Books

Quarterly Book Review 2019 #1

It’s a few months into 2019, which means it’s time for another batch of quarterly book reviews! All these books were read between 1st January 2019 – 31st March 2019, the next quarter will be 1st April – 31st June, so an and so forth. Thanks for coming back to carry on the reviewing journey with me! I’ve changed the formatting a bit from last years reviews and added a section about books I’ve read in the set months but haven’t reviewed, and my ‘read so far this year’ total 🙂

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Warcross by Marie Lu:

“Everyone has a different way of escaping the dark stillness of their mind.”

This is the Sci-fi book I’ve been waiting for since finishing the Lunar Chronicles series by Melissa Meyer last year and is a better version of Ready, Player One, in my opinion.

Warcross follows hacker and bounty hunter Emika Chen, who is struggling to make ends meet since her Father’s death. Desperate to make some quick cash, Emika hacks in to the famous virtual reality game, Warcross, during it’s very publicised International Championship. A glitch in the game means she gets caught, but instead of being thrown in jail, she is whisked away to Tokyo by the game’s designer, Hideo Tanaka, to help him solve a problem that could not just affect the game.. but the world.

I was hooked from the first page as someone who is interested in gaming, but the characters and plot kept me reading this title until I was finished in a few days. The characters are all very diverse: Emika is Chinese-American, Hideo is Japanese, one of the team captains is in a wheelchair and two other characters are gay, there is also many characters popping up who are from all over the world.

I really don’t have many faults with this book as I know there is a sequel out, so a lot of the not answered questions will pop up then and any faults should be flattened out.

Pick up this book if you are interested in gaming, sci-fi or like to read fun and thrilling reads.

★★★★☆

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Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu:

“You keep solving one problem after another until you change the world.”

Carrying on from the the last book (Warcross), having survived the Championships, Emika is back and she knows the secret behind Hideo’s NeuroLink algorithm. Torn between the betrayal from Hideo, her love for him and saving Tokyo and her friends, Emika teams up with Zero and his gang called The Blackcoats to put an end to the NeuroLink’s plan for the world. As Emika gets to know Zero and the Blackcoats, she realises all is not what it seems.

I was so so so excited to read Wildcard, I finished Warcross back in December and promised myself not to read the sequel until after I received my Kindle for Christmas. Silly move, as I couldn’t remember some plot points from Warcross while reading Wildcard, it seems to me that Warcross wasn’t as good as I hyped it up to be originally, this made Wildcard pretty underwhelming.

Everything that made Warcross special (the Championships, the relationship between Emika and Hideo, the different warcross teams) was missing, leaving a pretty bland book. The one redeeming factor was what we learnt about Zero and his ties to warcross, Zero was the one fleshed out character in the whole novel, his backstory was tragic and you couldn’t hate him as his motives weren’t his fault. I hate to say it, but Emika wasn’t that memorable in this book, she was completely overshadowed by Jax, Taylor and Zero. Hideo became a character that I really didn’t care for either, he could have had a really fleshed out personality but he come off super bland, I felt that the author pushed his past on to us to make the readers like him, but it did the opposite for me.

It’s not all bad though! Marie Lu sets up the Warcross and Wildcard world fabulously, her characters might sometimes be bland, but her world building definitely isn’t. I’ve never been to Tokyo, but I could see the lit-up streets of the city in my mind perfectly, every place the characters visited, every detail that was described is perfectly sketched in my brain.

Maybe if there was more Warcross Tournaments in this second instalment it would have been more interesting and giving more ways for us to see all the main characters more. I’m giving Wildcard 3 out of 5 stars, the world building was amazing and I felt fully immersed in the story, but some of the characters were a let down for me.

★★★☆☆

 

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Whisper Me This By Kerry Anne King:

“It’s funny how life spins, how we go on for long stretches of time and nothing changes, and then all at once, in a single moment, everything is altered.”

Whisper Me This follows the story of Maisey Addington, a women drifting through life as a single mother to 12 year old Elle. After a phone call informing Maisey that her mother is in a coma and her father is being blamed for abuse and neglect, she rushes back to her childhood home to find her father confused and all the family records destroyed. Determined to find out what happened in the lead up to her mother’s coma, Maisey uncovers years of unspoken secrets regarding her mother’s past and a sister she never knew she had.

This novel was a great read, it was an easy story to read and kept me guessing at every turn. The author split the narrative between Maisey, Tony (a paramedic/firefighter that helped Maisey and her father) and Maisey’s mother Leah, through journal entries. This was a great technique as I couldn’t wait to read the next journal entry for Leah as her past is so haunting and sad.

Although Maisey was very flittery and somewhat child-like in the way she acts, which could be off putting for some readers, it’s best to stick with the book as it is made clear around 50% of the way through why she acts like this. Towards the end of the novel she really comes in to herself, she turns in to a brave, caring mother and woman who stands up for herself and her family. Elle was a breath of fresh air, wise beyond her years, but has her head screwed on right, even amongst all the family drama. Tony somewhat bored me, his back story was very interesting but I wanted to know more. Through 95% of the book he is dealing with some trauma from his past, but we rarely get to see past that, it would have been great to see Tony from a different angle than just the caring, damaged family man. Leah was probably the most interesting character as you are introduced to her as an over-baring, control freak who was constantly underwhelmed by her adrift daughter.. but once her real story comes out, she is so much more than that. Greg, Maisey’s ex and Elle’s father, was introduced as a bit of an asswipe, but was soon graduating to complete douchebag status. His character wasn’t in this book to be liked, but he was well written and unfortunately is a true representation of some men and how they treat their partners and children.

Whisper Me This gets a big thumbs up from me as it showcases how women can band together to overcome any problem standing in their way. It showcases a real portrayal of domestic violence, abuse and childhood trauma which is often glazed over in other similar novels. It’s not always easy to read, as some of the scenes are quite graphic, but through all the pain, the author gave us a book that showcased redemption and love too.

★★★★☆

 

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The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas:

“People you’d once die for take appalling paths. It’s not that they become unrecognisable. They become more like themselves. Personality quirks grow more pronounced, and so do values, until you wonder how you ever ignored the differences between you.”

Before I even start with the review I just want to add that the author, Kate Mascarenhas, is a complete genius. Not only did she create a murder mystery that kept me guessing, but she created a story around a concept that hasn’t even been fully understood yet -Time Travel.

The story starts in 1967 where four female scientists build the first Time Machine, unfortunately just before their media debut, one of the scientists suffers a breakdown and is kicked out of the project and the lives of the three other scientists. The narrative then shifts onto the focus of Ruby Rebello and her Granny Bee 50 years after the original events of in 1967. Time Travel is huge and everyone is fascinated with the company that runs the operation, The Conclave. They receive a snippet from the future reporting the murder of an unidentified women which Ruby assumes is a warning that the women is Granny Bee.. but is all what it seems? Another main narrator is Odette a year after the events of Ruby and Bee’s timeline, who discovers an unidentified body murdered in the museum that she works at. Obsessed with finding out what happened that day, Odette immerses herself in to the one place that can solve the murder – the Conclave.

This book blew my mind away as multiple different timelines of the story exist at the same time, therefore multiple different aged versions of the same characters would pop up at the same time too. Although, there were so many characters that sometimes I forgot who they were when they appeared again later in the book, also remembering every action of each aged version of each character was a tad complicated, I had to really concentrate to keep up sometimes. The story was initially a bit confusing as there wasn’t a lot of context to what is going on, however you should stick by it as the story really does come into itself very quickly.

For anyone worried that you wouldn’t be able to keep up with the story, the date of each timeline and whose POV the chapter was from was presented at the beginning of each chapter, which helped a tonne. The author cast a very unique look on an old age question, ‘how would time travel effect our minds?’, which she answered by showcasing how time travel touched each character, whether they were older travellers who have never spent more than a few days in one timeline or those that only time travelled once. The politics of The Conclave was one of the most mysterious concepts in the book, the fact that one scientific discovery turned into it’s own governing body in modern day society was really well thought out.

This book was such a breath of fresh air, it was clever and well planned out, and I have to applaud the author for the brilliant job she did. Not only did she use a very complicated subject matter but she made it somewhat easy for us non-scientific muggles to understand. Kate Mascarenhas created a complex original and thrilling web of a story and I’m glad this book was advertised to me, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of this brilliant read.

★★★★☆

 

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Friend Request by Laura Marshall:

“Perhaps it’s simply not possible to truly know another person. When it comes down to it, we’re all alone. Sometimes we don’t even know ourselves.”

It’s 2016 and Louise Williams is living a normal life with her 6 year old son in London, until a friend request changes her life forever. The friend request is from a girl called Maria who went to the same school as Louise, that something tragic happened to, but she’s dead.. isn’t she?

The story alternates between 2016 and 1989, modern day and from when Louise was in Secondary School. In 1989, Maria transfers to Louise’s Norfolk school after rumoured bad events from her old school. Louise and Maria are drawn to each other’s friendship, however Louise’s current, popular friends aren’t having that. Threatened with being alone and an outcasted by her ‘friends’, Louise turns her back on Maria, which causes devastating results. In 2016 Louise and her school friends managed to keep the lead up to Maria’s death a secret, however after Louise accepts her friend request, she receives threatening messages from Maria, or whoever is pretending to be her. Determined to keep her school antics in the past, Louise rushes to unravel the mystery behind her life, her old school friends and what really happened to Maria.

I read through this book in a matter of days, I could have easily read it in one sitting if I didn’t have to work, I was absorbed in to the story from the first page. The greatest thing about this story is that the author made each character very life like, none of them were perfect, they have all made terrible mistakes in the past – some more than others. The ending actually shocked me, it un-nerved me and made me question the people in my life, I really didn’t expect it.

This novel really showcases how you can never truly know someone 100%. Someone who you admire on Facebook could turn out to be faking their whole life, and those who you thought you were closest to could turn out to be something their not. The big lesson in this book is how the past has a funny way of coming back to you haunt you. Haunting, thrilling and very current – this novel deals with many topics that everyone, at some point in their life, has experienced.

★★★★☆

 

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Sadie by Courtney Summers:

“But love is complicated, it’s messy. It can inspire selflessness, selfishness, our greatest accomplishments and our hardest mistakes. It brings us together and it can just as easily drive us apart.”

What a sad and heartbreaking novel –ugly cries-.

This story follows 19 year old Sadie as she travels from town to town to hunt down the man that killed her sister Mattie. While Sadie is away finding Mattie, a journalist for a podcast, West McCray is picking up the clues Sadie left behind and tries to unravel what happened to the girls.

The two perspectives were done so well, with each narrative tying up the each other. Sadie’s account of her journey was through first person perspective, but West McCray’s was written like a script through his podcast. Through West we find out what life was like for Sadie growing up, with an absent father and an addict mother, Sadie’s one true happiness was her sister, Mattie. Their mother, Claire, was rarely around and when she was, she was always bringing home different men – some of whom changed the girls’ lives for the worst.

For a YA novel, the themes of this book are very dark, with sexual abuse, paedophilia and murder being some of the darkest. The book ends on a bit of a cliffhanger and I would have loved to know what happened next, but this fits in with the harsh narrative of the story so I see why it ended the way it did.

I hadn’t heard about the author Courtney Summers before this title, but I will definitely be checking out more of her work in the future!

★★★★☆

 

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Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers:

“It hurts being on the outside of something so honest. I want it, but I don’t know how I can have it when I’m so angry, and I feel so far from finished.”

Courtney Summers is fast becoming one of my favourite authors, she doesn’t necessary write about nice characters but you still feel compelled to empathise with them.

Regina was part of the Fearsome Fivesome, a clique of girls who stepped on everyone below them to be part of the ‘in crowd’. Known for their love of torturing others, the fivesome were feared by all in the school. Regina was second in command to best friend Anna, until vicious rumours about her and Anna’s boyfriend start going around. Frozen out from the Fivesome, Regina finds solace in loner Michael, as she tries to make amends for her past and the bullying she had a hand in. As the end of senior year gets ever closer, the now Fearsome Foursome’s abuse against Regina gets worse and worse, threatening the new start that Regina is trying to make for herself and her and Michael’s budding friendship.

This book was described as similar to the film Mean Girls, but it’s honestly so much more than that. It shows toxic feminism at it’s best, how young women can turn on each other at a drop of a hat without any real motive. How bullying is rife within our society and how our actions can have devastating effects on those around us.

I usually loathe people like Regina, those who sit back and watch injustice happen just because it makes their life easier. She’s a flawed character, but that is what makes the book so real. All the characters in this novel are so very flawed and can be awful people, but it shows that everyone has a reason for the way they act but that it still doesn’t make it right.

Watch out for more Courtney Summers reviews, there is going to be a hell of a lot more!

★★★★☆

 

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Born a Crime by Trevor Noah:

“Learn from your past and be better because of your past,” she would say, “but don’t cry about your past. Life is full of pain. Let the pain sharpen you, but don’t hold on to it. Don’t be bitter.”

I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about the Apartheid in South Africa, I was born a few years after it was terminated and we didn’t ever learn about it in school. I’ve watched a few Reggie Yates’s documentaries about how bad racism still is in South Africa, but reading this novel really shows still how segregated the country is.

Born a Crime follows the life of Trevor Noah, a young man who was born to a black Xhosa mother and a White Swiss father during the Apartheid. He was the result of a relationship that could have been punishable, therefore having to be hidden during his first few years of childhood. After the Apartheid ended, Trevor and his strong-willed, religious mother threw themselves in to living in the open and away from judgement, making a life for themselves that they always hoped for.

The novel consists of personal essays, not always written in chronological order but each story flowed effortlessly in to the next. Noah covered everything from high school politics, how young men made money in South Africa and family drama, to growing up with an alcoholic and abusive step-dad, racism, religion and love.

Reading Born A Crime was a compelling and often very funny read. Trevor Noah has a way with words, very poetic, yet very humorous as the same time. A must read for anyone interested in history or just up for a giggle.

★★★★★

Other books read but not reviewed:

  • A Court of Wings & Ruin and A Court of Frost & Starlight by Sarah J. Maas – Please read their reviews here
  • Saga Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schwab
  • Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
  • All The Rage by Courtney Summers
  • The Perfect Child by Lucinda Berry

Goodreads 2019 Reading Challenge read so far: 14

Thank you so much for stopping by, catch’ya next month!

xox

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