Thursday, 18 April 2019

Review on Unboxed

When Alix was thirteen, she made a promise to her friends that they would meet up in five years to open a time capsule they had made. However, everything Changes when Millie dies. Alix promised Millie they would stick to the plan and open the box without her, but with every item that is removed from the box come memories of Millie, both happy and sad. After years apart, the friends come together to grieve the loss of their friend.

I knew this book would break me the second I learned what it was about, but apparently I enjoy pain and suffering, as I still decided to read it. The book follows Alix, a girl who's friend Millie has recently died. Alix meets up with her three friends who she hasn't seen in years to open the time capsule they had made with Millie. This book was equally heart warming and heart breaking. It's always difficult to lose a close friend or family member, but sometimes it can be worse when you lose someone you haven't spoken to in a while. I think it's rare to stay close to childhood friends, as everyone moves away and starts down a new path. Eventually, you start realising you have nothing in common with that person anymore and lose touch despite still caring about them. This is exactly what happened to Alix, and her school friends, and Millie's death added a layer of guilt to their grief for not staying in touch with her.

Even though this is a short book, the characters were fleshed out and given their own personalities and problems. My favourite subplot was Alix worrying that her friends would find out she was gay. As she hasn't seen them in a while, she has no idea how they will react, and is reluctant to let them know. I loved that she was brave enough to read her letter to them, and that they all reacted positively. No one ever just comes out once, it's something that people in the LGBT community have to do constantly, and it never seems to get any easier. I was happy for Alix that her friends were so accepting and didn't make a big deal out of it.

I have to talk a little about Ash, who has probably made it onto my list of most hated characters. Ash was Zara's boyfriend, and the fifth wheel that no one wanted. He was the most unsympathetic asshole the world has ever known, and instead of dropping Zara off with her friends then leaving, he stuck around and made horrible comments. Even though the time capsule was clearly important to Zara, he was constantly telling her to hurry up so they could leave, and thought it was okay to make fun of their grief, and commented on how Zara had never mentioned Millie to him so she couldn't have liked her that much. I was so happy when Zara finally stuck up for herself and told Ash to leave without her. Ash was completely toxic. Anyone who doesn't support their partner when they're grieving clearly don't deserve them. I loved how even though she hadn't seen them in a while, Zara's friends were the ones who were there to support her, and were the only people who truly understood the grief she felt. Sometimes the only people who can truly understand how you feel are those going through the same thing, and I was glad that they all had each other for emotional support. 

I really enjoyed this book and think it's perfect for anyone new to YA or reading for fun in general. The large font makes it easy on the eyes, and the paper being a pale yellow helps the contrast to be less harsh. As someone who can't read outside in the summer without being blinded by the bright white paper, I think more books should be like this! Non Pratt is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors, and I'm looking forward to reading more of her books in the future!

Monday, 18 March 2019

Review on The Boy in the Dress

Dennis seems like an average boy. He loves playing football with his friends, visiting the local shop to buy sweets, and reading Vogue magazine... Okay maybe that last one isn't as average. Dennis is heartbroken when his father finds his copy of Vogue and throws it out, but everything changes when he meets Lisa, a girl from his school who is an aspiring fashion designer. Dennis is blown away by the dresses Lisa has made, and even tries some of them on. However things take a turn for the worst when Dennis is expelled for wearing a dress to school, and to make matters worse, he isn't allowed to compete in his school's football match, and without Dennis the team has no chance of winning. With the help of his friends, Dennis must convince their headmaster to let him play, and make him see that a boy wearing a dress really isn't a big deal.

I've never actually read a David Walliams book before, but I found this one in the charity shop I volunteer at and just had to buy it! I used to love Little Britain, so I went into the book expecting it to be full of light hearted humor. Even though part of it was what I was expecting, there were also some darker and serious topics that I'll get round to talking about a little later.

The book follows Dennis, a boy who lives with his dad and older brother. Dennis' mother left them, leaving Dennis with nothing but memories of her, and a single photograph he managed to save when his dad burnt all the photos of her. Dennis obviously misses his mum, and it's difficult to not feel some sort of sympathy for him. The book never actually explains why his mum left, but I felt sorry for the boys as they clearly weren't to blame. Even though we don't know the circumstances, I couldn't help but wonder how she could just leave her children like that. If parents go through a divorce, I feel that it's wrong for one of them to completely cut off all contact with their children, as they could end up believing it was their fault.

The thing that I loved the most about this book was that in challenged gender roles, and asked us why can't boys wear dresses? Dennis' interest in women's fashion is frowned upon by the adults, particularly by his dad. Dennis' dad is a typical manly man. He is an overweight truck driver who loves beer and football, and when he finds Dennis' copy of Vogue, he throws it out and tells Dennis it was wrong for him to have it.I've seen dads like Dennis' multiple times, telling their young sons not to play with dolls or tea sets because they are "for girls." I've honestly had to bite my tongue so many times when hearing dads say things like this. Gender roles are ridiculous, and parents should be encouraging their children's hobbies rather than telling boys they can't be interested in fashion, and telling girls they can't be Scientists because only boys are Scientists. Dennis' dad wasn't a bad father, but as he had obviously been brought up believing boys couldn't be interested in typically feminine things, he passed these ideas onto his sons. I loved how Dennis' dad eventually changed his mindset and was proud of his son rather than ashamed.

Despite burning all the photographs of Dennis' mum, Dennis' dad obviously misses her, and suffers from depression because of this. He often tells his sons to leave him alone, and suffers alone rather than admitting he is struggling. Men, in particular, don't get help for their mental health, as society has deemed men who ask for help to be weak. This is such a toxic mindset and results in thousands of men taking their own lives each year. Something that I loved was how Dennis' dad eventually opened up more and wasn't afraid of showing his emotions. Even though he started out being practically the definition of toxic masculinity, he eventually changed to become a great dad to his sons.

There is a stereotype that men who are interested in fashion or dress in drag are gay, so I love how Dennis having a crush on Lisa was mentioned. This book was brilliant at breaking stereotypes, and I loved that this was one of them. I loved the message that everyone should be free to wear whatever they want to despite their gender identity. Even though we have reached a point where women wearing trousers instead of dresses is normal, a man wearing a dress would still turn heads. Masculinity and femininity have no correlation with sexuality, yet people will assume a man wearing a dress is gay, yet a woman wearing a suit is seen as stylish and powerful. Society needs to stop seeing men wanting to be feminine as a negative thing, as gender equality will never be achieved when we see women dressing masculine as a positive thing but men dressing feminine negatively.

I have to quickly mention the illustrations. The book is illustrated by Quentin Blake, who is, of course, best known for illustrating Roald Dahl's books. As I grew up reading Roald Dahl, this gave the book a nostalgic feel to it and almost made it feel like I was rereading an old favourite rather than a book I was reading for the first time. Quentin Blake was the perfect illustrator for this book and did a perfect job of complimenting the story.

I loved this book and its diverse characters, and I feel as if most children would feel the same way! I definitely want to read more David Walliams books in the future!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Review on To All the Boys I've Loved Before

Lara Jean song has a secret. For every boy she has ever loved, she has written a love letter. Over the years, she has written five letters, all which are hidden in a hatbox her mother gave to her. However, everything changes when the letters get sent out. Lara Jean is horrified when she learns that every boy she has ever loved now knows her secret, and to make matters worse, Lara Jean’s sister just so happens to be the ex-girlfriend of one of the boys. Lara Jean must think of a way to put things back to how they were, but is recruiting the help of bad boy Peter Kavinsky really the right thing to do?

So once again I have only picked up a popular book after it got turned into a movie. Everyone on Twitter has been talking about how good the movie is, and of course me being me, I didn’t want to watch it before reading the book. I think everyone has probably already read this book by this point, but just in case you haven’t, it’s about a girl called Lara Jean who has to deal with the aftermath of the letters she has wrote for all the boys she had ever loved being sent out. I immediately loved Lara Jean, and thought she was a fun and relatable character. I often panic in a stressful situation and do something stupid, so I loved that that was exactly what Lara Jean did when Josh, the boy she currently likes confronted her about the letter. Panicking and kissing Peter Kavinsky was such a funny and cringe-worthy moment, and it was easy to sympathise with Lara Jean throughout the book.

Lara Jean and Peter being in a fake relationship was both funny and cute, and I loved how they slowly started to develop real feelings for each other. It was a really sweet slow burn romance, and although they argued with each other quite a lot, I loved how they couldn’t stay mad at each other for long. It was adorable how they wouldn’t admit to having real feelings for each other, but made it really obvious by how they acted when Peter was with Gen and Lara Jean was with Josh. Two of my favourite romantic tropes are slow burn and mutual pining, so I, of course, loved the romance!

I adored Lara Jean’s relationship with her sisters. Lara Jean is the middle child, and has to deal with her older sister Margot leaving home to go to University, and looking after her younger sister Kitty while her dad works. As Margot is always mature and organised, Lara Jean has a hard time trying to fill her role as the older sister. I loved that Lara Jean eventually realised she didn’t have to do everything exactly the way Margot did, and was even able to get Kitty to help around the house. Lara Jean feels as if she is drifting away from Margot, and thinks that updating her on what is going on in her life is pointless. Sadly when a sibling leaves home, it often can be the case that their relationship suffers because of it, but I loved that this didn’t actually happen between Lara Jean and Margot. Although big changes are happening to both of them, they are still able to be a part of each others lives, and I loved that despite arguing with each other, they obviously loved each other a lot. Something else that I loved was the relationship between Lara Jean and Kitty, as although there was quite a big age gap between them, they got along really well. I loved how funny and confident Kitty was, and how she was always ready to share her opinions.

Something that I loved was that non of the characters were perfect. I’ve seen a few comments online about Peter Kavinsky being perfect, and although I can’t comment on his movie portrayal yet, he was far from perfect in the book. I wasn’t that keen on the typical love triangle trope of the two boys fighting over the girl, but I did love that Peter got jealous, especially when he learnt that Josh had kissed Lara Jean. To me it made him seem more human, as I think most boys would get jealous if the person they liked had a crush on someone else. I also loved that although everyone sees Peter as being a typical jock, Lara Jean soon finds out that isn’t true. I ended up disliking Josh for saying bad things about Peter when he didn’t even know him. Even though Peter is a typical jock around his friends, he is always sweet to Lara Jean and invites her to hang round with him and his friends. I wish there had been more interaction between Lara Jean and Peter’s friends. The one scene where they all hung out together was honestly too pure.

I loved that this was an own voices book, with Lara Jean having a Korean mum and an American dad. There are far too few YA books that have an Asian protagonist, so I’m happy that this book has received so much attention! As Lara Jean’s mum died when her daughters were young, they have missed out on experiencing Korean culture. I loved how Lara Jean’s dad did his best to keep the culture alive, such as doing his best to cook Korean food. Something else that I thought was a great addition was the stereotype that Asian people only ever cosplay anime characters. Even when Lara Jean cosplays Cho Chang for Halloween, people still assume she is an anime character, which is obviously frustrating for her. I felt bad for her feeling as if she could only cosplay Asian characters, as anyone should be able to cosplay a character despite not being the same race as that character. I feel as if there is a bit of a double standard when it comes to cosplay, as no one questions white people cosplaying anime characters, but expect Asian people to only cosplay Asian characters. Even though there have been controversies about people cosplaying characters who are a different race to them, I personally don’t see it as a problem. People cosplay because they love the character, and as long as they aren’t darkening their skin in the process, I feel as if it’s fine for people to cosplay any character they want.

Although contemporary romance isn’t usually my cup of tea, I really enjoyed this book! I’ve already reserved the sequel at the library, and I’m looking forward to watching the movie and reading the rest of the series. I definitely recommend this book to contemporary romance fans, and would even urge people who don’t usually enjoy this genre to give it a go!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Almost Midnight- mini review

As this book is a collection of two short stories, I thought I would give it a mini review! I read both of these stories in one sitting and loved them both. The first story, Midnight, follows Mags, a girl who has to watch her best friend and crush kiss a different girl on New Year's Eve year after year. This story was incredibly sweet and even though it was obvious where the story was heading I still loved it.

The second story, Kindred Spirits was my favourite of the two. It follows Elena, a Star Wars fan who decides to queue up days in advance of the midnight premiere of The Force Awakens. Despite expecting to camp out with a big group of other fans, Elena is disappointed to discover there are only two other people in line. As a Star Wars fan myself I found Elena relatable, and I loved all of the Star Wars references. Elena's mum constantly checking up on her was too relatable, as my mum did exactly the same thing when I queued for hours to get a good spot at a BTS concert. As I also look younger than I really am and love Star Wars, I think I would be good friends with Elena! I loved how even though the experience wasn't what Elena was expecting, she still enjoyed it. I also loved how Elena and Gabe had Star Wars in common despite being part of different social circles.
I loved these stories and recommend this book to anyone who wants a quick and light-hearted festive read!

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Review on The Great Sugar War (The Land Without Color #2)

After learning about how his Grandpa Alvin saved The Kingdom of Color, Brandon is determined to teach his classmates the truth about their history. When he discovers the ruins of the old color factory, he is shocked to find the skeleton of General Droww, and an old book describing the adventures of Brandon's Great Great Grandfather Otto, who had discovered The Land of Color long before Grandpa Alvin. With the help of General Droww and the Mighty Lion, Otto discovers that there may be an outside force propelling the war between The Kingdom of Color and The Kingdom of Shapes, and Otto must do anything to bring peace between the kingdoms once more.

So I decided to read this series for Series Crackdown, a reading event created by my friend Mel (TheBookMoo) where the goal is to read a series you've been putting off for a while in ten days. As I got sent the last two books in The Land Without Color series a while ago, I decided to reread the first book (my review for that one can be found HERE), and then read the other two books.

Instead of focusing on Alvin, this book takes place many years earlier, and follows Alvin's grandfather Otto, who had come across The Kingdom of Color after losing his way at sea. Otto soon finds Colonel Droww, who after having his ship sank, is helplessly lost at sea. Droww recruits Otto to be his assistant in the war between The Kingdom of Color and The Kingdom of Shapes, where the Sugar Soldiers are killing both the soldiers and the grasshoppers of Grasshopper Fields. This book felt different to the first one, as although the writing style was still very much middle grade, the plot itself seemed more serious. Where the first book was full of talking animals and a two headed dragon, this one focused on war and an elaborate plot to rule both kingdoms. I must admit that I did prefer the first book, and felt as if this one was a lot darker in it's themes.

I loved that some of the characters we met in the first book returned, such as Droww and the Mighty Lion. I loved seeing how different Droww was when he was younger, and learning more about things that were briefly mentioned in the first book. Something that I felt was lacking in this book however was strong female characters. Even though female characters were lacking in the first book too, Permy was a huge help to Alvin, and stuck by him the whole way. The only female character in this book was Aunt Nellie, an old lady who seemed to carry everything in her bag. She initially seemed like an interesting character, but sadly ended up doing nothing more than providing the men with items to help them on their quest. I also didn't like how she stayed behind to look after the babies on the last leg of the journey, as it seemed to imply that only men can be the hero's, and women have to stay behind to look after children. I think the book would definitely have benefited from a strong female soldier.

The book tended to drag in places, especially when they were discussing war tactics. I also felt as if the second half of the book could have been planned out better, as I found myself getting confused when characters who had only been briefly mentioned before became central to the plot. New characters were added too close to the end of the book, and I felt as if children could have a hard time keeping up with what was happening. I was also disappointed in the reveal of the main antagonist, as it felt very repetitive from the first book.

Even though I found parts of the book boring, I did love some of the more action packed scenes, particularly the fight against the Sugar Soldiers. I loved that we were told how the grasshopper fields had become the Sugar Desert, and I particularly loved the addition of The Kingdom of Shapes. The book was overall a little too confusing, and seemed to read more like an arc than a finished copy. Even though I know practically nothing about editing, it did have quite a few mistakes for a finished copy, and I think it could have been looked over one more time for grammatical errors and plot inconsistencies. It was an enjoyable book overall, and I am looking forward to reading the final book in the series!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Review on Supernova

Four friends, one year.
Sex, drugs, rock n' roll
What can possibly go wrong?

April is struggling with anxiety, while Tom is dealing with his father's death, and the effect it's had on his mum. Meanwhile, April's best friend Jamie is struggling to keep up with her mother's high expectations and wants to just be able to be herself. Everyone has their own struggles, but will they be brave enough to share their deepest secrets with each other?

As Ericka was specifically looking for reviewers who had experience with anxiety, this book immediately caught my interest. There aren't enough YA books that focus on characters with anxiety, and as Ericka has experienced it herself, I was interested to see what her interpretation would be.

Before I start talking about the story itself, I just want to briefly mention the setting. I loved that the book was set in London, and although there wasn't many stereotypically British themes, it was nice to read about an education system I was familiar with and had gone through myself. Another thing that I loved was that the book is set in the 90's, bringing with it nostalgia in the form of The Spice Girls and listening to music off casette tapes. I was a little disappointed in the lack of references to 90's toys. Although the main characters were too old to play with toys, I would have loved if there had been a scene where Tom's little sister had been playing with a furby or tamagotchi. Something that I thought worked well with the book being set in this time period was the lack of internet. April couldn't just google her symptoms like we would today, and anxiety can often stop you from getting the help you need. Although I didn't start suffering with anxiety until around 2009, I was in a similar situation to April. Everyone would always describe me as being shy, and as they were adults who I thought knew better than I did, I didn't think there could be more to how I felt than that, and I didn't actually find out what was wrong with me until years later. It's important that mental health is talked about more now that we have the knowledge and technology.

Although I did relate to April, I felt as if her anxiety seemed quite mild. She seemed to only get anxious in stressful situations, whereas most people who's anxiety is more severe often feel anxious and have panic attacks over seemingly nothing. I have had panic attacks in my sleep and while relaxing in my own room, so I was a little disappointed that April never went through something like that, as it seems to be a lesser known part of anxiety. Up until her exam, April's anxiety seemed to get better, particularly after she started dating Tom. The idea of a boy being able to cure a mental ilness is ridiculous, and although April did up up having a panic attack in an exam, her previous safety behaviours such as checking for ways to get out of a room disappeared once Tom was her boyfriend. As I was led to believe that anxiety was the main focus of the book, I was disappointed in how little it was focused on.

Tom's storyline was a sad but important one. After the death of his father, Tom's mother allowed the grief to take over, and became dependant on an antidepressant that wasn't working for her. There is no way for a doctor to tell if an antidepressant will work or not without getting the patient to try it out, as some work for some people but not for others. Sadly Tom's mum was put on one that wasn't right for her, making her feel even worse. I loved how well grief and depression were dealt with, and how Tom and his mum finally got the help that they needed. An important theme that ran throughout the book was that it's always better to ask for help rather than suffering alone. I loved how all the characters were happier once they had someone they could trust with their problems.

One thing that I didn't like was how taking pills was seen as a bad thing. We see two instances where pills are bad news, first with Jamie taking an ecstacy pill, and then with Tom's mum's antidepressants. We later have April telling her mum that she doesn't want to take birth control, as she has come to associate pills with bad things. I felt as if this was a bad message to give to the reader, as a lot of people rely on medication to stay alive. If my dad stopped taking his blood pressure medication, it would lead to all sorts of health problems, and many people are in similar situations. It is true that some pills do more harm than good, but making all pills seem bad is a terrible idea.

I thought the romance was way too cheesy and cliché. Tom and April lacked chemistry, and apart from a couple of sweet moments between them, all they really did was kiss. Honestly there were whole chapters dedicated to them kissing and it got boring and repetitive very quickly. The fact that I didn't enjoy the romance, which made up the majority of the book is one of the main reasons why I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would.

Something that I never bring up in reviews but felt as if I had to in this case was the editing, which was terrible. As I read quite a lot of proofs I'm used to bad editing, but I know that these mistakes will be fixed before the book is published. If this had been a proof the editing wouldn't have mattered, but it was quite shocking that this book had been put on sale with so many mistakes. I can let a few grammatical errors slide, but there were times when I couldn't even work out what the author was trying to say. It was obvious it hadn't been professionally edited, and almost felt like a first draft.Although I realise self-published authors don't have a team of people working behind the scenes to make their book the best that it can be, and might not be able to afford to hire a professional editor, I still think that putting work on sale that contains so many errors seems unprofessional.

Another problem I had was with the diversity representation. Towards the end of the book, Jamie is revealed to be a lesbian, something that isn't really hinted at except for a girl in their school knowing a secret about her. This almost seemed like a plot twist, as we are lead to believe that Jamie will end up dating Yuki. I don't think a characters sexuality should ever be used as a plot twist, and although I loved that Jamie finally stood up to her mum, the way she came out was a little too over the top and not very believable.

I had several problems with Yuki, the first being that he had a Japanese name when he was Chinese. It felt as if Ericka threw him in for the sake of having a character who wasn't white. It seemed as if she had done little research on Chinese culture, and proceeded to throw every Chinese stereotype she could think of at Yuki. There were some distasteful jokes regarding Yuki's race, such as Tom joking that he was immune to chinese burns, and Tom's Nan feeding him nothing but rice and constantly getting his name wrong. Although these things were meant to be funny, I found them to be quite racist, and despite all this, Yuki's character was never developed properly, and he remained a side character who drove the others around and did his best to help Tom. I felt as if Yuki could have been an interesting character if he had been given his own storyline.

Unfortunately I didn't enjoy this book as much as I thought I would. Although I thought grief was dealt with well, and there were some parts of April's anxiety that I related to, there was just too much I disliked to be able to enjoy the book as a whole. I would strongly suggest to Ericka to get her work professionally edited in the future, as I thought the story had potential but just wasn't quite where it needed to be.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Review on The Dark Lands #3 War of the Sentinels

While in the midst of battle with The Dark Man and his army, Sundown suddenly finds herself thrown into an alternate Glorian. Sundown soon discovers she has fallen through a rift into the past, where people she knows to be dead are still living, and where no one seems to know who she is. Sundown is desperate to get back to her brother Webb, but she soon has even bigger problems. The rift she came through is still open, and it won't be long before The Dark Man finds a way to attack Glorian in both timelines.

So this books follows my favourite character, Sundown! As the previous books focused more on her brother, I was looking forward to learning more about Sundown. Most of the characters from the first two books were left behind in this one, but we were introduced to a few new characters, and some of the characters that had been around in the background of the previous books had more prominent roles. Out of the new characters, my favourite had to be Lucien. We are told in the second book that Lucien is dead, so it was a little bittersweet to see him in this book and knowing his fate. There are a few things that weren't properly explained in the first two books that were elaborated on, such as how Lucien died, how Kane got the scar on his face, and how the Sentinels had been wiped out. I loved how these minor details were explained, as it showed just how well this series has been planned from the start, and how nothing was just a coincidence.

There were a few things that I felt were a little too obvious. There is a big reveal near the end involving Sundown's fate that I had worked out towards the middle of the book that ruined the shock value. Although my predicion was slightly off, the end result was pretty much the same. I love plot twists that are able to surprise me, but sadly this wasn't one of them.

This book was a lot more wibbly wobbly timey wimey than the others, and although I love time travel stories, I was confused quite a lot of the time. I think being a little confused is almost inevitable with time travel stories, so although it didn't bother me too much, I did end up overthinking and trying to make sense of everything.

Something that I loved was how we were told more about The Dark Man. Up until now he had been completely mysterious, but this book delves into his past and shows us how he got to this point. I loved that he had had multiple lives on Earth as various evil dictators, causing as much war and chaos as possible throughout the centuries. It made him a much scarier character, as he was shown to be all powerful and have no remorse.

I loved all the new abilites that were introduced and I particularly loved that Sundown was a Time-Walker, and could manipulate her surroundings while time was frozen. I also loved the Acidics, Glorians who were able to control and manipulate fire. Out of all the abilities, I think I would want to be a Reclaimer, as I am constantly making stupid decisions that I wish I could take back!

There are still a lot of problems for the Glorians to solve, and I'm looking forward to reading the final book in the series to see how everything will end. I'm hoping that Fangus will become a more central character, as I found the fact he had changed sides interesting. I would love for him to return to Glorian or act as a double agent, as I'm sure he will have inside informaton on The Dark Man. I'm looking forward to seeing how The Dark Man will be defeated, and if Webb will eventually make it back to the real world

War of the Sentinels is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository