Review: The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

The Afterlife of Holly ChaseThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

ARC kindly provided by HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Review

‘The Afterlife of Holly Chase’ was a surprisingly interesting read the further I read. It was one of those novels that grows on you… Slowly, surely, with steady sneakiness. Perhaps what surprised me was that this novel had everything to do with my previous English studies into Charles Dickens. Cynthia Hand crafted a beautiful novel adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novel ‘A Christmas Carol’. Every character within had some aspects of a character within the classic novel, but more importantly it was integrated seamlessly. Even though it was a bildungsroman, I never felt as though I hated Holly and that is perhaps most important for me as a reader. (All those literary theories which involve the writer creating a character whom the reader may/will definitely dislike in order to create authenticity or some in depth psychological analysis can stop talking. I am simple reader: I must like my characters to engage. At least ONE of them. That’s all I ask.) She was perhaps the most dry and ordinary at the beginning and I will honestly confess that one of the reasons I kept reading was because:
1. I wanted to see what would happen of the romance that was constantly alluded to between Holly and one other character that shall not be named.
2. I felt a novel adaptation of Charles Dickens targeted towards a young-adult audience was overdue, especially of ‘A Christmas Carol’. And even though I semi-disliked Dickens’ other novel ‘Great Expectations’, I wanted an adaptation to change my mind about his other texts.
3. I could criticize the effectiveness of the adaptation since I already knew the context provided by the constant intertextuality between the two novels.
*Clears throat* so here is what I found:
• Character development was AMAZING! (Imagine me singing this part opera style.) There were so many nuances to Holly and the myriad of secondary characters. Ethan was an absolute gem. Seriously felt like I fell in love with him alongside Holly. 😉 Holly was intriguing as soon as the plot really got going and I always felt like I wanted to keep reading after that. I wanted her to be happy and definitely became overly invested in her by the end. Yes, when that ending came, my eyes leaked water and my nose needed a tissue. Oh and when that REAL ending came… My heart could not withstand it. I was in love with the novel.
• In terms of plot, I enjoyed the way it both explored the poor attitude and character many of us explore towards the end of the year, especially during Christmas, yet engaged a contemporary audience. It gave those bursts of humour, romance, tension, love, grief, emotional attachment and underlying meaning which captures a critical audience that is adolescents.
• I think that unfinished ending was incredibly evil of the writer. I’ve read Cynthia Hand before, and her ‘Unearthly’ series was MAGNIFICENT. Those evil endings seem to be a writer’s habit of hers and I definitely love-hate them. And don’t even get me started on the age difference that emerges towards the ending of the novel! I was infuriated! Our Holly could be a cougar if she started any shenanigans! Readers, do not be afraid…read the novel before you get any…assumptions.
• I loved the main message of family and love. It seems like in today’s society where families fall apart faster than ever, this is an incredibly relevant message. But it’s not one that lectures you. Rather it’s like a small treasure the reader rediscovers on their own.
Congratulations to Cynthia Hand on the publication of a wonderful new novel! I hope to read more wonderful from her!

Rating Plan
1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking.
2 star : Didn’t like it, didn’t find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me.
3 star : An average book. Wasn’t bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea.
4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting.
5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!

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Review: Zenith (The Androma Saga, #1) by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Zenith (The Androma Saga, #1)Zenith by Sasha Alsberg

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ARC kindly provided by HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Review

‘Zenith’ is the first novel in a wonderful new series co-authored by Sasha Alsberg – widely renown in the book and literary world for her enthusiastic book-vlogs on YouTube. I was VERY eager to get my greedy hands on this novel mainly to see how well the book was written – and yes, to criticize her writing. I honestly admit I had evil intentions.
‘Zenith’, upon reading the blurb, actually didn’t seem as interesting as it was advertised very publicly to be. There was a lot of hubbub about this new sensation coming out, and truthfully – like many other people – one that I had many doubts about. It was as if ‘Zenith’ was the culmination of all aspiring book bloggers and vloggers – the creation of their minds! It was like a fantasy come true saying – publishing after being a book blogger is possible!
Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the execution of this lovely piece of fantasy…
1. The beginning didn’t really capture my attention. In fact, it read almost like a big recount of the beginning of the story… It really did feel like an introduction… Like a very disappointing one. I was sooooo let down! It was literally me like the metaphorical dog whose owner is cruel and pretends to throws a stick, mocking the pet. That was how I felt. I felt like every line was a hook – or a pretend hook in this case – and I was being deceived into believing the book would get better with this line…or this sentence…maybe this paragraph…. Okay, maybe the next chapter. But that never came. Biggest weeping face in the world. Cries uncontrollably. Rolls around on the ground with drama.
2. The plot felt like it was not reaching its potential levels. Like the authors kept missing out on the best move forward or the event which would skyrocket my opinion of its craftsmanship. It felt also a little stereotypical and rather unoriginal. The spaceship battles and the obstacles did not do anything new that other novels hadn’t already done. In fact, its execution lacked the finesse of other novels with similar concepts.
3. The ideas explored in this text weren’t fresh or viewed from a different perspective. My ARC copy of the novel features an all-girl crew slogan at the front of the cover and that this space crew were going to take the world by storm. Alright then? I was already having doubts as soon as I read it. It’s like being told a product is all this and that but being unable to truly know whether it is because you need to use it. Frankly, I didn’t feel like the book explored anything different about female empowerment that other novels already didn’t. There wasn’t even much to say about the way they explored it. I felt like the authors just chucked in female characters for the sake of it and attempted to use as many female characters as possible in order to give their novel the “sheen” of value.
4. Character development was also poor. I didn’t feel like any of these characters were fully developed and that the main character especially lacked clarity as a persona. She didn’t have that authenticity to her which would have made her a superb character. Her actions would go against what she was portrayed as – and not in a good way. She was supposed to be this badass, wounded and fragile character who displayed resilience and survival similar to that of Sarah J. Maas’ Celaena Sardothien. But then she would be exceptionally weak and poor character the next. I often asked myself whether it was that two different authors were working on the text – perhaps this was why the book seemed to be pulled in two different directions at times.
All in all, a solid three star. I was sorely disappointed. I was so ready to award ‘Zenith’ more than that. Congratulations to Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings on their first joint novel!

Rating Plan
1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking.
2 star : Didn’t like it, didn’t find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me.
3 star : An average book. Wasn’t bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea.
4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting.
5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!

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Review: Editing Emma by Chloe Seager

Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper PersonEditing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person by Chloe Seager

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

ARC kindly provided by HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Review

‘Editing Emma’ describes itself as “The secret blog of a NEARLY proper person”. I can definitely see why. This was perhaps one of the weirdest, strangest novels I’ve read because of the silly and unfortunate character who narrates the entire thing. I always enjoy book which are written in a different form, such as a series of blog posts which act also as a sort of diary, however, I’m not sure I’ll ever want to pick up a diary novel ever again. I feel like diary novels are the type to either make it…or fail it. In this case, the novel failed at it…miserably.
Like the main character, I’ve made a list of why this novel didn’t quite make the list:
1. The main character was the archetypical heart broken, girly-girl who got her heart broken by some popular and hot boy. As per the usual, she proceeds to grieve over her loss – or her shattered heart, which is wayyyy to hyperbolic for me – and isolates herself from society for a good few months in order to recuperate. Oh dear. Can anyone sense the drama already? Well, she is messy and she is unclean – apparently she also smells, too! Oh, yes. Because she couldn’t be bothered to take a shower – this Emma person must have really neglected her personal hygiene to the point where her best friends started insisting on having her shower first, then receive her smelly hugs!
2. The supporting characters were nothing special either. Seriously, it was like I was constantly bombarded by very very very boring characters who were just so mediocre. Her best friends were literally pieces in this huge puzzle which made absolutely no sense. There was one purpose to them, and one purpose only – they would make the novel more “diverse”. So yes, there were lesbian friends, sexually free friends, African-American friends: It literally felt like the author just stuffed them in so her novel could and would be promoted to a wider audience. I really dislike having characters put in simply for the sake of them. If you are trying to make this novel “diverse” then at least make realistic characters.
3. TL;DR: the characters were under-developed.
4. This will be perhaps one of the most graphic novels in terms of explaining how the human body works. There were times when I absolutely cringed at the lack of censoring: for example, when Emma is peeing or when she describes every singly moment of her showdown when she is on her period and she sits on the toilet – again. One thing you will know is that Emma really has a thing for toilets. Really.
5. The plot and story itself were boring. I had to force myself to read and finish this novel. It was like every other young adult novel which has stolen the plot of yet another sappy romantic comedy slash depressing and teenage young adult novel. There wasn’t much movement and when it did happen it literally lasted like half a page. And then it would spiral down its slow slow slow black hole of boredom until you would actually fall asleep. I’m dead serious. I had to put the novel down and take a 30 minute nap because my eyes got tired from staring at the pages.
6. Jesus, do NOT get me started on the end. What end, I should hear you ask? Absolutely garbage end. It like I was led on this whole “inspiring” journey towards something that actually NEVER happened and then the whole thing decided to give off the appearance that the author has cut you off mid way to the ACTUAL story what was supposed to have happened.
I’m puffed at criticizing this novel.
Congratulations to Chloe Seager on her debut novel!

Rating Plan
1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking.
2 star : Didn’t like it, didn’t find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me.
3 star : An average book. Wasn’t bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea.
4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting.
5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!

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Review: Ache by Eliza Henry Jones

AcheAche by Eliza Henry-Jones
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

ARC kindly provided by HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Review

‘Ache’ by Eliza Henry Jones was a harrowing novel following a truly Australian protagonist which had me moody and tearing up soon after I had finished it. I would recommend it to all who are in the mood for a tear-jerker and for those who like to delve deep into traumatic pasts, childhood, relationships, and the human psyche.
I was very wary of picking this novel up as it goes completely against the normal genre that I pick up, i.e. romances, sci-fi, fantasy and general just really, really happy and uplifting novels. I go by the motto: why choose to enjoy a depressing novel which will leave you groveling on the floor as you pick your shattered soul back up when you can read a happy, uplifting novel which makes your day brighter. This novel was everything that I expected it to be: sad, depressing, even more sad, followed by even more depressing, trauma, psychological stuff, havoc, families, children, grief, Australia, lost love, heartache, and just plain old love.
The novel did pick up on some interesting aspects and raised questions on the experiences of those who have lived through hard times/events. I was surprised by some of the thoughts the main character had, especially those into her past and the future she decided to lead. I was also intrigued by the query into heroism and what it means to be a hero which encompassed the entire plot of the novel. Perhaps heroes are people who have been pushed by their surrounding circumstances to the extreme and chose to act – even live – despite the odds…albeit are left with scars and wounds not only physical but emotional as well. These so called ‘heroes’ are also extremely subjective and are not heroic to some people. They are in fact, villains in their eyes.
The characters were incredibly deep and thoughtfully constructed…however not to my taste. They are people, yet people who seemed too archetypical in some instances. They were normal Australians torn apart by the environment around them, their families and their personal flaws. I just could not fall in love with any of them. The protagonist, Annie, had nothing that I could say I loved or liked. I admired her strength and the ultimate resolution she found…but she just didn’t do it for me as a character. She barely leaped out of the page for me.
The plot itself was incredibly slow at times, and then lost momentum entirely at others. It was almost like reading a diary where every day just gets more bland and slow and even boring at others.
And the state in which I was left when I finally finished the novel… Let us just say there was a lot of tissues and music therapy involved. Maybe it’s my sensitivity, but I will never ever venture near this book again… For my peace and health of mind.
Congratulations to Eliza Henry Jones on the publication of her new novel, ‘Ache’!

Rating Plan
1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking.
2 star : Didn’t like it, didn’t find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me.
3 star : An average book. Wasn’t bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea.
4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting.
5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!

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Tunes: Sit Still, Look Pretty – Daya

Tunes is a weekly Tuesday post on TwinReads featuring my favourite/most-listened-to track on Spotify.

If you enjoyed this week’s track then give it a like! I’m always open to song suggestions so leave a comment. 😉

Tunes: Say You Won’t Let Go – James Arthur

Tunes is a weekly Tuesday post on TwinReads featuring my favourite/most-listened-to track on Spotify.

If you enjoyed this week’s track then give it a like! I’m always open to song suggestions so leave a comment. 😉

Tunes: Treat You Better – Shawn Mendes

Tunes is a weekly Tuesday post on TwinReads featuring my favourite/most-listened-to track on Spotify.

If you enjoyed this week’s track then give it a like! I’m always open to song suggestions so leave a comment. 😉

Tunes: This Is What You Came For – Calvin Harris ft. Rihanna

Tunes is a weekly Tuesday post on TwinReads featuring my favourite/most-listened-to track on Spotify.

If you enjoyed this week’s track then give it a like! I’m always open to song suggestions so leave a comment. 😉

Tunes: Dancing On My Own – Calum Scott

Tunes is a weekly Tuesday post on TwinReads featuring my favourite/most-listened-to track on Spotify.

If you enjoyed this week’s track then give it a like! I’m always open to song suggestions so leave a comment. 😉

Review: The Shadow Cipher (York, #1) by Laura Ruby

The Shadow Cipher (York, #1)The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ARC kindly provided by HarperCollins Australia in exchange for an honest review.

Review

‘The Shadow Cipher’ was a wonderfully written novel which I thought had great potential but seemed to lack just a little bit of something which would really give it that “umph” and rocket the 4 star rating to 5.
The initial opening of the novel was just FANTASTIC. We had a strong female character who really knew how to defend herself against anything and everything. She seemed smart, witty, tough, resilient, intelligent, beautiful and simply amazing. Everything you could ever wish from a protagonist. In one word: Femme Fatale. And she was just mesmerizingly mysterious. I love enigmatic characters simply because there is SO much to find out about them. They keep the plot going and the reader – me – hooked. Alas, this character was NOT who this novel was meant to follow the perspective of. A great tragedy in my opinion, since she would have made even the pickiest reader interested.
The rest of the characters themselves were slightly lacking. They were just your average, stereotypical, archetypical characters who were spiced up with different nationalities and the fact that the two lead characters were twins. Seriously, the use of twins to make a novel exciting is a little outdated and in need of reconsideration. If twins are REALLY what you need to convey the story to all of its glory, then twins are a great choice. However, the novel seemed to be riding a lot of its merit on the fact that there were twins. And I am a twin. Which obviously makes me love anything twinish.
The pace was well set, however the novel lost its interest around the middle part of the plot. All these characters seemed to be running around doing something and it was just not gripping enough. I wanted more action, more ingenuity. It seemed like our bright and brilliant children couldn’t seem to show that off as well as they ought to have. The rest of the characters were in need of something to make them more interesting. I have to admit, some were most decidedly BIZARE – like the angsty/raging/goth/scary little girl who rode around everywhere on a tricycle with a small, rodent like pet hybrid.
I loved the idea explored in the novel, and it seemed absolutely enchanting on reading the blurb. I love all novels that explore intellect, wisdom and genius however it takes a lot to execute one. The ending did make up for it, however I wanted something just a little bit bigger.
World-building was great. I loved this mix of Victorian-England and New York. Absolutely enchanting and would make me spend my entire days within it. Plus the automaton that filled the pages were enchanting – they made me want to take them apart, learn how to build them and put them back together again.
This would make an amazing read for ages 10-14.
Congratulations to Laura Ruby on publishing a promising start to a new series!

Rating Plan
1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking.
2 star : Didn’t like it, didn’t find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me.
3 star : An average book. Wasn’t bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea.
4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting.
5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!

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