Book Review: The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $32.99 AUD

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.

What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.

Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life. 

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“Are you lost or are you exploring?”

I have no words.

This was beautiful.

It was poetic and magical.

It was everything I could ever want in a book.

And it’s easily my favourite book of the year!

The Starless Sea takes you on an incredible, vivid adventure. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, this book thoroughly immerses you in magic and wonder. I have already set a goal to read it again before the year is out so I can further understand all the small intricacies!

After Zachary Ezra Rawlins stumbles across a mysterious book in his university library, he is whisked off on an adventure that leads him through a magical painted door to a mysterious underground labyrinth filled with stories.

This book was gorgeous! It made me remember why I loved The Night Circus so much. Erin Morgenstern has a way with words. She is a poet. Honestly, my heart is so incredibly full after reading this book. The characters were beautifully written and complex, we got a perfect slow burn (and wonderfully queer) romance and the plot was layer upon layer of intricate detail that came together so beautifully in the end. It’s the kind of book that has you intrigued the whole way through and as you read the last page it’s as if all these pieces fall into place and you look up from your book and just stare in utter reverence at how incredible some story tellers are.

Now I understand that this book may not be for everyone. It can be a little “heavy”and as I’ve stated, there is a lot of intricate detail that some people may find a bit much. But for me, it was absolute wonder. This is a world I would very much like to be a part of!

Over all, I cannot fault this glorious book. It has everything I love in a story and I will read it over and over and over for the rest of my days. Go ahead, leap down the rabbit hole, step through the back of your cupboard, walk through that painted door. You won’t regret it. All the stars in the night sky for this one. Utter perfection.

 

Book Review: The Toll by Neal Shusterman

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Rating: ★★★★★
RRP: $16.99 AUD | $18.99 NZ
Publication Date: November 5th 2019
Find it on Book Depository

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s been three years since Rowan and Citra disappeared; since Scythe Goddard came into power; since the Thunderhead closed itself off to everyone but Grayson Tolliver.

In this conclusion to Neal Shusterman’s Arc of a Scythe trilogy, constitutions are tested and old friends are brought back from the dead.

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This was such a satisfying and epic conclusion to this series! I’m so lucky to have been able to read it early! Thank you so much to Walker Books for sending me a review copy. Just wow! It was amazing! If you haven’t read Scythe or Thunderhead yet, go do that before you read on! You won’t regret it!

After the major cliff hanger we had at the end of Thunderhead, The Toll tells the story of the events that have happened over the three years after the sinking of Endura. Rowan and Citra have been found, we see a world gone mad under Scythe Goddard’s rule (which was both entertaining and utterly horrifying), we get an array of new characters, which at first felt really overwhelming, but after a while was fantastic and really pushed the plot forward and executed the story perfectly and, of course, we get epic intertwining story telling!

I honestly loved this, I can’t fault it. I feel really satisfied with how the series ended and would highly recommend reading it. I actually forgot how much I enjoyed Neal Shusterman’s writing style! It was both very fun and very matter-of-fact all at the same time (if that makes an ounce of sense). As with both Scythe and Thunderhead, The Toll tackles huge issues and  it was  really interesting to read and see the parallels forming between the main villains and their corrupt ideals and the horrors of real people from our own history! You almost read this while wanting to scream “ARE YOU CRAZY!? WHAT ARE YOU THINKING!?”

The characters, new and old were amazing, I feel like we got just enough of all of them. This book has certainly come a lot further since Scythe and branched out in terms of loveable and realistic characters. We got some INCREDIBLE representation when it came to Jericho, the feisty and tenacious sea caption, who is non binary! They identify as male under the cover of clouds and female under the sun. I really loved that and was so happy to see such awesome representation continuing into this book!

The Toll had all the elements that I really loved in Scythe. It got you thinking about your own morals and your own perspective on human kind all the while keeping you incredibly entertained! Too much happened in this amazing book for me to feel like I could ever truly do a review that would give it justice. So my final word on The Toll, is go read it! Read the whole series if you haven’t done so yet! 5 stars!

Thank you once again to Walker Books! You guys are all incredible. I truly appreciate being given these opportunities!

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

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Rating: ★★★★
RRP: $32.99 AUD
Find it on Book Depository

A huge thank you to Penguin Random House Australia for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads Synopsis:

The resistance starts here…

No one speaks of the grace year.
It’s forbidden.
We’re told we have the power to lure grown men from their beds, make boys lose their minds, and drive the wives mad with jealousy. That’s why we’re banished for our sixteenth year, to release our magic into the wild before we’re allowed to return to civilization.
But I don’t feel powerful.
I don’t feel magical.

Tierney James lives in an isolated village where girls are banished at sixteen to the northern forest to brave the wilderness – and each other – for a year. They must rid themselves of their dangerous magic before returning purified and ready to marry – if they’re lucky.

It is forbidden to speak of the grace year, but even so every girl knows that the coming year will change them – if they survive it…

The Grace Year is The Handmaid’s Tale meets Lord of the Flies – a page-turning feminist dystopia about a young woman trapped in an oppressive society, fighting to take control of her own life.

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How do I even begin to put my feelings about this book into words. It’s almost like The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies and Handmaids Tale made a gritty dystopian YA baby. It’s a harrowing, and at times, confronting feminist novel that had me on the edge of my seat the whole way through.

The Grace Year follows Tierney James and the other girls from her secluded village on the cusp of womanhood. After being banished by the men to the Northern Forest to brave the wilderness and rid themselves of their dangerous seductive “magic”, Tierney finds herself navigating deception, betrayal and a forbidden love as she fights for her life.

The pacing of this was everything! It was so intense and took me right back to the first time I read the Hunger Games. The main character, Tierney, was tenacious and strong, and still managed to remain believable through the circumstances she ends up in. The novels cast is made up of a lot of complex and interesting characters that evoked a lot of different emotions in me, making me feel like I was actually one of the Grace Year girls myself.

The romance was nice and I understand how it was used to advance the plot and create a pretty epic, bittersweet ending, however I feel like the main male companion was introduced far too late in the book for me to really have a strong connection to him. None the less, I did enjoy it, but it did feel more like a plot device than an intentional path for our heroine.

Overall this was a great read, I would highly recommend it to anyone who loved The Hunger Games or the Handmaids Tale! The perfect ambiguity of the ending left me in a total state of awe. The last page was poetic and beautiful, I read it at least 5 times. Once again, a huge thank you to Penguin Random House for the review copy!

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

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Just call me Cather, because I am FANGIRLING! I’m going to preface this review and say that if you don’t understand that reference, go away and read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell before you dive into Carry On. It isn’t necessary, but it does add to the fun of reading!

I have seen A LOT of negative reviews for Carry On. A LOT. Most of them comparing Carry On to Harry Potter. I went into this without any expectations, I didn’t compare it to anything, I just enjoyed the story. AND IT WAS AMAZING. We get the sweetest enemies to lovers, gay romance, which I think really carried this whole thing for me. The story was fun, but it’s not anything that hasn’t been done before. It’s Rainbow Rowell’s take on the classic “Chosen One” story! But the romance! That was perfection. I could re-read this over and over and I’d still squeal with excitement when Simon and Baz finally admit they have feelings for each other.

Now the only negative thing I really have to say is that the first quarter of this was fairly bland world building. Because we meet Simon in his last year at Watford School of Magicks, we have a bit of backstory to catch up on so it felt like not a lot happened. But once Baz enters the scene and we finally start getting a more character driven book, it becomes something you can devour in one sitting! As I have said, Simon and Baz made this book for me, I could take or leave a few of the supporting characters, but the romance was such perfection that I’ve already purchased a snowbaz t-shirt and pre-ordered Wayward Son (I told you to call me Cather, I was not joking around.)

I could honestly re-read this again immediately. I loved the quirky magic and easy going flow of the writing. It’s the mark of a great book when I can’t imagine picking up anything different. It’s given me a literal book hangover!

Just go read it, you won’t regret it. 1 million stars.

Book Review: Gemina by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminaecontinues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

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Wow, this was incredible! IN-CRED-I-BLE! I loved it even more than I loved Illuminae, and if you’ve read my review, you know that I loved Illuminae!

We’re introduced to two new characters in this instalment of the Illuminae files! Hanna, the pampered daughter to the Heimdall Space Station’s Captain, and the tough but lovable, Nik, the reluctant member of a well known crime family! After the station is invaded by Beitech’s forces the pair are thrown together to fight for their lives and the lives of the ones they love!

This honestly blew my mind (seriously, I’m not kidding, I have documented footage on Instagram of the exact moment this book blew my mind!) It was so well done and since I’d already read Illuminae, I didn’t have the issue of finding the formatting hard to get my head around! It flowed really nicely and was actually a really fun way to read this instalment. It was thoroughly engaging and had a lot of “WHAT IS HAPPENING?!” moments! So. Good.

The characters! My goodness! Where do I start! I loved them! I think I actually loved them more than Kady and Ezra (sorry guys! I still love you, but I can’t go past a bad boy with a heart of gold and a badass, sassy, butt kicking heroine!) Once again, the snarky banter was on point and I really just fell in love with the characters interactions with one another. The authors were able to really give each character an individual voice, which was great considering a lot of the story takes place over instant messaging!

The plot was awesome! Such an epic continuation of the overall story and I loved how it tied all these characters stories together! Overall, this was perfection and I can’t fault it at all. 5 stars! NOW GIVE ME OBSIDIO AND LEAVE ME ALONE FOR A DAY PLEASE.

Miss B. Reviews: The Secret Lives of Unicorns

we are okayAuthor: Temisa Seraphini
Illustrator: Sophie Robin
RRP: $29.99 AUD | $32.99 NZ
Age Range: From 7 years

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

Synopsis:

“If you thought unicorns were strictly imaginary, think again.”

Anatomy, evolution, life cycle, magical properties: prepare to learn just how much you didn’t know you didn’t know about unicorns. Dive into the life’s work of famed unicornologist Professor Temisa Seraphini with this beautiful, fully-illustrated encyclopedic volume of unicorn knowledge. Meet species from the fjords of the north to the unforgiving deserts of the equator as you discover the wonders of this enchanting creature from past to present.

img_1374A little while ago I decided it would be really fun to start reviewing children’s books as a way to help parents find books for their kiddos! My daughter isn’t quite ready for anything that isn’t a “touch and feel” book just yet, but I knew it would be important for parents to get a child’s perspective! Because of this, I have recruited one of my good friends, Miss Bella, to help me write some reviews! Bella is a seven year old book lover, devouring books as fast as she can! Below you can find my thoughts on The Secret Lives of Unicorns, but more importantly, you can find Miss Bella’s! Enjoy!

MY THOUGHTS

When I first saw this book, it was the gorgeous cover that lured me in! It’s a gorgeous mint green hard cover with a unicorn on the front, whats not to love?! Now this isn’t really a “story” so much as a fun and quirky encyclopedia on unicorns, written as if they were real creatures that have been studied. It was a lot of fun to learn about all the different unicorns and the illustrations were just gorgeous. The attention to detail both within the written content and the drawings was incredible. I actually really enjoyed this book! It’s definitely one I’ll be reading to my daughter when she gets older. It very much appeals to my inner child and would have been something I’d have picked up as a little girl! A very fun, sweet read!

MISS BELLA’S REVIEW

“I like the book, but I wish it was a story. I like the book because it is about unicorns. My favourite part is the part where they talk about Alicrons. Alicorns are rare and people don’t know where they live. Their horns are very pretty and gorgeous. Also, I wish the words were easier to understand. I would recommend that the story be about the six unicorns doing something together and the facts should be at the back.”

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Overall this seems to be a really fun book, however if your kiddo, like Bella, is looking for more of an adventure, this may not be the book for them! As I stated previously, it is written in a very factual way, as if Unicorns really exist and have been studied! If it were up to me though, I’d buy this over and over, the illustrations alone are reason enough!

How to Become a Book Reviewer for a Publishing Company

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Back when I started my Bookstagram, I hadn’t really put much thought into where I wanted to go with the whole thing. I knew I had a lot of thoughts and opinions about the books I had been reading, but I had never really done much more than drop a star-rating on Goodreads and be done with it. It wasn’t until I really started to delve into the Instagram community that I started to realise that running a blog could actually be a lot of fun! I started out writing my own content, “write what you know” as they say! So I wrote a lot of what I like to think is fun bookish content,  which included some how tos, book hauls and of course, reviews!

Once I had got some content onto my page, I thought about all those Bookstagrammers I had seen who were receiving books from publishers in exchange for honest reviews! I was so envious! Thinking that this could be something I do as more than just a fun little hobby, that maybe one day I could make it something more. That’s when I decided to really research how to become a book reviewer for publishing companies. Because there didn’t seem to be a lot of information out there, I ended up chatting to one of my Instagram friends who was incredibly helpful! But incase you don’t happen to have one of those friends, below are some of the things I have picked up along the way!

MAKE YOUR BLOG LOOK PROFESSIONAL.

First up, I recommend taking the time to set up a professional looking website! I am lucky enough to have a friend who is an incredible graphic designer, who was able to take my crazy, nonsensical ideas and come up with a really beautiful blog banner that fits my personality perfectly! I suggest getting something done professionally or even using the Canva app or website to try and create something yourself. You don’t have to do this step, but I honestly think it helps!

CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT!

Whether this is your instagram or your blog, you want to be as active as possible, so that the publisher can see you’re serious about what you do. I had had my Bookstagram running for about two years when I started getting serious about wanting to start a blog. It meant that I already had a great place to cross promote the blog too! Most publishing companies want to see that you have been posting consistently for about 6 months before they will add you to the blogger database!

ACTUALLY REVIEW BOOKS.

This goes without saying and ties in with the previous paragraph, but you actually need to be reviewing books you already have before you ask a publisher if you can be added to their database. It’s a really great way to get practice at reviewing books anyway and it helps show the publishers your style! A big part of becoming a reviewer for a publishing company is, well, actually reading and reviewing the books! So as long as this is something you’re able to do, you can go ahead and…

CONTACT THE PUBLISHING COMPANIES PUBLICITY DEPARTMENT.

Once you have your blog up and running and have been consistently creating content  for 6 months or more, go ahead and contact the publishing companies you’re interested in reviewing for. The easiest way I found was to jump on their website and send them an email. Make sure you are professional and courteous! A few things to remember to include in your email are:

  • Your website URL
  • How long you’ve been running your blog for
  • The amount of views your blog gets each month and
  • Links to your social media as well as the number of followers you have

And remember, be yourself!

FINALLY, DON’T BE DISCOURAGED IF YOU GET KNOCKED BACK!

Sometimes publishing companies have a set number of places to fill for bloggers, so don’t be discouraged if you get knocked back initially! Often times if you check back in a few months time they have positions that have become available!

Good luck on your blogging journey and happy reading everyone! If you ever want to chat books or blogging, hit me up here or on Instagram @readingsumpton.