite things about Breathless were the island setting, and the discussion of female sexuality.
The island setting is written in such a gorgeous way. You can tell that Jennifer Niven has either researched this location very deeply or has been on holiday there a few times herself, as the entire island was perfectly crafted. The turtles burying their eggs on the moonlit beach is a scene which is certainly going to stick in my mind for a long time.
Meanwhile, the discussion of female sexuality and pleasure is everything I wanted from YA books when I was younger. Whereas male YA authors never seem ashamed of either featuring masturbation scenes or having male self-pleasure innuendos throughout their stories, female YA authors traditionally seem to shy away from these subjects. Featuring scenes of Claude masturbating, discussions of virginity and how important it should/shouldn’t be (to both society and the individuals concerned) and discussions of female pleasure during intercourse, Breathless is a breath of fresh air in these respects. I particularly loved Claude berating Miah after their first time, telling him that it’s not over when he comes and that he should treat every time like the first time. Seeing characters having these discussions will empower female readers to assert themselves in regards to their pleasure, which is a hugely sex positive inclusion.
All in all, Breathless just wasn’t the book for me. It was too slow and introspective, and Claude came across as a little bit patronising at points so I didn’t like her all that much. However, I will definitely be recommending this book to readers who are looking for sex positive YA.
If you’ve read any of Jennifer Niven’s other novels, please let me know down in the comments which one you would suggest picking up next!
Thank you for reading,
There have been quite a few books inspired by King Arthur published in recent years. Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke… The …