Book Review: When We Were Vikings by Andrew David MacDonald

img_6538

Rating: ★★★★
RRP Paperback: $29.99 AUD | $35.00 NZ
Publication Date: February 1st 2020

A huge thank you to the wonderful people at Simon and Schuster for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads synopsis:

A heart-swelling debut for fans of The Silver Linings Playbook and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains.

For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:

1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists.

But when Zelda finds out that Gert has resorted to some questionable—and dangerous—methods to make enough money to keep them afloat, Zelda decides to launch her own quest. Her mission: to be legendary. It isn’t long before Zelda finds herself in a battle that tests the reach of her heroism, her love for her brother, and the depth of her Viking strength.

When We Were Vikings is an uplifting debut about an unlikely heroine whose journey will leave you wanting to embark on a quest of your own, because after all…

We are all legends of our own making.

img_1374

What a fantastic, insightful and unforgettable read! I thoroughly enjoyed this. It had me feeling all types of feelings! A book that will challenge peoples thoughts and tackles taboo subjects with humility and grace!

When We Were Vikings is the story of Zelda, a woman born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, who lives with her older brother Gert, who is doing everything he can to try and keep them afloat, which includes some pretty shady dealings with some very shady people.

What made this whole book for me was Zelda. She had such a strong and unique voice, it made the whole thing really interesting to read! It was the first book I have ever read that was narrated from the perspective of someone with special needs and it was an absolute  pleasure to see such diversity in literature and have these characters portrayed as epic, strong and passionate individuals!

All the characters were very complex and real. There were times when certain characters were introduced and they would do things that made me physically uncomfortable. Zelda gets taken advantage of several times throughout and called some really horrible names, which I found particularly unsettling. But Zelda is unapologetically herself the whole way through, despite the obstacles she is faced with. Which is one of the many reasons I loved this! It really is a lesson in resilience and not being afraid to be oneself!

The plot was great. It covered a lot of intense issues such as poverty, drug abuse and sexual assault. It flowed nicely and I loved being inside Zelda’s head for the duration of the novel, she was honestly such a badass! It was such an interesting read, that really got me thinking! There were occasions that I think could have had a more emotional impact if they were done slightly different, but otherwise, this is a book I would definitely recommend everyone read.

Once again, a massive thank you to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy this beautifully heartwarming story in exchange for an honest review!

Book Review: Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

img_2952

Rating: ★★★★★

Goodreads Synopsis:

He will be destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold onto. Jude learned this lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is powerless and left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And, when a dormant yet powerful curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity…

img_1374

Why is this over!? It can’t be over! Can someone please contact Holly and let her know we’d like a whole novel of Jude and Cardan just living their lives and interacting with their cute-as-heck sass.

Queen of Nothing picks up right where The Wicked King left us. Jude is in exile and High King Cardan is on the throne in Elfhame. When Jude’s twin sister Taryn arrives at Jude’s door with some interesting news, Jude is persuaded to return to Elfhame in Taryn’s place.

This was everything I was hoping for! It was such a brilliant ending. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer (which is hardly a complaint really, I’m just super greedy when it comes to Cardan Greenbriar). It was such a fantastic story and I actually enjoyed this one more than the first two (if that’s even possible).

The story flowed perfectly. I loved the fact that this book focused a lot more on our favourite characters and their relationships and that the more political aspects weren’t as prominent (don’t get me wrong, there was still plenty of intrigue, but it just seemed to be more enjoyable in this one! Less plotting and more action!)

It was such a satisfying conclusion to a series I have absolutely adored. I will thoroughly miss these characters and will definitely have to have another read through of the entire series at some point, but until then… I am so happy with how this story wrapped up and I highly recommend picking this series up if you haven’t already.

overall this was an utterly magical and whimsical fairy tale. I absolutely adore the wicked and eccentric vibe of the faeries in Holly Black’s work! I finished this is a matter of hours, it was so readable! But seriously, can we just get another book of Jude and Cardan being perfect?

Book Review: The Man in the Water by David Burton

Banner

Rating: ★★★.5
RRP: $19.95 AUD

A huge thank you to Aussie YA Bloggers and UQP for providing me with a copy of this book as part of a blog tour!

Synopsis:

On the first day of year 10, Shaun sees a dead body. 
When Shaun finds a body floating in the lake of a quiet mining town in outback Queensland, he immediately reports it to the police. But when he returns to the site with the constable, the body is gone. Determined to reveal the truth, Shaun and his best friend, Will, open their own investigation. But what they discover is far more sinister than they expected, and reveals a darkness below the surface of their small town.

img_1374

I actually enjoyed this. Although I’m not sure if “enjoyed” is the right word for it. This was such a vivid murder mystery set in outback Queensland, but it felt like a hell of a lot more than just a “murder mystery” too. It was gripping, easy to read and, in my opinion, perfect for young adult readers. Growing up in Australia myself added a totally unique and relatable understanding of the vernacular in this story too which was really fun. The Man in the Water covers a lot of important topics such as grief and suicide, and the effect it can have on those left behind in a really seamless way along side the main plot.

The story  follows 16-year-old Shaun, who finds a body floating in the lake of the quiet mining town he calls home. After finding the body, Shaun immediately reports it to the police only to find the body has disappeared once they arrive back at the lake. Not only is Shaun having a hard time getting people to believe him about the body, but he’s also dealing with his own grief having lost his father the year prior.

In terms of the plot, this was really fast paced and interesting. The characters were all very raw and realistic which I enjoyed and it was actually really fun reading a book set in Australia. I don’t often do it, so it was fun having an insider understanding of the people, places and language. However, as an almost thirty year old woman and most definitely not the intended audience for this book, at times I found following a teenage-boy-turned-detective a little tedious, but again, this book is intended for younger readers who I am sure would find it gripping and binge worthy.

Over all I liked this. It covered some intense topics with grace and candour, the characters were wonderfully real and the story itself was plot twist after plot twist! I absolutely didn’t see the ending coming and would highly recommend this to young readers interested in the murder mystery type genre. 3.5 stars!

Once again, a huge thank you to UQP and Aussie YA Bloggers for allowing me to be part of this blog tour!

Book Review: Pan’s Labyrinth By Guillermo Del Toro & Cornelia Funke

we are okay

Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $29.99 AUD | $32.99 NZ
Publication Date: 2nd July 2019
Find it on Book Depository

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Oscar winning writer-director Guillermo del Toro and New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke come together to transform del Toro’s hit movie Pan’s Labyrinth into an epic and dark fantasy novel for readers of all ages, complete with gorgeous and haunting illustrations.

This book is not for the faint of heart or weak in spirit. It’s not for skeptics who don’t believe in fairy tales and the powerful forces of good. It’s only for brave and intrepid souls like you, who will stare down evil in all its forms.

Inspired by the critically acclaimed film written and directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro and reimagined by New York Times bestselling author Cornelia Funke, this haunting tale takes readers to a darkly magical and war-torn world filled with richly drawn characters like trickster fauns, murderous men, child-eating monsters, courageous rebels, and a long-lost princess hoping to be reunited with her family.

Perfect for fans of the movie and readers who are new to del Toro’s visionary work, this atmospheric and absorbing novel is a portal to another universe where there is no wall between the real and the imagined. A daring, unforgettable collaboration between two brilliant storytellers.

img_1374

This was incredible, heartbreaking and thought provoking. I think I may be one of the only people left on the planet that hasn’t watched the Pan’s Labyrinth film, but after reading the book, I’ll definitely be watching the movie. This was a beautifully dark, magical journey from start to finish and I loved every second of it! Written by the film director and Cornelia Funke, this book gives new insight into the 2006 film.

Pan’s Labyrinth (for those few, like me, who haven’t seen the film.) is a dark fantasy tale that follows 11-year-old Ofelia. After picking up her life, along with her pregnant mother, and moving to the secluded home of her new stepfather, the tyrannical and sadistic Captain Vidal, Ofelia finds herself drawn into a world of fairytale fantasy. But, like most fairytales, all is not what it seems.

This book was a-ma-zing! Each scene was written in such a way that you felt as though you were a spectator in these characters lives, like you could be walking in and out of this world watching their every move. The world building was rich and atmospheric and had an incredible knack of making me feeling completely uneasy. From the very beginning I found it hard to discern who to trust and who to fear most. It was done so well, that the feeling of unease seemed to stick with me well after I had put the book down. It even chased me into my dreams on a few occasions!

I would like to mention that this book is not for the faint of heart. Set in 1944, in Nazi-held Europe, there is a lot of brutal content that could make some readers feel uncomfortable. However, it all combines perfectly to create a dark and menacing read. The characters felt completely raw and real, which I think is what this book is all about at the heart of it. Human emotion, good, bad and truly evil.

Honestly, I cannot fault this book. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s probably one of my favourite reads of the year! The beautifully written story, along with some truly gorgeous illustrations combine to create a mesmerising reading experience. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to watch Pan’s Labyrinth and bawl my eyes out some more.

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

we are okayRating: ★★★★
Title: A Curse so Dark and Lonely
Author: Brigid Kremmerer
Find it on Book Depository

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.

img_1374

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!

My Bookish Confessions

children

Every now and then I do something while reading that I just know would be looked down upon by a more sophisticated reader than I. So I decided to write them all down, show everyone and run the risk of being shamed for it. HA! Below you will find a few of my bookish confessions.

I never pay attention to the map in the front of a book. Ever.

I love fantasy! I adore it! It’s easily my favourite genre. It’s also easily the most likely genre to have/need a map printed in the front due to all the world building that takes place. But do I ever look at the map? Well, with the exception of Holly Black’s ‘The Folk of the Air series’ (and only because it’s pretty) no, I never read the map. I don’t even really care much about where places are in relation to one another, I just read it and move on with the story.

I’m a spine cracker.

Ok, so I draw the line at dog earring a page, I hate that! But I will 100% crack that bad boys spine. In fact, I’d go so far as to say I love the feel of a paper back book, folded over itself to be made easier to hold one handed. It’s great! The perfect life hack for leaving the other hand free for coffee and/or snacks. Please don’t kill me!

I skim over words.

If I don’t know a word, I’ll just say “sfbuyerbfjk” in my head as I skim over it. Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh, I am the worst. If I can remember, occasionally I’ll look the word up to learn it. But more often than not, I just skim right over it and see if I can make sense of the the sentence as a whole.

I make up names.

I’ve actually spent the entirety of a series calling a character the wrong name. I didn’t learn how it was correctly pronounced until well into the series (I’m looking at you Chaol Westfall from the Throne of Glass series.) So I’ll either pronounce the name wrong for the whole series, or, if the name is particularly weird or misleading with its spelling, I’ll remember what it looks like and just do as above and “sfbuyerbfjk” over it. For those wondering, I called Chaol ‘Coal’ the whole time! For some reason my brain didn’t register the spelling at first and just made up a new name. It’s actually pronounced like ‘Kale’. It blew my mind the day I found out!

I will judge a book by its cover. Ruthlessly.

If it has a persons face on the cover, I struggle to pick it up. This is my most hated cover style. I’ve written a whole blog post about YA books that were given terrible covers to begin with, and most of them are terrible because they have models on the front cover. I really hate being shown how a particular character is meant to look. I’d much rather use my imagination and develop my own sense of the characters appearance. Movie covers are another one I absolutely hate, for the same reasons as above.

I prefer female protagonists.

I’m not saying I won’t read a book with a male protagonist, but I do prefer reading from a female point of view. But I suppose as long as the story is gripping, I’m not too fussed. Still, if I had to choose the same story but from a male or female point of view. I’d always pick female!

So that’s it, to name a few. Do you have any bookish confessions? Let me know in the comments or find me on bookstagram (@readingsumpton) and tell me all your secrets!

large

Blog Tour: We Are Okay By Nina LaCour

we are okayFirst of all, I’d like to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Aussie YA Bloggers and The University Of Queensland Press for giving me the opportunity to be part of this blog tour! This book really hit home for me in terms of dealing with grief and trying to find your way back to the person you were prior to being impacted so heavily by the tragedy of death.

Synopsis:

Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend, Mabel. But even far away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.
img_1374

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

This. Was. Beautiful.

“But I know there’s a difference between how I used to understand things and how I do now. I used to cry over a story and then close the book, and it all would be over. Now everything resonates, sticks like a splinter, festers.”

This book was so relatable for me in terms of dealing with grief and navigating those horribly deep, dark waters back to some semblance of who you used to be before you were touched by tragedy. Reading it took me back to a time just after my brother passed away and had me feeling so much love and compassion for the main character. I don’t want to use the words “I loved it” because honestly, it felt deeper than that. It felt like it stripped me a little raw, and got me thinking about all those times I too wanted to run away and fall into that all encompassing grief.

We Are Okay follows Marin, a grief stricken college student who, after losing the only family she has ever truly known (her grandfather) decides to up and leave her old life behind. She not only walks away from the house and possessions she shared with her grandfather, but she also walks away from her best friend, Mabel. This book takes an emotional dive into what it is like to be Marin as she navigates her way through love, loss, loneliness and betrayal, and how the strength of those who love us most, can be the most powerful and healing tool of all.

This book has some really beautifully done LGBTQ+ representation and executes the raw emotional state of grief perfectly. I was undone so deeply several times while reading this as the way in which Marin sees the world at the beginning of this book and the way she feels throughout was all too familiar for me. I could really get on her level and understand that deep, hollow feeling you get that comes with the loss of someone you love.

In terms of plot, this book almost bypassed the need for one. It focused so intently on character interacts, emotional connections and self growth that it didn’t feel as though it was lacking anything at all. The connection between Marin and Mabel was perfection, their relationship was just beautiful to read. Their love and compassion for one another and their deep understanding of one another was what really made this book for me.

Overall, this book was fantastic, some may find it a little slow or lacking in plot, but as I said, this wasn’t really an issue for me due to the incredibly deep and fleshed out characters. We Are Okay had me in tears several times throughout and really took a good look at grief and the impact one person can have on another. I finished this book in one day! The words flowed so perfectly that it felt like I could continue reading Marin’s story forever. Because of this I am giving We Are Okay 4.5 stars.

Thank you again to Aussie YA Bloggers and The University of Queensland Press for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour!