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: 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.

Book Review: Illuminae By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

BRIEFING NOTE: Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

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I thoroughly enjoyed Illuminae! So much so, that I have put off writing this review in favour of reading the next book in the series, Gemina. It was a very interesting format, which I admit, was hard to get my head around at first and one of the reasons it took me so long to actually pick this book up in the first place. I even considered listening to the audio book instead (absolutely no shade on audio books, the reason I wanted to listen to it is because I’ve heard its phenomenal!) But I pushed ahead, got over the fact it had weird formatting and read it anyway… And I am so glad I did!

Illumine follows Kady and her ex-ex boyfriend, Ezra through an epic (and terrifying) space adventure. After their home planet is invaded and they are forced to flee, they find themselves separated onto two different space crafts. But the terror doesn’t stop there. Nobody in charge will tell them what’s really going on and as strange things start to happen, Kady puts her impressive hacker skills to work to uncover the truth.

This was amazing! It has all the right elements to create an intense and sometimes downright heart-wrenching plot. As I said before, the formatting took some getting used to as it’s almost as if you are reading through notes and photocopies of conversations for a trial, but after completing the novel, I don’t think a normal format would have done the story justice. It was different, quirky and really fun to read.

The characters, in true Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman style, were awesome. So much sass and great snarky banter! I found myself laughing out loud a lot while reading this one. Especially when I could almost feel the Aussie sense of humour coming through! On the other side of things, this book could also get really quite emotional and sad (also something this duo is incredible at!)

Overall, this was an amazing scifi! If you love rouge AI, deadly, mutating plagues and incredible badass characters, this one is for you! If you, like me, haven’t picked this up because the formatting “looks weird” just do it, go ahead and read it, its amazing! You won’t be sorry!

Book Review: To Kill A Kingdom By Alexandra Christo

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.

There are seventeen hidden in the sand of my bedroom. Every so often, I claw through the shingle just to check they’re still there. Buried deep and bloody.

Princess Lira is siren royalty and revered across the sea until she is cursed into humanity by the ruthless Sea Queen. Now Lira must deliver the heart of the infamous siren killer or remain a human forever.

Prince Elian is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world and captain to a deadly crew of siren hunters. When he rescues a drowning woman from the ocean, she promises to help him destroy sirenkind for good. But he has no way of knowing whether he can trust her…

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My goodness was this awesome or what! For a 350 page stand alone novel, this was jam packed full of story and damn did it flow! Sometimes I find it can be hard to strike a balance between a stand alone of this length feeling like everything happens too quickly or so slowly that it feels like nothing has happened at all. This struck that balance perfectly. I’m honestly a little sad that this story isn’t continuing!

To Kill A Kingdom feels a little bit like the Little Mermaid meets Pirates of the Caribbean! It’s got Sirens, Pirates and Evil Sea Queens! It’s jam packed full of action and has a very seamless flow that left me wanting more, but also wrapped up all the loose ends nicely. It tells the story of Lira, a Siren Princess conditioned to be a killer. After upsetting her mother, the Evil Sea Queen, she is sentenced to humanity and can only return to the sea if she brings her mother the heart of the Pirate Prince, Elian. However, upon joining his crew, Lira has other plans for her return to the sea!

I loved this! These characters! Where do I start! They were so much fun to read! Their interactions were perfection (who doesn’t love a bit of snarky banter!) and the romance was really subtle too which I thought was fantastic (no instalove WOO HOO!)

The plot was an epic adventure! I would happily read this again and again. I loved the in depth law we got of the Sirens and their underwater Kingdom as well as the incredibly rich and vivid world that these characters travel through. This is actually one of the reasons I’m sad to see this story end! I would have loved to explore the world more with these witty characters!

Over all, I couldn’t recommend this more. If you are a fan of Sarah J Maas or Leigh Bardugo, go and read this. It’s epic. 5 stars!

Book Review: The Binding By Bridget Collins

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Young Emmett Farmer is working in the fields when a strange letter arrives summoning him away from his family. He is to begin an apprenticeship as a Bookbinder—a vocation that arouses fear, superstition, and prejudice among their small community but one neither he nor his parents can afford to refuse.

For as long as he can recall, Emmett has been drawn to books, even though they are strictly forbidden. Bookbinding is a sacred calling, Seredith informs her new apprentice, and he is a binder born. Under the old woman’s watchful eye, Emmett learns to hand-craft the elegant leather-bound volumes. Within each one they will capture something unique and extraordinary: a memory. If there’s something you want to forget, a binder can help. If there’s something you need to erase, they can assist. Within the pages of the books they create, secrets are concealed and the past is locked away. In a vault under his mentor’s workshop, rows upon rows of books are meticulously stored.

But while Seredith is an artisan, there are others of their kind, avaricious and amoral tradesman who use their talents for dark ends—and just as Emmett begins to settle into his new circumstances, he makes an astonishing discovery: one of the books has his name on it. Soon, everything he thought he understood about his life will be dramatically rewritten.

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Every now and then I read a book that steals my heart. The Binding just stole my heart. It was an incredible, boundary defying love story, and I was utterly besotted with the two protagonists, Emmett and Lucian. If you can’t tell by their names, this is a LGBT love story and it was perfection. I could read this again and again and I’m certain I’d enjoy it just as much as I did the first time. The writing had a beautiful lyrical quality and the gothic, atmospheric setting was perfection.

The story begins with Emmett, a young man set to inherit his families farm, until one day he receives a letter, telling him that he must go to become an apprentice book binder. In the world of The Binding your memories can be taken away and bound into books, something that promotes fear and prejudice. After giving up the only life he has ever known, Emmett it surprised to find a book with his name on it. From there, The Binding takes you on an incredible journey of self discovery and forbidden love.

This was amazing. My only critic would be that it did start a little slow, but not in a bad way. I actually really enjoyed getting to know these characters in an almost leisurely pace, unfolding little bits and pieces of them one page at a time. It was a gorgeous slow burn novel that focused heavily on the details, something that I find I often miss when reading YA as opposed to an Adult novel.

The plot and setting was incredibly immersive and at times confronting and gritty. It had such a profound effect on me that it had me turning page after page as if in a daze! Emmett and Lucian’s love story might be my new favourite too! I feel like I’ll miss them now that I’ve finished with this book.

Over all, this was an emotional read! One that I thoroughly enjoyed and would highly recommend! Because of this, I am giving this historical fiction-romance-fantasy mash-up 5 stars!