Sunday, 22 October 2017

Spook or Sweet? Halloween Reads for the Brave (and Not-So Brave!) of Heart

Trick or treat...spook or sweet?

It's that time of year again! The perfect opportunity to pick up a read that sends a shiver down your spine, or has you glancing over your shoulder to make sure no vampires or ghouls have entered your home unannounced.

But sometimes we like to keep our sanity intact.

Halloween can be a time of spookiness overload, so it's important to have a balance between the tricks and treats, and spooks and sweets. Luckily for you guys I've come up with three sets of Spooks & Sweets - with each set featuring a spooky read and a sweeter read to calm the nerves or tickle the funny bone.

The three sets are organised by theme: Haunting History (historical fiction), Ghoulish Girls (female leads), and Terrifying Tech (technology or sci-fi based).

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

Pick your poison and settle down with a Spook & Sweet pairing that fits your reading preferences this Halloween!

Spook #1: Before the Devil Breaks You

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners #3)
By Libba Bray

Genre(s): YA, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Pub Date: October 2017
Page(s): 564
Price: $24.99 (AUD)

Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars

My thoughts on the book: Ever since the Gemma Doyle trilogy, Libba Bray has captivated me with her compelling storytelling and well crafted characters. She's mastered the art of creating historical fiction so that her books (A) don't contain the tedium usually associated with history, and (B) don't feel like fiction. Before The Devil Breaks You is a tale that hovers on the edges of reality, daring you to take a glimpse into the paranormal.

Apart from a few minor pacing issues at its start, the plot was intriguing and was the perfect match to Libba Bray's signature world building. Before The Devil Breaks You takes on the grim world of mental hospitals and asylums and the secrets their walls contain. I loved the immediate American Horror Story vibes I was getting - asylums (their terrible histories aside) make for fascinating stages for the paranormal, as well as mystery and mayhem.

Honestly though, the plot of this book could have been 'The Diviners Go To Disneyland' and I still would have raved about it because these characters are just so well thought out. Their flaws are interwoven with loveable attributes, their fears and dreams almost tangible. It's almost like Libba Bray has written a book about people she knows, telling a story she's heard from their own lips. The sense of realism surrounding their dialogue and interactions just adds to the enjoyment factor of the book and the series as a whole.

Prepare yourself for plot twists and an ominous undertone that only heightens the book's intensity. So get your party shoes on (and keep a weapon or two handy!) as the Diviners come face-to-face with the most sinister of forces. Before The Devil Breaks You is not to be missed!

Favourite quote'Dear Betty: Violets are blue. Red is the rose. You left him for dead. But somebody knows.'

Add to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

Want to see this book's spooky photoshoot? You can find it on my Instagram here!

Sweet #1: The Ship Beyond Time

The Ship Beyond Time (The Girl from Everywhere #2)
By Heidi Heilig 

Genre(s): YA, Fantasy, Time Travel, Historical Fiction

Publisher: Hotkey
Pub Date: June 2017
Price: $19.99 (AUD)

Rating: 3.9 out of 5 stars

My thoughts on the book: The Girl from Everywhere was one of those 2016 reads that stood out for its unique concepts and its memorable heroine. I remember finishing it and immediately wanting more - more Nix, more ships, more maps...and more Kash! I had come to really enjoy reading about Nix and her inner struggles. It gave me the same feeling as I got watching Pirates of the Caribbean for the first time - I was swept away by the adventure and never wanted it to end.

Needless to say I had high hopes for The Ship Beyond Time. And, in many ways, it met all my expectations and more. I think the only issue I had with the book was the love triangle. Not because there was one...but because it didn't feel natural. It lacked believable emotional backing or stakes and it failed to engage me as the book went on. But apart from the love triangle, I did enjoy the book's plot and its continuation of the time travel theme. Honestly this book's time travel concept is one of the coolest I've come across in YA (with me being a diehard fan of historical maps and all!) and I was truly glad that the concept was further developed in the The Ship Beyond Time

So if you love adventure, ships, mythology, and the occasional sighting of a very handsome and witty young man (*cough* Kash *cough*) then you're going to love The Ship Beyond Time.

Favourite quote"His words came back to me from earlier in the evening: 'genius or madness'? I still had no answer."

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

Want to see this book's sweet photoshoot? You can find it on my Instagram here!

Spook #2: Girls Made of Snow and Glass

Girls Made of Snow and Glass
By Melissa Bashardoust

Genre(s): YA, Fantasy, Retellings, Fairytales, GLBT

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia
Pub Date: October 2017
Page(s): 384
Price: $24.99 (AUD)

Rating4 out of 5 stars

My thoughts on the book: Firstly can we just get a good look at that book cover?! I'm a big fan of understated beauty and Girls Made of Snow and Glass has it in spades. I have the hardback edition and let me just say it's 110% stunning in person - the stark silhouette of the icicles against the solid black is pure perfection.

I don't even know where to start with this book. It has so many layers to uncover and to analyse - there is so much complexity within its pages that it's just not possible for me to do it justice in a single review. From the mother-daughter relationship, to the creative use of the original fairytale of Snow White, there is so much to love about this book.

I'm a big fan of retellings balancing unique material with material, or concepts, from the original fairytale, myth, or legend. It's a difficult balance to create - the story has to stand on its own, but still hold ties to the original. Melissa Bashardoust did a fantastic job of this, combining her unique magical elements (shout out to the glass heart concept!) with the simple structural 'skeleton' of Snow White's tale.

I'm unsure still about whether or not a bit more of Snow White's tale should have been adopted - it may have helped a little with the pacing, or at least with setting the stage for the story's world building. Or...on the other hand, that would have probably diluted Meliisa Bashardoust's creative storytelling *cue the inner struggle*. Basically I have no answers haha, but I do think that the intriguing characters and concepts could have benefitted from more context.

With a great cast of female characters, Girls Made of Snow and Glass balances the book's more eerie elements with an inner strength that makes for a magical read.

Favourite quote: 'She had never wished her dead. But no tears came, and her lack of emotional display made her feel…Heartless. But that's what I am, she thought. That's what I'll always be.'

Add to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

Want to see this book's spooky photoshoot? You can find it on my Instagram here!

Sweet #2: Royce Rolls

Royce Rolls
By Margaret Stohl 

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Fiction

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pub Date: May 2017
Price: $14.39 (AUD)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

My thoughts on the book: Royce Rolls, like an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, is a drama-packed race to the finish line. Like a America's Next Top Model confessional, it's filled to the brim with stereotypes and plot twists...and by the end of it you're ready for someone to just be voted off the island. Aaaaand I really need to quit it with the reality tv comparisons!

I give Margaret Stohl total points for her used of 'mixed media', from articles and Tweets, to the use of footnotes. Creativity in YA formats is something that is always wonderful to see (like for e.g. Illuminae and its case file/collection of documents format) and it certainly piques readers' interest. However, personally, I was a tad overwhelmed by the amount of extra material. It tended to make my attention stray from the storyline, plot, etc. to other lesser details (e.g. the use of the smiley emoji). This, however, may be less a flaw with Royce Rolls than a testament to my limited attention span lol.

That said, I did enjoy the material I read. The articles especially provided a really interesting contrast between the action we'd just read about (or would be reading about) and how it was received by the public. It really highlighted the flimsy nature of reality tv and how gossip sites, etc. take what's on the screen and sell it as reality, as truth.

Overall the book was entertaining and Margaret Stohl is really good at capturing the hilarity of a situation and setting up her characters for full effect. Royce Rolls is a ride on the wild side, so be sure to buckle up!

Favourite quote"If I play my cards right, I can get my family renewed for another season and get the hell out of here. Look out, world. It was time to double down on Being Bentley."

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

Want to see this book's sweet photoshoot? You can find it on my Instagram here!

Spook #3: Day 7

Day 7 (Cell 7 #2)
By Kerry Drewery 

Genre(s): YA, Dystopia, Sci-fi

Publisher: Hotkey
Pub Date: September 2017
Page(s): 256
Price: $19.99 (AUD)

Rating4.4 out of 5 stars

My thoughts on the book: Question: is it possible for a book, or an author, to kill you with fictional tension?!

Kerry Drewery knows how to create tension and Day 7 is the perfect example of this. The separation of two of my favourite characters drove me crazy in that Hunger Games: Mockingjay kind of way - it was so hard to watch these characters I'd grown to care about in Cell 7 get thrust into another set of dangerous and unpredictable circumstances. But at the same kind of grow to love it! As torturous as storylines like this are, they're the good kind of torture. They're the kind that lets you know that the book's author is talented enough to create a plot and characters that you want to become invested in and that you root for.

One of the freakiest things about this book isn't an obvious 'spook'. It's the realism of the book and the series. This idea that governing forces can have such control over the lives of people. That media, and technology, can be manipulated and used to ruin the lives of innocent people for the 'entertainment' of the masses. Basically, a situation that hits close to home in today's modern age.

And the ending...oh boy, the ending! *struggles to contain my emotions*

Aaah I can't spoil it for you guys but it was so, so good. It made be even more excited for upcoming book(s) in the series and to see what complexities Martha will face next. Definitely the kind of dystopian tale that will have you eagerly hanging on to every word.

Favourite quote: 'I didn't dare look at her because I knew what I'd see in her eyes. Lies. Lies to make me feel better; I know damn well what will happen tomorrow. We're back to square one (...) I won't give up on you though. I'll do whatever it takes. But the fact is, I don't know what that is. Be with me, in my head, next to me, to help me find it.'

Add to your Goodreads bookshelf today!

Sweet #3: I Hate Everyone But You

I Hate Everyone But You
By Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Genre(s): YA, Contemporary, Fiction, GLBT

Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Pub Date: October 2017
Price: $19.99 (AUD)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note(s): Does include some mature themes. I tend to view most college-esque content as 18+, just to be safe for my younger followers and readers. However, the decision is up to each individual to make :)

My thoughts on the book: Full of humour and heart I Hate Everyone But You is both a quirky read...and possibly the title of my autobiography! The 'you' part, of course, referring to my beautiful bookshelves ;)

The characters in I Hate Everyone But You are very reminiscent of Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With The Wind. They're flawed, troubled, and sometimes really, really annoying! I can't count the number of times I just stared at something Ava or Gen said and thought: "Umm what?!" They're not the kind of girls you'd be friends with...but I kinda started to realise that might be the point. Maybe, just maybe, their prickly exteriors and witty remarks were part of the bigger picture. As much as I didn't personally like Ava and Gen, I appreciated that their flawed characters made them realistic. That their friendship worked for them because no one else seemed to get it, or them.

The format was really interesting - the emails are a fun way of formatting the book, although it does take a bit of effort to get into the 'flow' of them. I did like how the subject lines of the emails foreshadowed the conversations or hinted at important points. It was also difficult to separate Gen and Ava as being separate people haha (they're so alike!) especially since I'm reading this in my one 'voice' inside my head.

The book does contain some mature themes - there are mentions of drinking and drugs, and the book is set in a college context. So if you're either (A) not a fan of this kind of content, or (B) read more of the younger or mid section of YA, just note that I Hate Everyone But You falls more on the 'adult' spectrum of YA.

A story that highlights the strength of a friendship based on hard truths and many a laugh, I Hate Everyone But You is as colourful and humorous as its emoji-covered cover.

Ava: (...) I don't know what to say because I don't know if the entire thing was in my head. I guess I will start by setting the scene. Did I mention I'm currently in Screenwriting 101? The night: black. The stars: I'm not sure. We were inside.'

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

Which book will you be settling down with for Halloween? What is the spookiest book you've ever read?

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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