Cinder (#1) by Marissa Meyer

Published: 5th January 2012 (print)/26 September 2017 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Puffin/Bolinda Audio
Pages: 387/10 hrs and 3 mins
Narrator:  Rebecca Soler
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult/Science Fiction
★   ★   ★  ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A forbidden romance.
A deadly plague.
Earth’s fate hinges on one girl . . .

CINDER, a gifted mechanic in New Beijing, is also a cyborg. She’s reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s sudden illness. But when her life becomes entwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she finds herself at the centre of a violent struggle between the desires of an evil queen – and a dangerous temptation.

Cinder is caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal. Now she must uncover secrets about her mysterious past in order to protect Earth’s future.

This is not the fairytale you remember. But it’s one you won’t forget.

I recently reread this book and it reminded me of all the things I loved about it. I loved that the Cinderella elements are there but it doesn’t follow the strict story either. Meyer inputs creativity and uniqueness into this age old tale and it shines because of it. The pumpkin carriage, the stepmother and the shoe are there but this is so much more than a fairytale telling. This is about cyborgs and colonies on the moon threatening war. The world Meyer has created is detailed and complicated but you fall seamlessly into this world and there was never a moment when I didn’t understand what was happening, why it was happening, or lost among the technical talk, the little that there is.

Set in the far future there are wonderful elements of our history present but a lot more new history to discover. Meyer doesn’t lump us with history lessons or attempt to provide long exposition chunks about what has happened in the world, instead she seamlessly weaves in=t through the entire novel, so that even as the final chapters close in we are still learning about this future world and those in it. At the same time though, not everything is explained, Meyer doesn’t need to give us every piece of detail and accepting this future and the developments is no issue at all as the focus remains on the brilliant story unfolding instead.

Cinder is a great character to focus on, her sarcasm, wit, and vulnerabilities make her relatable and ironically human given her cyborg components. There is detailed exploration of other characters such as the prince, Audrey her stepmother and other characters. The only one I felt left out was Pearl, I felt she was pushed aside as the obnoxious step-sister and not explored as well as the others but what is shown provides a component of her character at least.

The cliff-hanger Meyer leaves us with invites you to immediately jump into the next novel. So many revelations and unanswered questions but there is also a satisfaction because Meyer rewards us with an influx of answers and then pushes us on with more temptation and elements that feel finalised at the time but may not be that way.

If you love fairytale retellings, or love futuristic worlds where it’s not a dystopian wasteland then you should 100% read this series.

You can purchase Cinder via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Dymocks | WorderyAngus and Robinson

 Fishpond | Amazon | Amazon Aust | Audible

The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex by Gabrielle Williams

Published: 1st April 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
  Allen & Unwin
Pages: 247
Format: Book 
Genre:
 Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

A rock chick.

An artist with attitude.

A girl with a past.

A party animal.

Four lives collide when one of the world’s most famous paintings is stolen. It’s a mystery that has the nation talking, but while Picasso’s Weeping Woman might be absent from the walls of the National Gallery, in other parts of Melbourne the controversial painting’s presence is being felt by Guy, Rafi, Luke and Penny for four very different reasons.

Life, love, art and one giant party intersect in this offbeat comedy about good intentions, unexpected consequences and the irresistible force of true love. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this story. It was a great story already and Williams tells it in a way that engages you and intrigues you, especially with so many characters and their agendas to work around. It was a different story than the kind I had been reading and it definitely stood out.

Set in the 80s and based on true events, there is a great history woven into this narrative. It brings the story and characters to life as Williams puts us inside her character’s minds. I’m not sure whether it was because I knew this was based off true events, or whether Williams created such unique and fleshed out characters, but each of them felt real. We’re inside their heads, we see so many different points of view we get to know them all individually, not through the eyes of one character. I could picture them so easily, I was there with them, I understood their motives and I loved it. Different voices also contribute to the different points of view, Williams making them each stand out and distinctive.

I could not put this down once I had started, I was engaged and invested in these characters and even though it was history it felt like it could have been fictional. One thing I found clever was how Williams has overlapped events, the same moment through the eyes of different characters. It adds another layer of style and creativity, plus form a storytelling aspect gives you another point of view to the same moment.

The fact that you don’t know what is happening is good, and the fact you are trying to piece it all together is great, especially as you are unaware if there even is anything to understand.

The theft takes place in the 80s, but Williams has thankfully not shoved the 80s into our faces. Enough to set a place and a time but not overloaded so nostalgia and a need to remind people of the era takes away from the story.

I was impressed by the ending and I think Williams has wrapped up this story allowing the real events to play out, but also round out each of the characters we have come to know.

You can purchase The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and the Ex via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon

Does my Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Published: 1st August 2005Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Pan Australia
Pages: 293
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

The slide opened and I heard a gentle, kind voice: What is your confession, my child? 
I was stuffed. The Priest would declare me a heretic; my parents would call me a traitor… 
The Priest asked me again: What is your confession, my child? 
I’m Muslim. I whispered.

Welcome to my world. I’m Amal Abdel-Hakim, a seventeen year-old Australian-Palestinian-Muslim still trying to come to grips with my various identity hyphens.

It’s hard enough being cool as a teenager when being one issue behind the latest Cosmo is enough to disqualify you from the in-group. Try wearing a veil on your head and practicing the bum’s up position at lunchtime and you know you’re in for a tough time at school.

Luckily my friends support me, although they’ve got a few troubles of their own. Simone, blonde, gorgeous and overweight – she’s got serious image issues, and Leila’s really intelligent but her parents are more interested in her getting a marriage certificate than her high school certificate!

I thought I would like this more. I didn’t dislike it, but it wasn’t the amazing book people made it out to be. It felt clunky and uneventful, and while there are great moments that shine through, the moments that falter stand out more.

The dialogue was…awkward. Conversations didn’t feel natural and Abdel-Fattah uses a lot of them to explain everyone’s back stories or Amal to educate the character (or us) about various topics and situations. They never seem to talk about anything else. The language was stilted and while what they are saying is valid and important, it doesn’t sit comfortably in the story. I don’t mind being told these things, but I think a more seamless inclusion was needed. This includes the excessive amount of metaphors and examples used, I understood that Amal wearing the veil sparked a need to educate the people around her but I felt overloaded with them.

I enjoyed the parts where Amal talks about why she wants to wear the veil and why it is important to her. I loved that I got to dislike the principal because of her own opinions and prejudices, no matter how subtle they were. And I liked Amal not putting up with anyone’s ignorance or preconception; her confusion, real or mocking, over why there is a problem at all is wonderful.

What was weird was being late reading this, it feels so old but it wasn’t at the time of course. I did not realise this was published in 2005, I thought it was the early twenty tweens, not the mid-2000s. The benefit of this however was I did enjoy reliving 2002 when Big Brother and Craig David were hot topics of discussion, I even think a bum bag reference was made which was fun.

It wasn’t all bad. There are some good moments like Amal’s frustration of being the token Muslim and I enjoyed getting to read about Muslim practice and faith. But it remained an average book, one I couldn’t connect with and whose clunky writing never let me fall into the story completely.

You can purchase Does My Head Look Big in This via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Published: 15th April 2014 (print)/15th April 2014 (audio) Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers/Recorded Books
Pages: 355/8 hours 22 minutes
Narrator:  Laura Knight Keating
Format: Audiobook
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★  – 2 Stars

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is the story of Lara Jean, who has never openly admitted her crushes, but instead wrote each boy a letter about how she felt, sealed it, and hid it in a box under her bed. But one day Lara Jean discovers that somehow her secret box of letters has been mailed, causing all her crushes from her past to confront her about the letters: her first kiss, the boy from summer camp, even her sister’s ex-boyfriend, Josh. As she learns to deal with her past loves face to face, Lara Jean discovers that something good may come out of these letters after all.

I didn’t really like this book but I am not going to tear it apart because I was more confused than anything. Confused why it’s so loved, confused why people love Peter, and confused because it was a strange book where nothing happens.

The premise is reasonable, but the execution was unsatisfactory. I understood the sister dynamic that Han was aiming for, the loss of a big sister when she moves, the little sister relationship and the adoration of the cute boy next door, but something was missing. There was family charm and Han explains the relationship well, I just never felt it.

The narrative was boring and I struggled to make myself finish it. The fact I was on a 17 hour flight with little else to do is the only reason I kept going. With the only plot point this forced romance and a small mystery about the letters, it wasn’t much to hold onto into terms of depth and interest.

I am seriously going to have to watch this movie now because I did not get the adorable Peter vibe from this book. I got the Peter is a tool and he is annoying and cannot fathom why people think he is a sweet, charming person? This relationship between them is fake, and even when Lara Jean convinces herself she likes him for real, it still felt fake. I did not believe for a minute they actually liked each other like that. They may have become friends, may have got to know each other better and like who they were, but there was no romance. The triangle was unrealistic and the whole thing felt unbelievable. And Peter remained unlikable.

With no character growth I felt nobody learnt anything, and I seriously cannot mention the anticlimactic ending enough because the point of this novel is that ending and it fails. It doesn’t even sit like an open ended, audience decides thing, it just ends.

I actually had an ending in mind based on how Han had constructed this which would have been a great ending to a lacklustre book, but it never happened. I actually felt betrayed that this perfect ending was practically laid out before us which never eventuates. It would have made everything worthwhile if that had happened, but alas, it ended on a strange cliff-hanger (if that’s what we can call it), for book number two. I don’t really think I will be running out to read it, but if I find myself on another 17 hour flight with nothing to do I might pick it up.

You can purchase To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before via the following

QBD | Booktopia | Book Depository

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon Aust | Amazon | Audible

More Than Friends by Liv Devereaux

Published: 5th September 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 47
Format: ebook
Genre: Young Adult/Short Story
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Dana and Hope used to be best friends in elementary school. When they got to high school they lost touch. Dana got busy with soccer and Hope found a boyfriend. When they are paired up together for a project, Dana and Hope get the chance to get to know each other all over again. They’ll realize that both girls have changed in the last three years of high school. 

I picked this not looking at the page length, rather by the summary. I could easily see this as a full novel though, Devereaux easily could expand this into something longer, the bones are there. As is it is sweet, a bit rushed and easily solved, but at 47 pages you can’t expect anything but happy coincidences and easy solutions.

Despite this, it was a nice story, and even though it was short it felt established and rounded and a satisfactory read. Dana and Hope were good characters, the dual narration offers two perspectives and two stories, a great chance for readers to see the misunderstandings and hidden secrets which make young romance so lovely.

I would read this again if Devereaux expanded this into a full novel, but for the time being it was a lovely story about young love and repairing friendships.

You can purchase More Than Friends via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

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