Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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When I turned the last page of To Kill A Kingdom, all I could think was that I wanted more. And to be clear, I wanted more because I was so blown away by the story and wanted to spend more time with Lira and Elian. This was such a strong fantasy standalone, but wow, if there was a sequel I would be all over it.

To Kill A Kingdom begins by introducing us to Lira, a siren princess known as The Princes’ Bane, a name given to her because of collection of princes’ hearts – literally. Every year on her birthday, she steals the heart of a prince and presents it to her mother The Sea Queen, who detests the idea of Lira one day taking her throne. When Lira acts in a way her mother deems a betrayal, The Sea Queen turns Lira into a human and gives her until her birthday to collect the heart of Prince Elian, if she wants to return to the sea. Meanwhile, we meet Prince Elian, who much prefers to be seen as a pirate and siren killer. He travels the seas with his band of mates on his beloved ship with the goal of seeking the Princes’ Bane and a way to end the war between sirens and humans once and for all. When Elian finds Lira in her human form floating in the middle of the ocean, he rescues her. She promises to give him the information he needs to overthrow the Sea Queen – but of course, Elian doesn’t know who she is or what she really wants from him.

Alexandra Christo’s writing is dark and seductive, making her storytelling addictive and complex as it dips in and out of Lira and Elian’s perspectives. Her writing was divine, so suited to this dark, sort of retelling of The Little Mermaid, with pirates and monsters in the deep, dark sea. I cannot say enough how impressed I was with the delicate, harsh descriptions in the complex world building, plot and character development. Her exploration of humanity was something I found particularly inspiring, as well, as it melded the story together in a way that made it philosophical as well as action-packed and passionate.

But let me move on to say a little more about the characters. And their banter-fueled, I-basically-hate-you relationship. Lira is without a doubt one of my favourite female voices I’ve read in a long time. I never thought I could like a siren quite as much as I do her. Granted, she spends a chunk of the book as a human, which does develop her human side as she spends time away from her evil mother, but she is still so snarky, manipulative and strong. I loved her. Elian is also a tremendous character. With both his charm and his sarcasm, he is a pirate prince you can’t help rooting for. And the pair of them together, well now… Don’t make me say more. There are also many other likeable characters, and some you’ll love to hate.

I loved everything about this book and the story Alexandra Christo has brought to its pages. Its only flaw is that there isn’t more! If you enjoy a good, dark fantasy with an enemies to friends slow burn relationship, power, death and the quest for the end of a war between to lands and two species, then this is your book. Simply wondrous.

 

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The ABC Book Challenge: *U*

My Post (5)

Since getting back to blogging over the last few months, I’ve really wanted to add something new to my weekly posts. And lo and behold, I’ve been inspired by fellow blogger Soffi @A Book. A Thought. (Follow her!) Soffi’s ABC Book Challenge posts were so fun, I decided I just had to do my own!  So, every week I’ll be posting my favourite, most memorable books and books from my TBR, moving from A-Z.

Previous ABC posts: A + B + C + D + FGHIJ+ K + LM+ NOPQRS + T

(P.S. Whoever came up with this challenge, I don’t know who you are but thank you!)

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*U*

Memorable Titles

Only two U memorable books came to mind. Becky Albertalli’s The Upside of Unrequited is a YA contemporary about Molly, a girl whose only experience of love is the unrequited variety and always seeks guidance from her sister, Cassie. When Cassie starts spending a lot of time with her new girlfriend, Molly is left to sort out her own romance with her crush Will, but there’s something about her co-worker Reid she can’t ignore… It’s an adorable, entertaining book, perfect for a day off :). Naomi Novik’s Uprooted is absolutely the best standalone feminist fantasy book I’ve ever read. It’s phenomenal. You can read my review of it here.

 

To Be Read

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The Universe Versus Alex Woods is waiting on my kindle for me to read it, I’m sure I’ll get to it soon! Sounds like a lovely, unforgettable read that will hopefully join my memorable titles in the future 🙂

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That’s all this time! Thanks for reading 🙂

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

ARC Review: 100 Days of Sunlight by Abbie Emmons

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~ I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review~

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There are some days I really just need a light, adorable book to read and 100 Days of Sunlight is definitely one of those reads. Abbie Emmons’s writing is delicate and lovely, a style that is easy to read and conveys an important message about appreciating life with a subtle, moving touch. Plus, the cover is so beautiful.

100 Days of Sunlight opens with Tessa Dickinson, who is temporarily blind after a car crash and has been told her sight will come back within 14 weeks. She is understandably struggling with living in darkness, especially as someone who spends a lot of her time writing poetry, and is afraid her sight won’t ever come back. When her grandparents decide to help by finding her a transcriber, Tessa is horrified. Unexpectedly, a boy she doesn’t know Weston Ludovica turns up at her house offering help. Tessa can’t see that he has a disability and he wants to keep it that way, because even though Tessa yells at him a lot, she makes him feel like a normal person. Weston just might be the one person that can help Tessa find light in the darkness again, but he might vanish from her life before she ever gets her sight back.

I wasn’t as gripped as I hoped I would be in the opening chapters of this book. It wasn’t really until we started learning more about Weston that I found myself invested in the characters and the plot. I felt as though there was something lacking in Tessa’s character. I would have liked a little more backstory on who she was before the accident, besides her blogging/poetry writing (which was an element of her character I really liked).  Though I could completely understand Tessa’s negative outlooks at the beginning of the novel as she struggled with PTSD and being blind, I felt as though I got to know her most through Weston’s perspective. The more time Weston spent with Tessa, the more I felt I knew and liked her. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that, as the way her character was written and her lack of interaction with anyone but Weston and her grandparents depicted how isolated she felt. It just meant I didn’t develop a deeper connection with Tessa until halfway through the novel.

For the most part, Weston was the stronger character. The way Weston’s past was written had more depth and gave me a deeper understanding of his character even before he started spending more time with Tessa. I felt more for Weston’s personal struggles than Tessa’s, and perhaps that was the point. I loved knowing Weston’s brothers and his best friend Rudy, who all played integral roles in his story. I thought Weston’s character development was more established and understood what kind of person he was. The only things I was unsure about with Weston’s character were his motivations in seeking out Tessa and the medical history behind his disability. Both just felt to me like they needed a little more detail to back them up. But, because I  enjoyed the book so much, those missing details don’t really bother me at all.

What is most definitely excellent about this book is the way it explores how important it is to value the life you have, to find happiness even in the smallest of things like the sound of a ukulele or the smell of lillies. Abbie Emmons’s writing was beautiful to read, and I really liked how her insights about looking on the bright side of life seamlessly flowed with the story and the character’s personal struggles. And of course, the relationship that develops between Tessa and Weston is absolutely adorable, their little moments made me smile so big.

While I wanted a little more substance from Tessa’s character and thought some details in the plot could have been hashed out a bit more, I really loved reading this book. It’s poetic and well-written, delving into the darkness in life and reminding us of all the sunlight we can find when we focus in all our senses and remember the things that are really important, the things that give us happiness. This book reminded me how lucky I am to be where I am in my life and that’s a really nice feeling to get from a book.

Get your copy 7th of August, I will be!

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Let me know if you’re planning on reading this book 🙂

Happy reading and keep loving the life you have,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

 

The ABC Book Challenge: *T*

My Post (5)

Since getting back to blogging over the last few months, I’ve really wanted to add something new to my weekly posts. And lo and behold, I’ve been inspired by fellow blogger Soffi @A Book. A Thought. (Follow her!) Soffi’s ABC Book Challenge posts were so fun, I decided I just had to do my own!  So, every week I’ll be posting my favourite, most memorable books and books from my TBR, moving from A-Z.

Previous ABC posts: A + B + C + D + FGHIJ+ K + LM+ NOPQR+ S

(P.S. Whoever came up with this challenge, I don’t know who you are but thank you!)

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*T*

Memorable Titles

I’m very happy with how my T list turned out 🙂 I read Tash Hearts Tolstoy earlier this year, and while I haven’t written a review for it, it was a book I really enjoyed about an romantic asexual and her web series going suddenly viral. It explores some great themes and includes wonderful and different relationships. Tess of the d’Urbervilles is one of my favourite classics (I love the mini series with Eddie Redmayne in it, too!) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is also another favourite classic of mine and  made me really appreciate 19th century writers like Anne Bronte. They Both Die at The End is such a strange and special book, it’s probably my favourite of Adam Silvera 😀 This Adventure Ends  is probably my favourite by Emma Mills, she’s just so great at writing believable characters and storylines! To Kill A Mockingbird just had to be on this list. I can’t believe I only read it last year! (embarrassed face). Last of all and probably most importantly of all, John Marsden’s The Tomorrow Series. Can’t way enough how much I love it! There’s always something special about the books you read when you were younger. 

 

To Be Read

I just started To Kill A Kingdom and so far I really like the grittiness of it :). This is Kind of An Epic Love Story is a recent release about best friends falling in love, which is always high up on my list of favourite love story scenarios. This Train is Being Held won’t be released until next year, but it sounds exciting and adorable and I love the cover art!

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That’s it for now from me! Please let me know if you’ve read any of these or plan to, would love to hear from you 🙂

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

ARC Review: We Are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar

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~ I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ~

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I was drawn to this book first of all because of two things: the cover and the reference to The Perks of Being a Wallflower in the blurb. Of course, the summary of the story then led me to further know that this was definitely a book I wanted to read. Even with all of that very promising material, I had no clue quite how much this book would resonate with both my emotions and my love for creative writing.

Before I go on to describe my reading experience, a summary: We Are Lost and Found, set in the early 1980’s New York City, centres around Michael and his two best friends, who try to find their way to being happy with who they are despite fear of judgement and the unknown. With the weight of his father’s rejection of his gay older brother Connor and the building fear of AIDS looming over him, Micheal struggles to find a future in which he can possibly be himself.  When he isn’t hanging out with his best friends James and Becky, he seeks reprieve in a nightclub called The Echo. There, he meets Gabriel, a boy who finally sees him for who he is and leads Michael to question what he’s willing to risk for happiness.

When I first started reading We Are Lost and Found, it took me a little while to get into the stream of the writing style. I was confused at first by the lack of quotation marks, for example, as I’d assumed this was a book that would follow a common narrative form. Instead, the novel is told in vignettes, some like poems and some similar to journal entries penned by Michael. I got used to the style quickly and fell into the story with a sense of awe. For me, the whole book felt like a really long, intricate and whimsical poem. Which I absolutely loved. Helene Dunbar has managed to writing something truly unique and moving and I couldn’t applaud her writing more.

Of course, it’s not just her writing style that makes this book, it’s the content as well. While a big part of that was the characters and their individual paths, whether it was Michael and Connor finding theirs in the face of their father’s conservatism and open hatred of homosexuals, or James’ as he tries to navigate the theatre scene and love in the face of art, judgement and fear of death, or Becky as she supports her best friends struggling with being gay and deals with her own issues, it was the exploration of the AIDS epidemic that really hit me the most.

I knew a fair amount about the history of HIV/AIDS before reading this book, but now I feel like I have a deeper understanding of it. Michael, Connor, James and Gabriel, and even Becky even though she wasn’t directly impacted by the fear of the disease in the same way, made me think about people in the 1980’s who were strongly affected by the epidemic. Michael in particular, as the narrator, felt so real and it was clear to me that he embodies so many people in the past, present and future who have suffered. Michael fears having sex because he doesn’t understand AIDS, no one does. Even after reading an important article and a brochure about safe sex, the fear of catching the disease that has already killed so many is always there for him, as it was for many in the 1980’s and still is today.  The two afterwords included in the book were perfect accompaniments, giving further information and insight into both the setting of the book, how real the characters were imagined and history of the disease.

I don’t think I know what else to say about this book. It’s so much more important than anything I can write in a blog post, so all I can say now is READ IT. If you don’t know much about HIV/AIDS, or already known a lot, or if you want to read a story about teenagers finding a way to be themselves in a messed up world, this is a book for you. I think it’s a book everyone should read. I am so grateful I have.

Pick up your copy September 3rd!

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Let me know if I’ve convinced you to read this book! I know it’s probably unlikely as this is a way too rushed review, but I hope so!

Happy reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

 

Book Review: Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

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Well. What can I say. THANK YOU, JENN BENNETT. Thank you for writing a perfect, adorable adventure in the wilderness. For writing characters that made me smile and feel a lot for. For writing a story that made me turn every page with unstoppable intrigue and excitement. For writing a book I absolutely loved.

I’ve been looking forward to reading Starry Eyes for ages, because I knew that it was going to have that Jenn Bennett vibe to it, something adorable and edgy and unique and heart-racing. From the moment I read Night Owls, I’ve always known Jenn Bennett writes fantastic, personable characters and sticks them in weird and wonderful settings with a whole lot of feelings ricocheting between them. I didn’t quite expect Starry Eyes to become my favourite of her books to date, but wow, it really has.

Starry Eyes tells the story of Zorie and Lennon, best-friends/possibly more turned enemies after a massive fallout at homecoming a year ago. Now, they don’t talk to each other at all, which is easy enough because their families are rival business owners and don’t talk to each other anymore, either. When Zorie decides to add a camping trip with friends to her summer plans, she doesn’t expect Lennon to be come along, too. And she certainly doesn’t expect to end up stranded in the wild with him, which of course brings up a lot of avoided and hidden feelings between them and their families.

Okay, Okay. I don’t want to say much more about the plot because well, you need to just go down the hiking trials with Zorie to discover all the winding details. You will not be disappointed, I promise you. All I can really blab about now is just how much I loved the characters. Lennon and Zorie’s mums deserve a shout out, because they were absolutely brilliant. Zorie was a wonderful character to follow around for a few days and her personal journey throughout the story was perfect. I loved seeing her grow and develop an understanding of her world, I loved her fascination with astronomy and her quirky fashion sense and outlooks about life. Lennon, however, has to be my favourite character. While on one side he was definitely the charming, kind guy that’s common in YA contemporaries, his insights about the world, his goth style and his snarky attitude made him altogether unique and so memorable. I thought he was so great. And well, him and Zorie together… I mean. Their thing is what made this book.

Another thing that made me go crazy about this book is the setting. I absolutely love stories that are set out in the wilderness, whether it’s a camping trip or a road trip kind of thing. This book really made me miss camping and hiking. Actually, in saying that, if you happen to be going camping or off on a trip to a faraway land any time soon, take Starry Eyes with you. I think it would make a wonderful holiday read.

To sum up, I loved this book. For me, it was the perfect balance of everything I could want in a romantic drama fueled by a lot of sexual tension and misunderstandings. I wish I could go back and read it again for the first time and I have a feeling it will be a book I go back to when I feel like I need it.

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Let me know if you’ve read this book or plan to, I’d love to chat!

Happy reading,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords

ARC Review: Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer

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~ I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ~

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Brigid Kemmerer’s Letters to the Lost and it’s sequel More Than We Can Tell are both favourite YA contemporaries of mine, so when Call It What You Want was announced, it was exciting for me as I knew it was going to give me a very similar reading experience. When I was accepted the ARC, I was so delighted and reading it was definitely a great way to pass the time on an eight-hour flight early this week. What I am always impressed with in Brigid Kemmerer’s novels is her ability to capture the lows and the highs in life through realistic and relatable characters. Her writing style is subtle and clean, which not only makes for an easy read but also a story that holds so much complexity and charm in its telling.

This is no different in Call It What You Want, a book that delves into two teens lives: Rob, who is dealing with the aftermath of his father’s financial embezzlement and attempted suicide, and Maegan, who’s keeping secrets about her older sister coming home from university pregnant and the pressure she’s been under holding her high-grade average. When the pair of them are partnered for a calculus assignment, they get to know each other and see that perhaps it’s time to let the walls they’ve put up break away.

What I loved most about this book was the way both Rob and Maegan were portrayed as teenagers going through very different things, but find something in each other that gives them a way forward in life. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that; it takes the pair of them a lot of time to work through their own issues, but getting to know each other does give them new perspectives and ultimately, outside support at a time when they really need it. The way they came together was so touching to read. While I thought the romantic element of their relationship could have had more to it, it wasn’t the central point of the book, so overall I liked how their friendship developed regardless of their romantic attraction over the course of the story and how they were able to give each other a deeper understanding of each other and themselves.

I found Rob’s independent story line much more interesting, complicated and stronger than Maegan’s, which meant the book felt one-sided to me. While I enjoyed the way Maegan and her sister’s relationship was explored, how the accidental pregnancy and the implications involved affected both sisters and their family, I felt I wasn’t as compelled by Maegan’s personal issues as much as I was Rob’s. Rob’s story is heartbreaking and so complex. The position his father put Rob and his mother in is truly horrible and, for want of the right word, I enjoyed learning more details of what happened as the book went on. My disconnection from Maegan’s storyline meant I felt like I didn’t quite get to know the depth of her character as I did Rob’s, though she had her moments. For me, Rob’s story was the memorable part of the book, overall.

While Call It What You Want won’t be making my top favourites list, I thought it was interesting and highly complex account of two teenagers in a difficult stage of their loves and how they learnt from each other. Brigid Kemmerer deals with some important social issues surrounding money, reputation and crime, bringing in Robin Hood-esque discussions, which I found well explored and important to think about. Rob’s new friend Owen is also worth a mention as a highlight of the story. Otherwise, I didn’t connect as much as I would have liked with the other characters as individuals, besides Rob, of course. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it for you YA contemporary readers out there.

Get your copy June 27th!

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Until next time,

Jasmine @ Thesepaperwords