Friday, 7 July 2017

Tender Earth - Sita Brahmachari - Review

Book: Tender Earth
Author: Sita Brahmachari
Publisher: Macmillan Childrens
ISBN: 9781509812509
Rating: A

Laila Levenson has always been the baby of the family, but now with her older siblings, Mira and Krish, leaving home just as she starts secondary school, everything feels like it's changing... can the reappearance of Nana Josie's Protest Book and the spirit it releases in Laila, her friends and her local community, help her find her own voice and discover what she truly believes in?A powerful chime rings through Laila's mind, guiding her to walk the footsteps of the past on her way to discover her own future.

Sita Brahmachari, for me, is one of those authors where I've been meaning to pick up one her books forever, and it's just never happened. So when Tender Earth popped into my inbox, I decided that this was it. I was finally going to read a Brahmachari book - and I can honestly say I'm so glad I did. I went into this book having just finished a fairly heavy-going high-ish fantasy and this was the perfect antidote to that. Strong, powerful, emotional and moving, this book was grounded in the real world and is the ideal contemporary to move onto. It managed to be an impactful and emotional novel, whilst still staying light and not becoming too heavy.

First, before we even talk about the premise and plot, can we just talk about how freaking gorgeous the writing was in this. It was an absolute pleasure to read, and exactly what a novel like this one needs. Brahmachari is so masterful in the way she uses words, the perfect amount of whimsy and tenderness to build the world and story beautifully, whilst both conveying and evoking emotions in the most stunning way. The lucidness and smoothness of the writing just allows the story flow gently, passing through you,  investing you in the novel. I think what really struck me about the writing, though, was the way it managed to make me feel - with a novel like Tender Earth, I think a massive part of the story working well, is the writing being able to evoke the correct emotion from the reader, and do that well. Brahmachari does this beautifully, in such a way that you just have to keep reading, and in a way that really allows you to empathise with the characters.

As for the story, it left me speechless. Very few books give me a book hangover, but this one did - for a full 24 hours after finishing Tender Earth, I could not pick up another book, nor could I stop thinking about this one. It follows Laila, as her world seemingly falls apart, the journey leading her to this whole new self-discovery and world-discovery. We follow her as she learns about and experiences the real world, and watch as how these experiences begin to define her and a make a 'new' Laila. It's almost kind of a coming of age story, and it was a journey that I loved following. I think there were two things that really stood out for me. The first was that these books explore an age in everyone's life that generally isn't spoken about much, and explores it in a very unique and real way. Like I just said, it's kind of a coming of age story, in the sense that we actually have two. Yes we have that point when we enter adulthood and experience the world of work and bills, but as children we also have this coming of age when we move from primary to secondary school, when our friends and worlds are changing, when we begin to grow up and experience new emotions, both our minds and bodies changing. Brahmachari manages to explore this so beautifully, in a way that I think a lot of people will connect with.
The second thing that stood out about this story is its relevance. It touches upon some really important issues that surround us today, such as refugees, animal cruelty, having a voice and exercising this voice. Again, Brahmachari does this artfully, not shoving in your face, but instead gently weaving into the story as a part of Laila's life, as is the case with so many children nowadays. With the internet and an information / connected society, the step from childhood to teenagehood has changed massively, and Brahmachari does a stunning job of exploring this, and the effects it can have on those children.

The characters in this were perfection, also. Laila is an instantly loveable character who you couldn't help but care for in the most parental way.  You felt everything she felt and just wanted her to be happy, and for everything to work out. Again, this falls back onto Brahmachari's writing, which allowed me to connect with Laila so well, and really feel as if I knew her. The way Laila was crafted, from the ground up, and with so much depth, meant that we really got to know her and in turn made her an incredibly evocative character. What was brilliant, though, was that we got to see Laila grow and become this new person. Brahmachari did this expertly, allowing us to really understand Laila and her emotions, as she transitioned through this point in her life, the whole book moving from an almost melancholic tone to a much happier and spirited one. I think with a book like this, so much depends on the character, and Brahmachari absolutely nailed it with Laila, and all the people Brahmachari chose to have surround her. The characterisation was expertly done here.

Overall, Brahmachari has crafted a wonderful and whimsy coming of age tale, that will make you feel so many things, but ultimately leave with a warm fuzzy feeling. If you need a light, yet evocative novel, Tender Earth is definitely one to check out. I am so glad I finally managed to pick up one of Brahmachari's novels, and will most deftineily be going back to read her previous ones. This really is a book to treasure.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Nemesis - Brendan Reichs - Review

Book: Nemesis
Author: Brendan Reichs
Publisher: Macmillan Childrens
ISBN: 9781509860302
Rating: A+

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, a strange man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later, she wakes up in a clearing just outside her tiny Idaho hometown—alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the horrifying crime erased.Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him, though he does his best to hide the signs. But when the world around him begins to spiral toward panic and destruction, Noah discovers that people have been lying to him his whole life. Everything changes in an eye blink.For the planet has a bigger problem. The Anvil, an enormous asteroid threatening all life on Earth, leaves little room for two troubled teens. Yet on her sixteenth birthday, as she cowers in her bedroom, hoping not to die for the fifth time, Min has had enough. She vows to discover what is happening in Fire Lake and uncovers a lifetime of lies: a vast conspiracy involving the sixty-four students of her sophomore class, one that may be even more sinister than the murders. 

Well damn. This book blew me away. It was so incredibly good, and even now I can't stop thinking about it. Before we even get started, let me tell you, this book doesn't just take you for a fun ride. It takes you on a freaking rollercoaster.

Let's start with the premise and story. There's been a lot of buzz about this novel and trust me when I say it's for good reason. This book draws you in before you even begin reading. Just the blurb had me hooked, and the story itself completely lived up to my expectations, satisfying me and giving me everything I wanted. The novel is a mystery thriller and follows Min, who keeps getting murdered - over and over again. I don't want to give away too much because it really is one of those novels where the less you know = the better, but it follows Min and Noah trying to figure out why this happens to her and getting to the bottom of Project Nemesis. I'll say no more - go and read it to find out what happens.
As a thriller, this book really is thrilling. The story is very cleverly crafted, secrets, mystery and questions all woven together expertly. It really creates the perfect combination to keep you both hooked and on the edge of your seat, or in my case the edge of my bed. I rarely find a book that wills me to forgo my sleep to finish it, yet Nemesis did just that. Reichs has spun a story that kept me utterly thrilled and turning pages, through the night, unable to set this book down. That's when you know a story is well done.

The writing also made this story perfect. A massive part of thrillers is showing and not telling, but also knowing how much (or little) to show. Reich's nailed this. The writing was exectued so masterfully. The prose created solid and rich descriptions that really pulled me into the world and made me feel like a part of the story. This, for me, is a must in experiencing a novel and staying hooked, and Reich's managed to capture me entirely. I also felt the balance of dialogue with description was on point. The right balance meant I never felt bored and the book never became too slow, the writing allowing for a really good pace. For Nemesis this translated into a fast pace, but that's exactly what I needed and wanted, with this being a thriller.  Having plenty of questions and secrets being thrown at you, the book needs to be able to keep up with your desire for answers, and Nemsis does that very well.

I think something that really worked for me in this novel is that the thrill factor was held as paramount. Yes, there were emotional scenes and yes there was a touch of romance, but Reichs made the correct decsion to keep this mininmal and focus on the mystery aspect, which I felt really propelled the story forwards and kept me engaged. The romance was kept minor and the suspense kept a max, making the focus and purpose of the story clear and effective. The book was able to thrill fully, and thrill it defitniely did.

Charcaters I kind of have mixed feeling on, but ultimately I think it works. Noah was where it kind of started to go a little astray for me. It's kind of weird in the sense that I can see a lot of similarities between both Noah and Min's personalities and voices, yet at the same time I can also define key differences, and I found myself prefering Min. For me I found Noah just a little too angsty - a little too willing to contribute an endless string of complaining, sometimes coming out with stuff that doesn't really add much to the story. However, Min managed to save this, in her logic and practicality. She's the character you're looking for a in a thriller; practical and quick thinking, she helps to move the story along quickly, and efficiently raise the questions needed to develop the mystery and genereate the thrill. I also felt I was able to really connect with Min, which helped to me have a genuine interest in following her and trying to figure out what was going on with her deaths and project Nemesis. All of the characters were well buillt and given enough depth for me to care about them, but Min, being the main character, had the most to her and I really did feel invested in her journey.

The atmosphere, overall, really worked for me also, having the right amount of edge and darkness, whilst still maintaing itself as something that is not 'adult'. Writing a thriller is something that requires all aspects to be on point; investable characters, a quick story, expert writing, showing not telling etc. Reichs absoultely nails it, prodcuing an enaging and fast paced rollercaster that will have you on the edge of your seat. The layers of the story peel away one by one and will keep yout turning the pages well into the night.
As for the ending, it struck just the right balance. It satisifed me in asnwering what I wanted to know - I didn't feel like I had wasted anything in reading the book. I'd got what I wanted from the ending, but also more. It's set up perfectly for the next installment and has left just enough of a cliffhanger to make me hungry to read it.

Overall Reichs has created an asbsolute rollercoaster of a novel that is both suspenseful and riveting. In all seriousness, you won't be able to put this down. Already, this is one of my favoruite novels of the year and I encourage to pick this up and give it a go. I promse you won't regret it.

City of Saints and Thieves - Natalie Anderson - Review

Book: City of Saints and Thieves
Author: Natalie Anderson
Publisher: Oneworld
ISBN: 9781786072290
Rating: A

Street-thief Tina breaks in to the luxurious house where her mother was killed to steal from Mr. Greyhill and nail him for her mother’s murder. She is caught red-handed.Saved by Mr. Greyhill’s gorgeous son, Michael, the pair set in motion a cascade of dangerous events that lead them deeper into the mystery, and reveal dark and shocking secrets from Tina’s past.Tina and her mother fled the Congo years ago as refugees, trading the uncertain danger of their besieged village for a new, safer life in the bustling Kenyan metropolis. The corruption and politics of the Congo, and the gangster world of Sangui City, are behind Tina’s mother’s downfall. Is Tina tough enough to find the truth and bring the killer to justice?

This was one of the reads that I was most anticipating this year, for a number of reasons, and let me start by telling you that it did not disappoint.

Let's begin with the premise; it's definitely not something usually read, and yet it was what made it so different that made me so interested in it. It's a mystery, filled with gang fare and secrets, but minus any of the typical paranormalcy that usually accompanies those things in YA. Instead, it manages to translate these themes into a riveting and fast-paced novel that grounds itself in the real world. Another part of what intrigued me with this novel was the fact that it was set in modern day Africa. It's both a setting and culture that we rarely see in YA books, and that, for me, was enough to make we want to read it - and again, it didn't disappoint. Anderson gives us this beautiful and descriptive insight into modern Africa, what it is like, and helps us to understand just how different the lives of those living there are to ours. The way she crafted the African setting was both rich and vivid, so much so that I really felt like I was there.

I think part of what made this world so real, and really made me appreciate the life I have and how different it is in England, is how brutally honest this book is. It touched upon dark themes, which are ones that need to be spoken about. It highlights the prevalence of rape and torture in African society, but tackles them artfully, weaving them into the story in a way that isn't too aggressive or 'too much.' I think part of this was what made me love the story even more - because there really was no sugar coating to make it 'teen-friendly' or PC. It was brutal and real, which for me is a winner. This book makes you feel something, and if a book makes you feel something you know it's doing something right.

This, in turn, meant that the story flowed beautifully. Supported by Anderson's masterful writing, the story managed to give me just enough information to keep me interested, but at the same, keep enough secrets to keep me reading. Honestly, I found it hard to put this one down. Anderson's prose was absolutely stunning, and the dedication that has gone into crafting this plot is apparent. She's crafted this absolutely wonderful mystery, with so many different layers; each answer gives you more questions and makes you totally unable to put this novel down.

Following Tina was something I also really enjoyed, as I felt she was a strong and likeable protagonist. She's been crafted in such a way that you really connect with her and understand her emotions, as well as fully understanding, and supporting, the decisions she takes. I also felt like Anderson succeeded in manifesting a really fleshed out and grounded character; there was no vapidity and I definitely felt like I knew Tina enough to be fully invested in her story. This, in turn, makes the novel so much more lifelike, in the sense that I really was pulled in. The others characters, such as Kiki, Boyboy and Michael, all added so well to the novel, making it absolutely perfect. Most characters complemented each other in all the right ways, leading to a world of characters that I felt I both knew and wanted to follow.

Overall I can say that I really enjoyed this book and the journey it took me on. Yes, the journey was hard sometimes, in that it was a lot to handle emotionally and in terms of the acts that were happening, but at the same, the story was absolutely riveting. Filled with strong characters and deep secrets, City of Saints and Thieves will have you captured from the first page.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Adult-ish - Cristina Vanko - Review

Book: Adult-ish
Author: Cristina Vanko
Publisher: Tarcher / Putnam
ISBN: 9780143129813
Rating: A

Congrats--you're an adult now!* Your first real job. The first plant you kept alive. The first relationship you kept alive (until further notice). This hand-lettered and illustrated guided journal is a charming and cheeky celebration of what it means to finally be a grown-up (sort of). From the first time you visited home without bringing dirty laundry to the first time you truly felt comfortable in your own skin, the small victories and meaningful milestones in this quirky and insightful journal make it a great gift and a fun experience for anyone winning at adulthood - the good, the bad and the OMG. *Ish 

Be sure to check out the penguin page for this book and grab yourself a copy! :
or if you're in the UK (like me!) :

So for those of you who follow my blog may be aware, this book is a little different for. But nonetheless, when an email popped detailing the book I decided that I needed to review a copy - because it sounded like a Wreck this Journal (which I love) meets becoming and adult - and being in my first year of uni and having to live by myself these past 6 months, this felt like it would be witty, hilarious and oh-so-relatable.

As it turns it, it was, and it was so much more. Let's talk a little bit about the premise of this book first. The book is a mix of both thinking and doing, in the sense that each page presents a new 'adult-ish' thought to you, that usually ends with you either thinking about a particular scenario that makes you realise you are no where near being an adult yet, or ends with you picking up a pen and being creative on the page - and I really love books like this. I think they are so much fun, and also act as a sort of journalistic time capsule - which is exactly what this book is.

The whole purpose of the book becomes clearer as you do more and more of it. It's a fun and witty way to document your journey into adult hood, and I'm so grateful that Vanko had the genius to come up with this. I am certain that in twenty years I will look back on this little gem and either laugh or cry at how clueless and young I am right now.

The prompts on all the pages are witty, funny and relatable in the sense that they pick up on both the little quirks of being young and the stereotypes of being an adult, that everyone seems to accidentally fall into. Some pages question the way you handle oreos, whilst another asks you to draw the first houseplant you bought - a subconscious stereotype of being adult that I've already given into. My university flat has multiple houseplants now. Of course some of the pages I simply can't answer yet - like my first set of wheels or looking back on my social media platforms - but I think that's what's so great about this little book. It's going capture my whole journey into adult-hood, both now and through the next few years and into the future - a whole period of my life that realistically would have gone undocumented and forgotten, other than the carefully curated images that would have made it to me instagram.

I also love the art in this book; Vanko's almost candid doodles are both charming and tumblr-esque in their nature and will definitely appeal to late nineties children (like myself) and millennials. It really acts as the finishing touch, the almost marker like drawings really giving it the journalistic feel, that makes you all that more likely to pour your embarrassing escapades into adult-hood down onto the pages.

I think overall, this book is just bucket loads of fun. It has a great voice, talking to you in a way that feels both relatable and satirical, laughing with you at the quirks of being an adult into the 21st century; growing out of teenage slang, falling into the adult-ish stereotypes and keeping you engaged the whole way through. Adult-Ish is quirky, funny, beautifully put together and something I think that I will be able to look back at in twenty years that'll remind that being adult can also be fun.

Now if you've made it this far, I also have kindly been given some pages from the book, by the publisher, that I'm allowed to share with you - so you can see for yourself how fantastic this book is and why you need to have it in your life so much. Also, if you want to grab a copy here is the link to the penguin page where you can grab it from the different retailers:
OR if you're in the United Kingdom, like myself, here's Amazon page for the UK:

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Top Ten Tuesday - Read In One Sitting

So I'm back *gasp*. It's been a long time - a very long time, to the point that I no longer even receive books for review. But nonetheless, I'm finally at a point in my life (now at uni) where I feel I am on top of things enough to try and do this again. And hopefully stay active this time, so fingers crossed.

I figured I'd kick it off with a Top Ten Tuesday, which is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish - you should got an check out their page if you'd like to do this also. This weeks theme is books Read in One Sitting. Now honestly I haven't got many books for this, because simply, my lifestyle doesn't allow me a large chunk of time to sit and do nothing but read - but thankfully this was clarified as to include ten of the shortest books I've read, top ten books I read in one sitting, ten books to read when you are short on time, top ten books that will make you read the whole day away, etc.

The Tragedy Paper - Elizabeth Laban
I'll be honest - I can't remember too much of reading this one. All I can is that it was a gloomy, miserable day and that I sat down in the morning with this book and that by the evening I was done. And I was so satisfied. The book painted this whole new world or mystery and university (I think?!) and it was so atmospheric that it just drew you in. I just got so lost in this book and could not put it down.
Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (Or any Harry Potter book) - J.K. Rowling
Need I say more? The whole serious is Un-put-downable and will keep you engrossed and reading both all day and all night. I've chosen book 1 for this list as it's the shortest and the most realistic option to finish in one day, but let's be honest, we all finished Deathly Hallows the day it came out. I'm not going to say too much because 1. this is a no brainer and 2. there is too much for me to say about why i love this series and that's a blog post for another day.
The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins
This is not the shortest book, I'll admit. But riveting, it is. So much hype had been heard around this and thus I put it off for a long time, but one day on a long train ride to London I decided to pick  it up - and boy am I glad I did. This book is so filled with suspense, mystery and thrill, that you speed through it so quick and it barely feels a fraction of it's size. It's over before you know it. I finished it in two days of broken reading, so I think you can finish this in a day and it would definitely make you read the whole day away.
A court of Mist and Fury - Sarah J Maas
This would be a challenge to finish in a day. Honestly this book is huge, but read your day away you will, with this one. I chose book 2 because book 1 simply didn't have the same effect in me, but this book, the characters, the magic and the world building will captivate you. Such intricate plot filled with everything you could want: drama, magic, mystery, romance and deceit - it's really just a beautiful magical book and you'll be reading from dawn till dusk.
Dorothy must Die - Danielle Paige 
This is an incredible books - part of what makes you read the day away with this is that for many the wizard of oz is a classic, a book or film which we consumed countless times as a child. Paige builds and expands on this classic, weaving in a new a fantastic plot, filled with magic, mystery and a new take on people that we already know - which is part of what I think makes this so captivating.
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
There's been a lot of hype around this one recently, and it's definitely worth it. Easily this could be finished in once sitting, especially if you get the version with the beautiful illustrations. The story is short yet deep and very poignant. The writing is also incredible and the way it builds the story will draw you in and have you reading till you've finished this one. Personally, I didn't let myself finish it in one night because it was so beautiful and I didn't want it to end - so I spread it over two nights.
Tinder - Sally Gardner
This one is small but feels long, in a good way. A somewhat new / retelling of a fairy tale, it feels as though there is so much crammed into this story. Filled with so much magic, morals and what feels reminiscent of a grimes and anderson fairy tales I found myself wondering who would read this and it really is everyone. Children, teens and adults, this is a beautiful timeless tale for all and perfect if you're looking for something to curl up with the in the midst of winter and get lost in a magical world.
Coraline - Neil Gaiman
This one I remember reading with my friends, in prep for halloween, and we all finished it in one night. Witty and page turning, whilst also having just the right amount of creep and almost a level of magical realism, what I really loved about this is it re-ignited the child in me. The story took me back to the like of harry potter and the narnia stories - I really wish I had been able to read this when I was a younger child. Definitely worth it, but I'd say make sure you read it at the right time of the year - it really will make a difference.
The Magicians Elephant - Kate DiCamillo
Again, this one is super short and one of the most charming books I have ever read. A heartfelt and warming tale, partnered with beautiful illustrations and set against the backdrop of what feels like a mix of victorian london and paris, this novel took me away. Again reminiscent of a children story for adults, it's magical, heart wrenching and (i'm starting to sound like a broken record) perfect for the winter. It's one that I read so long ago and keep meaning to come back to and maybe this winter I finally will.

So there you go! That's my top *9* (I couldn't think of a tenth) books to read in one sitting and I would honestly recommend you to pick up any of them and have the promise of enjoyment.