Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

IMG_4769“There are monsters in the sea.”

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk feels most at home in the online world, specifically in the fandom of the popular webcomic she created, Monstrous Sea. The story is massively popular and has gained a following of millions; people that eagerly await the weekly publishing of new pages and chapters in the saga. When a new student at school turns out to be a Monstrous Sea fan, it leads to friendship that slowly takes Eliza more into the outside world and challenges her in new ways. But when her identity as the webcomic creator is revealed, her reality is turned upside down and affects her in a deep way.

“There is a small monster in my brain that controls my doubt.
The doubt itself is a stupid thing, without sense or feeling, blind and straining at the end of a long chain. The monster, though, is smart. It’s always watching, and when I am completely sure of myself, it unchains the doubt and lets it run wild. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t stop it.”

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Eliza and Her Monsters is a wonderfully compelling novel that charms while dealing with some important issues. Many moments made me smile and Eliza is an endearing protagonist who is very relatable, from her relationships with those around her to her escape into the online world. Her struggle with anxiety is portrayed in a realistic and easy to understand way, particularly when it comes to the pressures of creating and the expectations that come with online success. Eliza and Her Monsters had me eagerly turning the pages, which included screenshots and graphics from Eliza’s Monstrous Sea. A thoughtful and highly enjoyable novel.

Follow Me Back by A.V. Geiger

BLOGEric Thorn (@EricThorn) followed you”

Follow Me Back is a young adult mystery novel that tells the story of a girl struggling with agoraphobia, a famous pop star, and a connection that develops over Twitter. Tessa’s agoraphobia has confined her to her room, the one place she truly feels safe. She finds escape and solace in the fandom of pop star, Eric Thorn, and has developed a sizeable following on Twitter (@TessaHeartsEric), which she has dedicated to her love of the singer. Eric Thorn feels trapped by his fame and general lack of freedom, especially after the murder of a fellow pop star by a crazed fan, he is frustrated with the intense online fan world. His impulsive decision to troll Tessa’s Twitter account one evening leads to an unexpected connection of mutual understanding. However, their plan to finally meet in person takes a dangerous turn with a night neither expected.

This was an addictive little read. The book takes turns telling the story from Tessa and Eric’s perspectives, and interspersed throughout are police transcripts of the night in question, along with tweets and direct messages. All of this builds the suspense as to what happened and works well with the overall story. I did find that at times the timeline jumped forward too much, and with those jumps we miss what would have been great opportunities to really develop and relay the connection between Tessa and Eric. Also, the introduction of a particular character about sixty percent into the novel was a bit of a head-scratcher. With that said, this is one enjoyable, suspenseful, and fun read. It looks like Follow Me Back will be a part of a two book series, and with that ending I am hooked and ready for the next one.

*ARC provided by NetGalley. Publication date: June 6, 2017.

Hunted by Meagan Spooner

BLOG“We remember a time of such clarity. We were Beast, we ran with wolves and hunted prey, we lived on the wind and breathed the forest. We wanted nothing but to be, to run, to endure. Want didn’t exist.

And we remember another time, too, a time of longing and desire, where we existed as nothing but want… always the next unattainable thing. There was no joy in what we had, only in what might come.”

Yeva has always felt most at home in the forest, and most at peace while hunting with her father. But as she gets older, the expectations to be a lady of high society and to marry a wealthy gentleman have led to days of polite chatter with baronessas and taken her away from the solitude she cherishes. When her father loses his fortune and she and her sisters have to move to a cabin on the outskirts of the forest, Yeva is secretly glad. Relieved to be back in the environment of the forest, with all its mysterious and unspoken magic. But this new way of life may have cost Yeva’s father his sanity, and when he disappears she sets out to find him and hunt down the creature that her father had become obsessed with tracking.

“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

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Hunted is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. I love a good retelling and Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favourite story for this. This take on the well known story is wonderfully done and I ended up happily spending the day completely engrossed in the adventure. There is depth and nuance to the characters that made me care about their situation and their fate in what was to come. The relationship between Yeva and her sisters is quite touching and was one of my favourite parts of the novel, along with the way the author perfectly encapsulated very complex emotions. With memorable characters and compelling writing, Hunted is a wonderful escape into a new take on a tale as old as time.

“The song wanted. It wanted in the way Yeva had always wanted, wanted not so much a thing as everything, something beyond naming, something more than, different, deeper.”

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

IMG_4416“How can I expect people to empathise with a sickness they can’t see?”

“You don’t expect anything. You talk, you teach.”

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is the story of Norah, a teenage girl who suffers from agoraphobia, anxiety, OCD, and depression. All of this came about when Norah was thirteen and she has been homeschooled ever since, only leaving her home for weekly therapy sessions, which causes a great deal of anxiety for her. It is all very difficult to deal with and something she has to face on a daily basis. However she is not alone, and has the support of her mother who is there for her through everything. When a new family moves in next door she has a few interactions with Luke, and they slowly develop a friendship. Now Norah is dealing with a whole new set of feelings, and questioning whether she will ever be able to let someone in and experience a regular relationship.

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“See, anxiety doesn’t just stop. You can have nice moments, minutes where it shrinks, but it doesn’t leave. It lurks in the background like a shadow, like that important assignment you have to do but keep putting off or the dull ache that follows a three-day migraine. The best you can hope for is to contain it, make it as small as possible so it stops being intrusive. Am I coping? Yes, but it’s taking a monumental amount of effort to keep the dynamite inside my stomach from exploding.”

There are many aspects of this novel that work really well, but there are a few that did not particularly click for me, which left me with some mixed feelings after reading it. Norah’s story is based on the author’s own experiences and struggles, which she does a stellar job of portraying and bringing across. I have a great deal of respect for her story, and sharing it in this way can undoubtedly reach and potentially help a lot of people to not feel alone in their own struggles. Norah’s feelings and frustrations are described and related in an effective way, and you can’t help but feel and understand those frustrations and limitations.

As I was reading, I did get the sense that the story had no clear direction and was unsure of where it was going. It’s not something I would have particularly minded, because I did very much like the characters and was happy to just go along with whatever their journey ended up being. However, the story itself goes in a rather strange direction and one that begins to feel like a different kind of book altogether, all of which leads to an abrupt ending. For me, the story as a whole doesn’t really come together, but as I said there is a lot that does work, the main one being the mother-daughter relationship, which was the highlight of the novel. Not the best novel of this genre, however it is one that is definitely worth reading.

“Sometimes things are going to happen and the only way out is through.”

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

IMG_4357“Inside a dream.
Within a lost city.
In the shadow of an angel.
At the brink of calamity.”

Lazlo Strange has spent most of his life dreaming of the lost city of Weep; a city that has turned into myth. As the years pass, his dream of finding the city that has become an obsession, gradually begins to feel like an impossibility. He is no one of importance after all, but a junior librarian and orphan who found his home among books. One day, a man known as the Godslayer and a group of legendary warriors provide a once in a lifetime opportunity, one that will answer all of Lazlo’s questions and uncover a long lost mystery.

Strange the Dreamer is a wonderfully crafted, page-turning read. From the opening paragraph to the very last sentence, the beautiful writing is downright captivating, as the story and characters are brought to life. There is a dreamy quality to Laini Taylor’s storytelling that transports the reader to the fantastical world she has created. The characters are interesting, each consisting of great depth and complexity, which brings up thought-provoking issues of morality and justice. It also explores complex emotions given the circumstances and situations the characters have encountered.

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“And that’s how you go on. You lay laughter over the dark parts. The more dark parts, the more you have to laugh. With defiance, with abandon, with hysteria, any way you can.”

“So they layered cynicism atop their longing, and it was something like layering laughter over the darkness — self-preservation of an uglier stripe. And thus did they harden themselves, by choosing to meet hate with hate.”

There are a number of layers to this novel, all of which work wonderfully: the story of Lazlo’s life growing up, the mystery surrounding the mythical city of Weep, the story of gods and goddesses, the intriguing characters, the magic, and of course the dreams of a dreamer. This is the first book in what is to be a duology, with the second book expected to be released in 2018. Now I wait. 🙂

“It was impossible, of course. But when did that ever stop any dreamer from dreaming?”

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful by Eric Lindstrom

BLOG“I can’t let anyone know what really happened, or what’s wrong with me. I can’t bear the thought of how they’d look at me, and treat me, if they knew how many pills I take every morning just to act more or less like everybody else.”

A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a YA novel that tackles the important and complicated issue of mental illness. It is something many people live with and deal with on a daily basis, but do so in secret due to the fear of the stigma that may come along with it. Sixteen year-old Mel struggles with bipolar disorder and has hidden this part of her life from almost everyone in her life, apart from her parents, aunt and an old friend of her grandmother’s. She keeps her friends at a distance, not letting them see the real Mel or know about a tragedy from her past that impacted her in a significant way. It is a difficult way to live and has led to an end of a friendship with a group of close friends, and while Mel develops new friendships there is a lot left to be resolved with those who were an important part of her life. When she meets a boy who she might be interested in a relationship with, the struggle between distancing herself and wanting to let someone in brings up many emotions she must come to terms with.

This is a beautiful and heartbreaking novel. It portrays life with bipolar disorder in a real way, allowing the reader to see and feel everything through Mel’s perspective. We get a thorough understanding of her struggles, thoughts, feelings, and desires. I particularly liked the way her relationships with those around her are described and portrayed, which gives an excellent look into the complexity of emotion and the constant instinct to protect oneself. A Tragic Kind of Wonderful is a wonderful novel that takes on an important topic and does so really well. I highly recommend this one.

*ARC provided by NetGalley for an unbiased review.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

img_3682“People spend their whole lives looking for love. Poems and songs and entire novels are written about it. But how can you trust something that can end as suddenly as it begins?”

A charming novel that tells the story of Natasha and Daniel, how they meet, and the power of fate. Natasha is not one to believe in destiny and places her beliefs in science and facts. On what is set to be her last day in the US before her family is deported to Jamaica, all she can think about is finding a way to prevent that from happening. What she doesn’t plan on is meeting and falling for a boy. Daniel, on the other hand, is a dreamer and a romantic who is carrying the weight of his parents’ expectations on his shoulders. On this particular day, the universe leads him to Natasha. Through the perspective of both Natasha and Daniel, along with a few characters introduced along the way, we learn about everything that fell into place for them to meet, and follow their day as they get to know and learn about each other.

“There’s a Japanese phrase that I like: koi no yokan. It doesn’t mean love at first sight. It’s closer to love at second sight. It’s the feeling when you meet someone that you’re going to fall in love with them. Maybe you don’t love them right away, but it’s inevitable that you will.”

This one will speak to all the romantics. It does a wonderful job of presenting the various perspectives throughout and taking the reader on Natasha and Daniel’s journey. I came to really care about these characters and found myself eagerly turning the pages to see where the story would go and what their fate would be. There is an elegance and beauty to Nicola Yoon’s writing, which provides numerous lovely passages and sentences. She not only beautifully conveys the feelings associated with new love, but also with the immigrant experience through both Natasha and Daniel. A truly standout novel, which has made Nicola Yoon a must-read author for me.

“Maybe part of falling in love with someone else is also falling in love with yourself.”