Thursday, 25 May 2017

Quick Picks ~ This Week's Top 3 Reads

This past week I've indulged in some great reads. 

Today I'm bringing three of these to your attention: The Silent Invasion by James Bradley, Wonderful Feels Like This by Sara Lövestam, and Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray.

Each of these reads had something in common.

All three novels had plots whose unique concepts captured my imagination from the start. I hope they will intrigue you, entertain you, and above all have you falling in love with them just as much as I did.

A big thank you to Allen & Unwin and Pan Macmillan Australia for sending me these copies to review.

Let's get listing!

#1: The Silent Invasion

The Silent Invasion
By James Bradley

Genre(s): YA, sci-fi
ImprintPan Australia
Pub Date: March 2017
Page(s): 300
Price: $9.99 (AUD)

Rating3.5 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: When the earth's inhabitants become infected by alien spores, one teenage girl will do anything to save her sister and uncover the truth.

Best part(s): I truly loved the basis for this book. The title and cover were engaging and, combined with the blurb, they hinted at a world of possibilities. From the spore infection and alien intelligence, to the concept of 'Changing' and the high stakes involved, the book set up a list of high expectations.

The fast pacing and characters were definite highlights. James Bradley twists Australia into a dystopian wonderland that provides the book with a perfect setting. His world is one that I would love to see explored in more depth.

Least favourite part(s): The difficult part about high expectations is that, unfortunately, they can often lead to little or no payoff. The Silent Invasion tended to steer a little too close to dystopian cliches and its plot path was very much reminiscent of previous dystopian novels I've read in the past. I kept waiting for the story to dive beneath its surface and deliver us depth, further engagement, and actual complications.

Although enjoyable, The Silent Invasion didn't break new ground or challenge me as a reader. It has so much untapped potential that I believe could have made for a truly electric read. I'm hoping that a future book or books in the series will build on the great concepts this series holds and elevate the plot and its characters.

Find out more about the book & add it your Goodreads bookshelf today! 

"Then what is it all for?"
(...) "I don't know," he said. "Perhaps we just don't know when to give up."

"Some people might call that hope."
He snorted. "Or magical thinking."

#2: Wonderful Feels Like This

Wonderful Feels Like This
By Sara Lövestam

GenreYA, contemporary, music, fiction

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pub Date: April 2017
Page(s): 320
Price: $29.99 (AUD)

Rating4 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: A young girl uses jazz music to escape her worries and connect with others - going up against the odds and forming unconventional friendships along the way.

Best part(s): Who knew a story about a young girl dealing with the trials of school life - and meeting an old man whose love of jazz music rivals her own - would be so utterly magical?! I didn't know what to expect when I cracked open Wonderful Feels Like This but I never imagined how addictive this story would be.

It's just so real, so raw. I tend to use the words 'real' and 'raw' a lot in my reviews of good books! But that's because they're what makes the book good - they're what gets me coming back for more, page after page. I want fiction I can connect with, featuring characters whose lives are a collection of oddities and perfectly flawed moments.

The dialogue had a lovely flow, covering a range of topics and uncovering the characters piece by piece. I liked how I was drawn to every character because they were just so vivid. I'm not always a fan of flashbacks or memory sequences, but Wonderful Feels Like This paints such a beautiful portrait of Alvar's life that you can't help but be enthralled. Pages 270-271 almost made be bawl like a baby (I have a weakness for proposal scenes!).

Least favourite part(s): The ending did make me bawl like a baby!

Find out more about the book & add it to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

'We go back to life the way it was.
The way things were just because.'
(NB: I know this gif doesn't truly relate to the quote...but when I saw
these hamsters playing jazz music I just had to include them in this review!)

#3: Defy The Stars

Defy The Stars
By Claudia Gray

Genre(s): YA, sci-fi, romance, fantasy
Publisher: Bonnier
Imprint: Hotkey
Pub Date: April 2017
Price: $19.99 (AUD)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

One sentence summary: A soldier and a mech are stranded together and must work together to save a planet and discover the true meaning of humanity.

Best part(s): I will admit that when I read the blurb and discovered the main protagonists were a female space soldier and a male mech from an enemy planet, I was fully expecting a reboot of 
Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Sure it mentioned conflict and a journey but I was 90% convinced that the book would focus on throwing these two characters together in a romantic manner.

I was so, so happy to be proven wrong! Defy The Stars had such depth and really focused on some important issues throughout the novel. From the concept of robots/mechs feeling emotions, to the definition of humanity and how it affects our future, Defy The Stars set out to create a story whose characters were more than just YA cliches. They had purpose.

Not to pick favourites, but Abel was kind of the highlight for me. Everything about his character connected with me emotionally - from his own struggles regarding the role his creator, to his awkwardly blossoming relationship with Noemi. I applaud Defy The Stars and its author for not going the obvious route of 'unfeeling mech' and instead creating a character whose layers were numerous and well-written.

Last but not least, I can't forget to mention the brilliant banter, nicely and not overly-explained concepts, and overall world building. It's the kind of story that demands your attention and doesn't let go.

Least favourite part(s): There was the occasional brain-freeze when it came to plot. I found myself a little lost at times as to what was happening and why. Although the plot was brilliant, it did need a little fine tuning to create a more cohesive feel.

Find out more about the book & add it to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

'As he hugs her closer, he feels a kind of pain indistinguishable from joy. Is this what humans feel when they embrace the one they love? But it can't be. Humans may mistreat those they love. Sometimes they abandon them entirely. They couldn't do that if they felt the way Abel feels in this moment. They couldn't even imagine it.'

Which book will you be adding to your TBR? Have you read any standout books this week?

Let me know in the comments below!

Although I was provided with a review copy by the author and/or publisher, all opinions expressed in the this post are purely my own. To find out more, please visit my disclaimer page.

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