Review | The Possible by Tara Altebrando

Publisher: Bloomsbury Australia
Release Date: 1st June 2017 

 

Another twisty psychological suspense from the author of The Leaving, where a teen searches for answers about her mother’s dark history, telekinesis, and the power of will.

What if . . . no one knows the truth about you? It’s been thirteen years since Kaylee’s biological mother, Crystal, once infamous for her supposed telekinetic ability, got a life sentence for killing Kaylee’s little brother in a fit of telekinetic rage. Today, Kaylee’s living a normal life with her adoptive parents and almost never thinks of Crystal. Until a woman shows up on Kaylee’s doorstep, asking to interview her for a podcast about her mother. Was the whole telekinesis thing a hoax, or does Crystal have some kind of special powers? Is it possible that Kaylee has them, too? It would certainly explain some of the stranger things that have happened to her over the years. 

What if . . . she did the interview? Met her mother for the first time since the trial? Can her mother prove she can make things happen with her mind? Can Kaylee do the same? And what if she has been doing it, all along? As the podcast begins airing, everyone in Kaylee’s life–everyone in the country–is hearing this dark history and asking questions that even Kaylee has never dared ask herself.

The Possible is a twisty, surprising story, and an exploration of the power of our own minds, the power of will, and how our histories define us . . . or not.


The Possible had an intriguing premise, but failed dismally to deliver. The execution was horrible and the only reason I managed to finish was because the book was short and by skimming ¾ of the book, I managed to finish it in a couple of hours.

The Possible begins with Kaylee getting visited by a reporter, who wants to interview her for a podcast about her biological mum. Her biological mum, who is currently in prison for the murder of Kaylee’s brother, was once ‘famous’ for supposedly possessing telekinetic powers. The storyline essentially revolves around Kaylee investigating whether her mother’s claims of telekinetic powers are true, and simultaneously discovering whether she herself has these supernatural powers.

I’m assuming that the author intended for readers to spend the entire journey guessing whether Kaylee has powers, but I chalked up every single strange incident to coincidence – Altebrando’s storytelling wasn’t convincing enough for me to wonder whether Kaylee had supernatural powers. Her writing was too simple with a lot of “telling” rather than “showing”, and there were too many line breaks that ruined the flow of the story. Kaylee would be in a conversation with her parents, the conversation would quickly and conveniently wrap up, then the story would jump to another scene a few days later. There was no smooth transition between scenes which made it feel like the story was all over the place.

Speaking of Kaylee, it was impossible to like her. She was so self-centred and immature, I honestly would not want to be friends with her in real life. Instead of finding another date or going with friends to prom, she was under the illusion that her unattainable crush would somehow miraculously dump his current girlfriend, who she so kindly nicknamed “Princess Bubblegum”, before prom and would then somehow miraculously notice her and take her to prom even though they’ve never spoken to each other before. I’m usually fine with characters fantasising about their crush, but when they say  stuff like “Yeah, he’ll dump her before prom and then take me” and purposely orchestrate a plan to break them up, then we have a problem.

I believe this story had potential, especially since telekinesis is such an interesting topic. If only the writing was stronger and the characters were more level-headed, memorable and less like… cardboard cut-outs, I would have liked the book a lot more. The pacing could have been slower too, since it read like the author rushed to finish writing the book. All in all, this wasn’t my cup of tea.

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Review | Eliza and her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 30th May 2017 

 

Eighteen-year-old Eliza Mirk is the anonymous creator of Monstrous Sea, a wildly popular webcomic, but when a new boy at school tempts her to live a life offline, everything she’s worked for begins to crumble.

In the real world, Eliza Mirk is shy, weird, smart, and friendless. Online, Eliza is LadyConstellation, the anonymous creator of a popular webcomic called Monstrous Sea. With millions of followers and fans throughout the world, Eliza’s persona is popular. Eliza can’t imagine enjoying the real world as much as she loves her digital community. Then Wallace Warland transfers to her school, and Eliza begins to wonder if a life offline might be worthwhile. But when Eliza’s secret is accidentally shared with the world, everything she’s built—her story, her relationship with Wallace, and even her sanity—begins to fall apart. With pages from Eliza’s webcomic, as well as screenshots from Eliza’s online forums, this uniquely formatted book will appeal to fans of Noelle Stevenson’s Nimonaand Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl.

Eliza and her Monsters is by far, my favourite YA book of 2017. It’s not a spur of the moment decision either – I’ve had a couple days to sit on it and yes, as of June 2017, it’s my favourite 2017 book.

Eliza is the anonymous creator of the world-famous webcomic, Monstrous Sea. For the last 3 years she has, without fail, uploaded new additions to the comic every Friday. She has constantly stressed how consistency and her top-quality work (she would never upload something that she isn’t 100% happy with) is what her fans deserve. This is a sentiment that as a book blogger, I can relate to. Back when I was more active on Shiirleyy’s Bookshelf I was pushing myself to finish at least several books a week so that I would have at least 2-3 reviews up every week. I didn’t want to disappoint the publishers who kindly sent me books, the same way Eliza never wanted to disappoint her fans. I really admire Eliza for singlehandedly creating this virtual empire that stemmed from her passion for drawing. She is a fighter, a fantastic main character but not without her flaws. I felt that Eliza was so absorbed in her online life that she neglected her family, especially her two brothers. Eliza admitted that she didn’t particularly care about her brothers’ games, which was extremely disheartening since they were siblings and her brothers cared deeply for her and knew everything about her internet fame. I am however, happy with how Eliza matured as an older sister towards the end 🙂 

I liked the representation of Eliza’s parents; her parents always thought this Monstrous Sea webcomic was simply a hobby and were supportive but never truly understood the extent of their daughter’s popularity and talent. I remember an interview I read featuring one of Australia’s most famous fashion icons, Margaret Zhang where she shared that even after almost half a decade, her parents were not aware of what she did. I think the representation of Eliza’s parents was rather accurate and while sometimes I wanted to yell at them for not making the effort to open their eyes and see how talented and successful their daughter is, I agreed with their constant nagging for Eliza to leave her room. 

The illustrations were absolutely stunning and I can’t wait to buy myself a copy to stare at all day! Whether you’re a teenager, or an adult, I strongly recommend picking this up. I went through a roller coaster of emotions in the second half of the book. I was on the verge of tears towards the end because it was so emotionally draining and my heart ached for both Eliza and Wallace – who, by the way is an absolute sweetheart!! Eliza and her Monsters sends a strong message of hope and to pursue your passion. Don’t waste your life doing things you loathe, make the most of your life!

 

5 STARS

Review | Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Publisher: Penguin 
Release Date: 5th May 2015  

 

Peyton, Sydney’s charismatic older brother, has always been the star of the family, receiving the lion’s share of their parents’ attention and—lately—concern. When Peyton’s increasingly reckless behavior culminates in an accident, a drunk driving conviction, and a jail sentence, Sydney is cast adrift, searching for her place in the family and the world. When everyone else is so worried about Peyton, is she the only one concerned about the victim of the accident?

Enter the Chathams, a warm, chaotic family who run a pizza parlor, play bluegrass on weekends, and pitch in to care for their mother, who has multiple sclerosis. Here Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance. And here she meets Mac, gentle, watchful, and protective, who makes Sydney feel seen, really seen, for the first time.

The uber-popular Sarah Dessen explores her signature themes of family, self-discovery, and change in her twelfth novel, sure to delight her legions of fans.


Two years ago when I read
Saint Anything for the first time, I liked it. Two days ago I decided to re-read it, and upon finishing discovered that I love it. I have since bumped it up from 4 stars to 5 stars. I decided to read Saint Anything again in preparation for Sarah Dessen’s new book Once and for All out in June (not long now!!!!!).

Saint Anything is so raw, so heart-achingly relatable that you have to read it for yourself to understand just how real  it is. Dessen has managed to strategically weave a beautiful story of family, friendship, forgiveness and redemption. I used to like Dessen’s work because I loved the romance in her books, but with Saint Anything, it wasn’t just the romance that hit home. It was the feeling of always being invisible until you find that one person, or group of people that you realise actually see you and get you. Perhaps the reason I was able to connect with Sydney is because I’m still searching for a Layla and/or Mac, but in the meantime, I have Saint Anything to give me hope.

Sydney has always been in the shadows of her older brother, Peyton, someone who is gorgeous, charming, and as Sydney puts it “once you saw Peyton, you couldn’t take your eyes off him.” This is in contrast to Sydney, who is pretty but in that “common-face-pretty” kind of way. She represents all the ordinary girls out there who aren’t striking in any way, who don’t have obvious talents, who just don’t stand out. Perhaps staying unseen is better than getting negative publicity, but sometimes all we want is to be recognised for our achievements, to be seen as an individual or our own person.

“My own life felt flat and sad too much of the time; It was reassuring, somehow, to lose myself in someone else’s.”

The quote above hit home because the reason why I read so many books is to somehow lose myself in someone else’s life. When my life becomes a routine, it feels flat and boring. I’m always craving a new adventure – which is probably why I love travelling so much – but in the meantime when I’m stuck in the same city doing the same things every day, losing myself in books keeps me sane.

“But without them (TV Show characters), the house felt so empty….I;d grown to dread the moment I stepped off the bus after school.”

As an only child, I usually have the entire house to myself when my parents are at work. I used to like it when I was younger, but now? It’s lonely. I always dread going home early on Friday nights because the house is so empty and quiet. If I had it my way, I’d be out every Friday night with friends or family.

Although I’m able to relate to Sydney on so many levels, there was one particular thing that I couldn’t – and it’s largely because my parents listen to me and trust my judgements in people (Thank heavens!)  Sydney never outright told her parents how she felt uncomfortable around Ames ( I would’ve told them straight up or left the house every time he was there). I don’t know how she kept her sanity; I can’t imagine feeling unsafe or terrified of the people living in my own home.

To conclude, please do yourself a favour and read this. Sarah Dessen is a saint for writing this spectacular book and I can’t wait for Once and for All! 

5 STARS

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series Review | Part 2

 A Court of Thorns and Roses A Court of Mist and Fury | A Court of Wings and Ruins 

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 Sarah J Maas | Bloomsbury Australia

Welcome to Part 2 of my review of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J Maas! In this review, I will be detailing everything I didn’t like about ACOWAR. (I liked the first two books too much to find any fault in them.) Keep in mind there will be spoilers ahead!

While Sarah J Maas has a penchant for creating picturesque worlds using a combination of imagery and metaphors and very, very descriptive language that generally causes me to gawk at how beautiful her writing is, I couldn’t help but notice her writing in ACOWAR was unpolished. I understand that when we talk, we sometimes pause in the middle of the sentence to search for the correct word to describe whatever it is we’re talking about and adding “…” certainly adds authenticity to such dialogues BUT adding an ellipsis every single time someone speaks ruins the flow of the narrative. Another thing I noticed was Sarah J Maas’s questionable choice of words. I’m not a great writer so I usually don’t criticize an author’s use of words, phrases, or writing techniques (I merely comment on the overall writing style ) but there was one phrase that made me laugh out loud at how ridiculous it was – “… the back of my palm” . Umm….did you mean the back of my hand?

 Romance

Look, it’s completely fine if certain characters don’t get their happily-ever-after. I would rather they be happily single than forced to pair up with another character out of sheer convenience. Isn’t it so convenient that Nesta and Elaine became high Fae and are paired up with Cassian and Azriel respectively. ( I don’t see Elaine and Lucien getting together and as Mor is officially out of the picture, I feel like Maas is pushing Elaine and Azriel towards each other) Amren’s sudden romance was also unnecessary. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with characters staying unattached so why did Sarah J Maas have to pair Amren, the deadly, formidable otherworldly being with a High Fae? Was it really necessary?

 Nesta and Elaine

Nesta and Elaine read to me like Cinderella’s two stepsisters. I understand that Feyre forgave Nesta and Elaine for failing to help/provide for the family in the years before ACOTAR but I’m unable to forgive them. Perhaps Nesta redeemed herself in ACOTAR by attempting to climb over the wall to reach Feyre, but that doesn’t change the fact that she would rather to watch her family starve to death and blame her father and everyone else in the world than get her ass out of the house and help Feyre hunt for food. It doesn’t help that she’s unnecessarily hostile to everyone and I certainly don’t care how powerful she is. She does not deserve Cassian nor a place in the Night Court.

As for Elaine, I think she’s even worse than Nesta. She reminds me of Bella Swan from Twilight. A beautiful damsel in distress that isn’t capable of physically doing anything to help out. No one got angry with her for not helping to provide for the family because she was kind? Really? That sounds to me like she’s just utterly useless. In ACOWAR, she spent a good few weeks wasting away in her room – exactly what Bella did in New Moon. What about during all the battles? Someone always had to look after her because she was so useless she couldn’t defend herself. Sarah J Maas attempted to portray her as a hero in the last few chapters but I guess even Bella Swan had her heroic moments eh?

Despite having issues with ACOWAR, I was satisfied with the ending. Sarah J Maas’s battle scenes kept me at the edge of my seat and everything played out perfectly. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ll be back for the spin-off series (I have no interest in any of the other pairings.) I am however, looking forward to Sarah J Maas’s future projects as long as they feature sexy male leads like Rhysand, Az or even Tarquin J

A Court of Thorns and Roses Series Review | Part 1

A Court of Thorns and Roses | A Court of Mist and Fury | A Court of Wings and Ruins 

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 Sarah J Maas | Bloomsbury Australia

***Spoilers Ahead***

 It is no secret that ACOTAR was my favourite book of 2015 and 2016’s was ACOMAF. Instead of writing a traditional review for each book, I’ve decided to post my thoughts about the series in general. This review is divided into 2 parts – Part 1 will convey why ACOTAR and ACOMAF are books that I believe delivers powerful messages to its readers while Part 2 will explore reasons why ACOWAR didn’t quite work for me. Note that I wrote Part 1 before I finished reading ACOWAR and Part 2 was written after.

Books are powerful. The messages they convey, the portrayals of characters, relationships and the dynamics between people, family members, friends, partners etc. are very likely to shape a reader’s understanding and perception of the world. Perhaps not always. But I know it does for me.

The reason why I’ve suddenly developed an immense gratification and admiration for Sarah J Maas is due to her willingness to incorporate important social issues into her ACOTAR series. I read ACOTAR 2 years ago and ACOMAF last year and only TODAY discovered the ‘hidden’ messages within the books. Perhaps I’ve become more in touch with my social surroundings and social media has alerted my attention to the grave significance of issues such as domestic violence, abusive relationships, sexual assault to name a few. There will be none of my usual fangirling in this review; I suppose this will be more of a personal reflection for me than an actual review.

Abusive Relationships

Reading Colleen Hoover’s ‘This Ends With Us’ was the first time I recall sitting down and thinking about something that is prevalent in our society but is rarely discussed openly. I myself am not too acquainted with this topic but I am aware of how important it is for men and women to identify the red flags and leave the relationship. I’m an active Reddit lurker, especially on the AskReddit subtopic and some of my favourite threads are ones that are marked “serious” where people from all over the world share their personal stories in response to whatever serious question is being asked. I recall reading several threads that were associated with people leaving a relationship/marriage because of physical and/or emotional abuse and it truly breaks my heart to read these stories.

I love how Sarah J Maas draws on this type of relationship in ACOMAF. Perhaps the red flags were evident in ACOTAR, perhaps not, but if they were, I certainly missed them.

“I trashed half the house,” he said, leaning forward to press his brow to mine.

I remember reading Beautiful Disaster years ago and a similar quote came up. I didn’t think anything of it at the time because I thought it was “romantic” but now? Holy shit this violence is disturbing.

“During that first week back, I wasn’t allowed out of sight of the house. “ | “He’d trapped me in here; he’d locked me up.”

Having her entire life dictated by Tamlin and treated like a possession as opposed to a human being was so upsetting for me. The fiercely determined Feyre from ACOTAR was gone and replaced by an empty shell. She withered away day by day, yet no one fucking helped her.

Sexual Assault

I’ve detected a gradual increase in Rape Culture interest/posts on social media and in newspapers in light of recent incidents that have made headlines over the last year. I’m sure you know which ‘incidents’ I’m talking about. (If you don’t, think judges handing out light sentences to rapists or blaming the victims for getting themselves into those situations in the first place.) There is no excuse for rape. None at all.

I’ve seen many personal stories about men getting raped and/or sexually assaulted and keeping silent about this their entire lives because there is a stigma in society that “men can’t be raped”. Yes they can. They can and society needs to stop thinking otherwise. The ‘relationship’ between Rhysand and Amarantha in ACOTAR was a cleverly crafted representation of sexual abuse – Rhysand being tortured and assaulted at the hands of Amarantha. Despite Rhysand’s cold, merciless exterior, this ordeal has left Rhysand traumatised and broken, as illustrated in ACOMAF.

I’m currently reading ACOWAR and so far I’m really liking it. I’ll most likely end up reading it twice – the first time for my pure enjoyment only and the second to pick up on things that I missed the first time round. Lastly, I need to mention that while Sarah J Maas seems to advocate very strongly for redemption and forgiveness, personally I could do without Nesta and Elain’s recurring appearances in all the books. In my opinion, there is absolutely no need for them to play such a huge role in the series – sisters or not.