Book Review: Aurora Rising By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Rating: ★★★★.5
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Goodreads Synopsis:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

Nobody panic. 

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Ok, this book was a lot of fun. I’m not always the biggest fan of sci-fi novels, but this was awesome! It was full of snarky banter and hilarious one liners that had me laughing out loud. It was also pretty great being able to tell that the authors were Australian just by some of the language used by the characters. (Yes, the word “undies” makes an appearance more than once.)

The story follows Tyler Jones, Aurora Academy’s resident golden boy and his merry band of misfits on an action packed sci-fi adventure. As they harbour a stowaway and try and pull off one of the biggest heists in history, it lands them smack bang in the middle of a war millions of years in the making, something they did not ask to be a part of, thank you very much.

As great as this book was and as much as I did enjoy reading it, I found I wasn’t connecting with a lot of the characters as well as I’d hoped. Which made some of the harder hitting parts of the book have less of an impact on me and far less emotionally jarring. I was hoping to grow really attached to the characters and feel like I was right there with the rest of the squad blasting through space, guns a-blazing, but unfortunately this didn’t quite happen for me.

In terms of pacing and plot, this was a total success. It gave me amazing ‘Stranger Things’ vibes and was completely action packed from start to finish. I was never once left feeling bored or like parts of the plot were unnecessary. The whole thing flowed nicely which had me flying through this read (I finished it in 2 days, that’s like 5 hours in Mum time.) There was also a very slow, sweet romance happening under our noses the whole time and as I am a total sucker for a bit or romance, this subplot was completely welcomed. It was definitely not the soul focus of this novel, but I am sure it will be explored further in coming novels.

Overall this was a really fun, exciting read. The story was epic and the witty, sarcastic banter was laugh-out-loud worthy. The only real issue I personally had with the novel, as I said previously, was that I just couldn’t connect with some of the characters and at times, found them edging on annoying and unlikable. Because of this, I am giving Aurora Rising 4.5 stars.

Book Review: I Am Change By Suzy Zail

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Publication Date: August 2019
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

They told her that her body belonged to men and her mind didn’t matter. They were wrong.

“What if I don’t want to marry?” Lillian held her breath. She had never said the words out loud. “Not want to marry?” Her aunt frowned. “What else would you do?” 

Set in a Ugandan village, Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is. In her village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

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“Men don’t marry smart women” her mother said, snuffing out the fire. “Especially woman who are smarter than them.” She stared at the damp page on Lilians lap. “Just because you can draw those lines and dots, doesn’t mean your dreams will come true.”

If you do one thing today, make it buying this book and then devouring it whole.

I Am Change was inspired by and written in consultation with young Ugandan women. It tells the story of the fierce Lilian! An incredibly strong, intelligent young girl, navigating her way into womanhood and through the harsh reality of what life is like for young girls in Uganda. Lilian does not want to be forced to marry someone she does not love and bear him children, she wants to finish school and become a writer. She want to go to university and forge her own path! She wants girls to have a voice and for them to be treated as equals in a world so overpowered by men.

At times, this was a hard story to read. Not because the words didn’t flow or the pacing was off. The writing was, in fact, rather wonderful. It was a hard story to read, because it’s a true story for so many young girls in Uganda. But as hard as it was to read, I feel like it’s a story that needed telling.

Lilian’s story was inspired by 30 different Ugandan women, which made the characters in this book feel very real. It was both incredible, and at times, disheartening getting to know the culture that shaped these women. I do have to say that this book could be slightly distressing for some readers as it covers some very intense topics such as rape, female genital mutilation, child marriage and extreme poverty.

The juxtaposition between the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor was very jarring to read, but one thing that stood out to me, was the fact that it didn’t matter whether these girls/women were rich or poor, they were consider secondary to the men. They were no good for anything but making babies and keeping their mouths shut. I really enjoyed reading Lilian’s journey into feminism and watching her character growth as she learned her worth.

I Am Change was a highly emotional read that had me in tears at times. It made me look at my own daughter, and think of all the things that she is capable of and all the things she has the opportunity to do that we, a lot of the time, take for granted. This was a powerful, feminist read and I highly recommend everybody buy a copy and delve into Lilian’s story. It’s an important one.

Once again, thank you so much to Walker Books for sending me a copy of I Am Change in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Winterhued By E. H. Alger

Rating: ★★★.5
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

In a land on the edge of all that is known dwells Princess Winterhued,
erudite, beautiful, broken-hearted. The heir to her father’s kingdom and raised to be queen, she is troubled by terrifying dreams and now finds the half-demented king turning against her. Slimy sycophants whisper in his ear, persuading him that a ‘mere woman’ is incapable of ruling, and now he ogles the princess’s ladies-in-waiting and boasts of begetting a male heir.

But Winterhued’s fears become as naught when a vast and ancient being comes flying on dread wings to lay siege to Castle Lawhill. Trailing fear and slaughter, it traps Winterhued and her people within the broken walls. The princess strives to save her subjects, but it seems the only one courageous enough to help her is the lowliest servant-boy in the castle.
Yet from the east, riding across wraith-haunted Iron Crag, comes a nameless knight, exiled and condemned… and a horned creature follows him, silent as moonlight.
 

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Unicrons, dragons, a beautiful Princess and a brave Knight! This truly was a fairytale.

Wow, ok! So this is not the kind of book I would normally pick up! I am really grateful that I get to do what I do, because I get to be introduced to some really wonderful new books! Winterhued is no exception, I really did grow to enjoy this book.

Winterhued is a tale filled with incredible and allusive mythical creatures, a daring, exiled knight and the beautiful, headstrong, raven haired Princess with whom his heart belongs. Within the Kingdom of Manydown, Princess Winterhued fights to protect her people as a terrible ancient being lays siege to Castle Lawhill.

This book took me a while to get into, which I believe is mostly to do with the way it’s written! The author is very clearly an incredible writer who has an extensive knowledge of medieval practices and language! At first, the language seemed to create these strange “road blocks” in my mind and I found myself reading very slowly to try and understand what was happening. However, as I made my way through the book, my brain started to learn how to understand the language and I actually grew to appreciate the lyrical and authentic writing style.

In terms of the plot and pacing, this was the definition of “slow burn” and highly character focused. This happens to be something I really like reading, so it was enjoyable for me. I did find there were times I struggled to get through some of the more heavily descriptive content, but I believe it all served a purpose and was a great way to immerse the reader within the Kingdom of Manydown.

The story and characters are what gripped me most. E.H Alger has a brilliant knack for giving each of her characters their very own voice. It was fantastic! Their individual personalities felt so real that often times, it felt as though I was watching these characters interact in a film rather than reading it. There were several times throughout reading that I found myself laughing out loud at the witty banter! I am also a total sucker for a bit of romance, so this beautiful, slow burn, love-of-the-ages type story was right up my alley.

Overall I grew to really enjoy Winterhued. I did struggle occasionally to get through the almost leisurely pace of the story and I understand that this read may not be for everyone. But for me, the strong female characters, the creative and fun character interactions and the vivid storytelling the author produced completely outweighed this. Because of this, I am giving Winterhued 3.5 stars!

I would also like to thank the author for sending me a copy of Winterhued in exchanged for an honest review.

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, My Initial Thoughts!

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It’s here! It’s in beta, but it’s here! (in AUS and NZ anyway.) I have been waiting for this game for forever! I enjoyed Pokemon Go for a while, but my enjoyment of the game slowly fizzled out as I haven’t been a huge fan of Pokemon since I was about 9 years old, playing Pokemon Red on my brothers old clunky Nintendo Gameboy! But as anyone who has been reading my blog or following my Instagram for any length of time will know, my love for Harry Potter knows no bounds!

Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is something else all together! Game play is fairly consistent with what it was like in Pokemon Go, only it’s so much more MAGICAL! Once you’ve created an account on HPWU, you’re quickly thrown into the Wizarding World, which is under threat of being exposed due to a strange event called the “Calamity” causing magical creatures, items and locations to pop up all over the Muggle world!

Now, I’m sure you’ve guessed it! It’s your job to stop the Calamity from exposing the Wizarding World through using magic spells and completing quests. There is also a brilliant overarching storyline that reveals itself the more you play and the more mysterious items you encounter. But lets not get too deep into that, I’m sure more than anything you’re probably interested in what this game looks like and how it feels to play, so here’s the low down from one book nerd to another!

Profile Customisation 

I know this will be important to any Potterhead! When you start the game, you’re able to fill in your Ministry ID, which consists of your name, Hogwarts house, your wand preference and, once you hit level 6, your choice of profession! There are a few other fun customisation options on your ID such as adding achievement stickers and changing your title. These are presets that will unlock the more you play. You don’t need to antagonise over what you choose for any of your ID customisation though, as it appears you can change these at any time, including your house and wand preference.img_2814

One thing I’ve been a little disappointed with so far is the lack of customisation when it comes to your avatar! I want my character to look like me, all decked out in robes and maybe a fun hat! However, I presume this will change. Pokemon Go has extensive options when it comes to customising your avatar, some that you can even pay real world money for to apply to your character, so it would be silly of Niantic to not include these options in the game at a later date. Until then, it appears your avatar is just a nondescript wizard that changes colour based on which Hogwarts house you assign yourself.
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Professions

I was very excited to get to level 6, only because I really wanted to choose a profession for my Witch. It looks like there are three professions to choose from so far which are: Auror, Magizoologist and Professor. Each profession has it’s own unique set of abilities and attributes that you are able to build upon as you progress through the game and gain experience!

Aurors are best at spell casting and defeating dark wizards, Magizoologists are best at tackling magical beasts and acting as a support character in team play and Professors are all rounders with a deep magical knowledge.

Each profession brings something different to the party when taking on a Fortress. These are much like raids in Pokemon Go, where you work together as a unit to defeat the Fortress level by level and gain experience and cool magical items!

Overall Gameplay & Fun

The game so far is incredibly fun and interactive. Casting spells, brewing potions, using Portkeys and completing quests will have any Harry Potter fan jumping for joy. I’m sure the more I play there will be things that will need improvements, just as there was with Pokemon Go. But the game has already got a really incredible, immersive base that will likely only get better with each update!

So those are my initial thoughts after one day of playing. So far so good! Will you be playing when it makes it to your country? Or maybe you’re in AUS or NZ and are already playing! Let me know in the comments or find me on Instagram @readingsumpton and let me know how you’re finding it! Until then, I’ll leave you with this cute picture of a Mooncalf I encountered and saved by casting Alohomora!

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April Reading Wrap-Up

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April was definitely my worst reading month so far this year! I only managed to get through three books! It wasn’t for lack of trying though, I just never seemed to have much time on my hands. I have a few review books to get through over the next month so here’s hoping I get more time to read in May!

The books I did read this month were all really great, so I had a fantastic reading month when it came to the amount of enjoyment I got from these stories! If you’re interested to see what I read, check out the list below!

My Rating System

5 Stars: This. Book. Blew. My. Mind. I’d read it again and again and would highly recommend it.
4 Stars: The book was great! I enjoyed it and I may read it again.
3 Stars: I could take or leave this book. It had some interesting moments, but nothing too captivating.
2 Stars: Not a very good book, I’ll more than likely forget about its existence once it’s lost in the expanse of my book shelves.
1 Star: A book I wish I didn’t waste my time on. I did not enjoy it at all and would definitely not recommend it.

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04b334ef-e08d-49f3-9adb-7ca92c0525caFind it on Book Depository

Title: The Quiet At The End Of The World (★★★★.5)
Author: Lauren James
Genre: YA Dystopian/Science Fiction

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: This book started out a little slow for me, but as the story progressed I realised that it was actually a really fantastic beginning to the story. It has some amazing LGBTQ+ representation and one of the main protagonists is Asian, which I loved! I had absolutely no idea where this story was going until we got there and it was absolutely incredible! Highly recommend reading it.

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Title: A Curse So Dark And Lonely (★★★★)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Genre: YA Fantasy

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: A really fun, fresh take on the story of Beauty and the Beast. I would recommend this to fans of Sarah J Maas, however, it does feel as though it is aimed at a slightly younger audience. Be warned that there are quite a few times where a love triangle is hinted at, so this may be a predominant feature in any future sequels, although I am hoping the author chooses to go another route. Overall, this was a really great fantasy and I really enjoyed the romantic plot line.

c41fa662-a3e3-46ec-98cb-32f54de05ef4Find it on Book Depository

Title: The Rift (★★★★★)
Author: Rachael Craw
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

You can read my in-depth review here.

My Recommendation: This was absolutely brilliant! It gave me all sorts of Maggie Stiefvater vibes that took me back to when I read The Raven Cycle for the first time! We got a really perfect romance and incredibly descriptive and magical world building! Unfortunately there is no sequel in the works as of yet, but it was definitely left open enough that one could be written if the author so chooses (FINGERS CROSSED BECAUSE THIS WAS PERFECTION!) I highly recommend giving The Rift a read, it’s easily my favourite read of the year so far.

Book Review: The Rift By Rachael Craw

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $19.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Walker Books for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

For generations, the Rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against horrors released by the Rift. Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with a rare scar and even rarer gifts, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. After nine years away, Meg Archer returns to her childhood home only to find the Island is facing a new threat that not even the Rangers are prepared for. Meg and Cal can’t ignore their attraction, but can they face their darkest fears to save the Island from disaster?

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I need more! This book was incredible and I need more!

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did! I don’t really know what I was excepting, but this book took me back to the feeling of reading The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater for the first time and it was amazing! I knew it was going to be one of my new favourite books when I got about 3/4 of the way through and was frantically googling if there was a sequel in the works! Please, please, please let there be a sequel in the works!

The Rift by Rachael Craw is told from two different points of view. That of Cal West, an apprentice Ranger with rare abilities living on Blackwater Island and responsible for the safety of an ancient herd of deer, coveted for their antlers magical healing properties. And Meg Archer, the daughter of the Master Ranger swept away to the mainland by her mother to live a “normal life” after a terrible childhood accident. Upon Megs return to the island the pair must navigate their way through their growing attraction for one another all while facing their greatest fears to save the island and the Old Herd from disaster.

This book took the term “magical realism” and ran like hell with it! It felt incredibly magical and rich. The world building was so atmospheric and engaging, I could have looked up from my book and been on Black Water Island, surrounded by thrumming lay lines, hell hounds and ancient mythical deer, and I wouldn’t have been surprised. The pacing of the plot was brilliant, I was never once bored with the story and ended up burning through this book in a matter of hours.

The characters were really likeable and despite possessing rare, magical abilities, they still felt completely authentic and real. The slow burn romance was perfection and the interactions between Cal, Meg and other minor characters was really fun and enjoyable.

Overall, The Rift was incredibly whimsical and original. It felt a little murky and confusing to start with, but the more I read, the more clear everything became, and I was able to understand the dynamics of the world and how the characters fit into it. Despite this, I couldn’t bring myself to deduct any stars from this review. I really, truly, LOVED this book and I will definitely be reading any future sequels. Now, excuse me while I go to the store and purchase every other book Rachael Craw has ever written.

Book Review: A Curse So Dark And Lonely By Brigid Kemmerer

we are okayRating: ★★★★
Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
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Goodreads Synopsis:

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom.

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

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This was great! I enjoyed it. I would say it has a very similar feel to the ACOTAR series while reading, but probably aimed more at a slightly younger audience. Nevertheless, I liked it a lot and will definitely continue the series!

A Curse So Dark And Lonely follows Harper, a teenage girl, swept away from her home in Washington DC by Grey, the Commander of the Royal Guard, to Emberfall, a fairytale-esque Kingdom, currently cursed by a powerful enchantress. The only way to break the curse is for Harper to fall for Prince Rhen. But with very little time before the prince is doomed to live as a beast forever and his people are left without a ruler, Harper struggles to know her true feelings. With Emberfall slowly going to ruin, Harper must navigate her way through love, loss, war and heartache.

I actually really enjoyed this Beauty and the Beast retelling. It felt fresh and different, while not straying too far from the original source material  for the reader to know it’s a retelling of a classic fairytale. The novel was right up my alley in terms of genre, and the romance was very sweet. However, I do get the feeling that a love triangle will be a predominant part of the next instalment as there were quite a few moments that it was hinted at and slowly built upon. The love triangle troupe is something I really dislike, so I hope that the author chooses to go a different route or does it in a way I am able to enjoy.

I loved the rich world building! I felt like I was right there in Emberfall with Harper, Rhen and Grey. Speaking of which, the characters were fantastic! I loved that we were given a really strong, female main character with cerebral palsy. It’s not something I have ever seen represented in a YA book before, so it was really great seeing it represented so respectfully. Despite the hints of an impending love triangle, I actually really liked both the male leads and found them both equally as interesting and charismatic. Although, personally, I wouldn’t go past a Commander of the Royal Guard! Ha!

Overall, the story was great! There were a couple of things I didn’t overly enjoy, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from wanting to pick the book up and devour it in a matter of hours. I really liked this retelling, and with the way it ended, I look forward to reading the next instalment!