All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blog Tour Review: Weapon by Lynette Noni

Weapon (Whisper #2)
Lynette Noni
Pantera Press
2019, 407p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

I already knew he was a psychopath. But now?
He’s more dangerous than ever.
And I have less than twenty-four hours to stop him.

After escaping Lengard and finding sanctuary with the Remnants, Alyssa Scott is desperate to save those she left behind ─ and the rest of the world ─ from the power-hungry scientist, Kendall Vanik. But secrets and lies block her at every turn, and soon Lyss is left questioning everything she has ever believed.

When long-lost memories begin to surface and the mysteries of her past continue to grow, Lyss battles to retain her hard-won control. Allies become enemies and enemies become allies, leaving her certain about only two things: when it comes to Speakers, nothing is ever as it seems… and the only person she can trust is herself.

Recently Lynette Noni has become one of my favourite YA authors with her series The Medoran Chronicles which got simply better and better with each book. Last year she released something totally new and different, Whisper, which was the first book in a duology. This concludes the series and I was really excited to find out what was going to happen to Alyssa after she escaped Lengard and was able to find some sort of freedom and sanctuary with the Remnants in the catacombs under Taronga Park Zoo.

I’ve read a lot of books since Whisper but it was so easy to settle back into this world and pick up precisely where I left off. Alyssa has spent almost a week recovering after her escape and the first thing she wants to do is go back to Lengard and rescue those that were left behind. But with Kael seemingly uninterested in fulfilling his promise of helping her at the present time, Alyssa is forced to wait and assess and try and come up with a new plan. She also needs to hone her skills using her ability.

This is a wild ride of a book. It’s absolutely packed with twists and turns, shocking reveals and revelations that leave Alyssa reeling on both a personal and ‘professional’ level concerning her powers and the powers of those around her. She will be forced to realise and deal with the fact that seemingly, everyone is lying to her. Even those she cares about the most. Another she cares about is lost to her, under the power of true evil and although she’s desperate to rescue them, she needs to bide her time and wait. With waiting comes information and Alyssa is going to need every single bit of information that she can gather in order to be able to defeat her nemesis and free the people of Lengard.

I absolutely love the world that Noni has created here, it utilised the setting of Sydney’s CBD so well and the ferries/harbour and locations around the zoo. This book gives the reader more background, especially concerning Alyssa and her upbringing and her family, which was something I always wanted more from in Whisper. It’s explained how she came to be in Lengard and why and all of this is woven together in a really expert way. It’s like the longest con ever and the way in which the pieces fall into place is very well done. Even though for me, there were some personal disappointments in how things panned out but the way in which they did were surprising and unexpected and I really enjoyed that about the story, that it gave me that shock value, made me question what I’d read in the previous book and reassess everything.

Alyssa really does go through the wringer here emotionally. She had a lot to deal with anyway in the previous book and this one just continues to pile things on, really and it’s up to her to try and sort out what she’s finding out and deal with it, as well as trying to decide who is lying to her, what they’re lying about and why they’re lying to her. Who has something that they want to hide so much that they’ll do anything and say anything to prevent her from finding out their secret? The pace in this is slower in the beginning as Alyssa recovers from her escape and tries to regather herself as well as find her role within the Remnants. But as you move through the book it picks up to breakneck pace and there’s just so much going on that it becomes about finding out those answers as quick as you can, putting everything together and wanting Alyssa to be the one who gets there first before she ends up in a situation that she can’t extract herself from. It’s amazing to realise who has been working against her from the beginning and who actually proves to be an ally, even when it seems like they might be an antagonist.

This was what I’ve come to expect from Lynette Noni novels and honestly, it’s too long until she’ll have another book out.

8/10

Book #178 of 2019

Weapon is the 69th book read for my participation in The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

It was also the 7th and final book in my Mate-A-Thon Challenge.

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Mini Reviews {8}: What I’ve Been Reading Lately

Flame In The Mist (Flame In The Mist #1)
Renee Ahdieh
Hodder & Stoughton
2017, 402p
Read from my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Mariko has always known that being a woman means she’s not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden – the emperor’s son – Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued. . . or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan’s hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she’s ever known.

This was chosen for my Mate-A-Thon participation, for the prompt read a title with the letters M A T E in the title. I’ve read one of Renee Ahdieh’s books before (although I haven’t read the second in that duology!). I actually spotted the sequel of this, Smoke In The Sun on the display shelf at my local library and it had such a lovely cover that I grabbed it and was able to find this one as well and it fit a prompt perfectly.

For the most part I enjoyed this but there were things that irritated me about it. Mariko is a privileged daughter on her way to be married to the son of the Emperor when her convoy is attacked and everyone except her is murdered. She decides to hunt them down, despite the fact she survived by accident rather than any real skill. And when she finds them they sort of kidnap her and pretend like they’re going to kill her but most of the time they’re just massive dicks to her and it got a bit annoying, when they were just tormenting her for the literal sake of it. She’s disguised as a boy so it’s all confusing when she starts having feelings for one of the Clan and in response he doesn’t feel as though he can trust her because there’s something about her/him that unnerves him blah blah. I actually couldn’t tell at first which of two characters she was supposed to be going to have feelings for but then she picks the most annoying one because of course.

But underneath these childish two bickering was an entertaining story. The world is interesting (I think it’s supposed to be kind of inspired by Mulan but I’ve never seen Mulan nor read any versions of it so I didn’t have feelings about that either way) and I liked some of the characters. I like Mariko when she wasn’t bickering with some of the Black Clan but she needed to take her own advice and not react so much. She keeps priding herself on being calm but she also keeps biting at every jibe that comes her way. I definitely want to see what happens – this book finished on a bit of a cliffhanger, probably the most interesting thing that happened all book and Mariko puts herself in an interesting position too. So I’m glad I already have the next one from the library so I can finish it off.

It was okay. Not amazing but certainly enough to keep me entertained for an afternoon.

7/10

Book #174 of 2019

Book #5 in my Mate-A-Thon Challenge.

We Hunt The Flame (Sands Of Arawiya #1)
Hafsah Faizal
Farrar Straus Giroux
2019, 469p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

People lived because she killed. People died because he lived.

Zafira is the Hunter, disguising herself as a man when she braves the cursed forest of the Arz to feed her people. Nasir is the Prince of Death, assassinating those foolish enough to defy his autocratic father, the sultan. If Zafira was exposed as a girl, all of her achievements would be rejected; if Nasir displayed his compassion, his father would punish him in the most brutal of ways. Both Zafira and Nasir are legends in the kingdom of Arawiya—but neither wants to be.

War is brewing, and the Arz sweeps closer with each passing day, engulfing the land in shadow. When Zafira embarks on a quest to uncover a lost artifact that can restore magic to her suffering world and stop the Arz, Nasir is sent by the sultan on a similar mission: retrieve the artifact and kill the Hunter. But an ancient evil stirs as their journey unfolds—and the prize they seek may pose a threat greater than either can imagine.

Set in a world inspired by ancient Arabia.

I’d heard some really good things about this online and the cover drew me a couple of times when I was browsing in a local bookstore.

I picked it up a couple weeks ago and when I was looking for a book that might have a map for my Mate-A-Thon challenge, I figured I’d check this one and yep – there’s a map! So it became part of that challenge.

Not going to sugar coat it, this started off quite slow for me. In fact so slow that I actually put it down and basically fell asleep one afternoon – but it probably wasn’t all the book’s fault. I was lying in the sun and it was the first good spring day in a while, so it was a combination of things. I picked it back up again a couple hours later and it definitely picked up and the further into it, the more intrigued by the world and the happenings I became. It’s nothing terribly unique to be honest – it’s set in a world that mimics or is inspired by ancient Arabia, a world that used to possess magic. But a bit over 100 years ago, the six sisters that controlled? were the reason for magic? the power of? I’m not sure really, died. And now there’s no magic. The world is split into caliphates with a kind of overruling Sultan who is becoming more power hungry by the day – there’s also a weird creeping forest that’s covering the land. Zafira receives an invitation to go and retrieve some sort of book from some island that will help return magic to the world. She is one of the only people who can navigate the creeping forest and she hunts to provide for her village, despite the fact that women are not valued in such a way and are not supposed to do such things.

Zafira of course has special abilities, the devotion of her childhood friend and she also catches the attention of the man sent to make sure she succeeds in her task (and then he must kill her). At times it felt like there were a lot of things I’d read before but a lot of the rest of it was fresh and I appreciated the interesting setting. There’s a strange group of people basically thrown together (ah the reluctant allies, one of my favourites!) and at first there’s a lot of hostility and distrust but the further they get, the more they kind of grow on each other and bonds of loyalty are formed and strengthened. Things got really interesting probably the last third of the book or so and it’s definitely enough to make me want to pick up the next in the series, whenever it’s going to be released.

7/10

Book #177 of 2019

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Review: I Am Change by Suzy Zail

I Am Change
Suzy Zail
Black Dog Books
2019, 340p
Personally purchased copy

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

They told her that her body belonged to men and her mind didn’t matter. They were wrong.

“What if I don’t want to marry?” Lilian held her breath. She had never said the words out loud. “Not want to marry?” Her aunt frowned. “What else would you do?”

Set in a Ugandan village, Lilian has learned to shrink herself to fit other people’s ideas of what a girl is. In her village a girl is not meant to be smarter than her brother. A girl is not meant to go to school or enjoy her body or decide who to marry. Especially if she is poor.

Lilian has the misfortune to be born a girl in a Ugandan village. All she wants to do is go to school, complete her education and become a teacher or maybe an author. She has these big dreams but because she’s female, it’s likely she’ll be married off in her teens, not long after she becomes a ‘woman’. Her older brother experiences so much more freedom than she does and is waited on hand and foot, experiencing the sort of privilege Lilian can only dream about.

Fortunately for Lilian, she has a father that understands her desire to learn and even though things are hard and he spends most of his time working away, he tries hard to come up with the money for Lilian’s school fees so that she can continue to learn. Even though there are people in her life who encourage her, like her father, like a female teacher at school, Lilian still faces hardships as a young female student at school in Uganda.

This book is a nice little reality check, for how much I take my education for granted. That school, which was something that I just had to do, almost like a chore most of the time, is something that other kids actually dream about getting to do. Lilian is so desperate to go to school, it seems like such a simple thing. But in her world, money for education is spent on boys so that they might one day provide for a wife and raise a family. Girls get married and have their own children, they don’t need such extravagances. Lilian’s mother is a woman who has seen some hard times and she’s determined to preserve her culture and instruct Lilian so that she may as well. She doesn’t understand her daughter, who dreams of something more. Who has no interest in getting married, especially not to someone she doesn’t know and love. Her life is marked by tragedy – the disappearance of one of her older sisters, who like Lilian, did not want marriage and the death of a younger sister, who did not make it past infancy. These events colour her mother’s treatment of her and Lilian’s despair of ever being seen and understood by her mother is so terribly sad at times.

This book was inspired by the stories of 30 real Ugandan girls, who spoke with the author of their experiences. It is those experiences that are used to shape Lilian’s story, of a girl who wants to learn, and the things which girls in Uganda experience. Purity is worshipped and Lilian’s mother is militant about telling her to not ever talk to boys, or let boys look at her. Girls can have their reputations ruined – they alone endure the fallout and some of them are abused by men who are twice their age, taking liberties in exchange for offering starving girls some extra food. One of Lilian’s school friends swaps favours for stationery from rich boys and offers to help ‘hook Lilian up’ in the same way. But Lilian isn’t interested in that, she has a crush on one of her brother’s friends and dreams of them being together one day, him a doctor and her a respected author. She is sure he will be different to others, who expect their wives to stay at home and cook and clean and tend the children that arrive, perpetuating the cycle that Lilian longs to escape.

So much value is placed on marrying Lilian off at what is considered the “right” time – when she’s still young enough to attract a high bride price. She will essentially still be a young teen, fourteen or fifteen years old. The would-be grooms are generally much older, as much as twice the girl’s age. Marrying before sixteen is illegal in Uganda but like several other things in this novel, there appears ways around it. Lilian is taken to her aunt to learn how to please a man and the inference seems to be that Lilian’s aunt will be in the room her first time, to make sure she’s taken her lessons well and that she can provide instruction if need be. Which is horrific in and of itself but in Lilian’s aunt’s day, the aunt would have sex with her new groom in front of her and show her exactly how it was done. There’s not a single bit of emphasis on how a new groom must please his wife and it seems the best thing Lilian can hope for is a husband who at least doesn’t beat her. Every single time she kind of gets a ‘win’ in her determination to finish school, it ends up being one step forward and two steps back.

Imagine fighting to go to school and then when you win the fight, having to spend a week out of every month at home, because you can’t go when you have your period. They can’t afford proper sanitary napkins or the like and many girls use leaves. Apparently in their culture it appears to be terribly bad if boys or men catch even a glimpse of leaked menstrual blood and so the girls spend the time they have their periods at home, missing out on almost a quarter of the learning. It makes it difficult for them to keep up with the male students, which would seem to just further perpetuate the divide. Girls also leave as they get married, leaving the numbers very unbalanced. For girls like Lilian, completing her education isn’t just about finding the money, which is difficult enough in itself, meaning her father must work long hours far from home. It’s also about overcoming cultural expectations, keeping herself strong against the pressure to marry.

I really loved the experience of reading this book. It’s made me search out the stories of other women and girls from Uganda. This book also includes a foreword from one of the women the author met with, who told her story which is incredible. Especially about how she feels, seeing a story she recognises and relates to, on paper.

This is wonderful, confronting, amazing, heartbreaking in some parts but also incredibly feel good in other parts. It’s a huge rollercoaster ride of a book.

9/10

Book #172 of 2019

I Am Change is the 66th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2019

It’s also the 4th book completed for my Mate-A-Thon Challenge.

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Review: The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

The World That We Knew
Alice Hoffman
Scribner
2019, 365p
Copy courtesy Simon & Schuster AUS

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

In Berlin, at the time when the world changed forever, Hanni Kohn knows she has to send her twelve-year-old daughter away to save her from the Nazi regime. Turning to an old woman who is familiar with Jewish magic, she finds her way to the daughter of a rabbi who creates a Golem, a mystical Jewish creature sworn to protect Hanni’s precious daughter Lea.

Lea’s journey with the Golem to France is fraught with danger and raw emotion. They travel from Paris, where Lea meets her soulmate, to a convent in western France known for its silver roses, to a mountaintop village where three thousand Jews were saved, to a farm where the bees never forgive.

What does it mean to lose your mother? What makes a family? How is it possible to survive cruelty and continue to love? In a life that is as unreal as a fairytale, Alice Hoffman’s The World That We Knew takes us on a journey of loss and resistance, good and evil, the fantastical and the mortal, to a place where all roads lead past the angel of death and love is never-ending.

I have only recently become a fan of Alice Hoffman – she has written many books but I’ve only read a couple of them, having been sent some by the publisher for review in the past few years. She writes incredibly compelling stories, the sort where you lose entire hours because you’re so lost in the book. This one is set at the beginning of World War II, in Germany. Hanni knows that the situation is becoming increasingly dangerous, especially for her pretty daughter who is just 12, something that doesn’t concern soldiers. She cannot leave her paralysed mother and so she acts in desperation to send her daughter away from the danger zone. In order to do this she approaches a rabbi known for being able to create a golem, a creature of protection. The rabbi’s wife refuses to help but the rabbi’s daughter has been listening and knows what must be done. She will create the creature, which Hanni stipulates must be a woman. Someone to not just protect her daughter but care for her, love her. To be the mother that Hanni cannot be in these times.

And so Ava comes into existence. She’s created with one purpose entirely and that is to keep Lea, now known as Lillie as they escape to France, safe. And their life after that, is constantly trying to stay a step ahead of German soldiers, to avoid being rounded up and ending up on one of the trains to the death camps. As the Nazis swallow up more and more of France, Jewish people go from not being able to go to school to not being able to be seen in public on certain days, to not being able to be seen except during one hour to just being taken from their homes and herded into public places in order to be forced onto trains. As the war winds down and they face defeat it becomes being about making sure there are few left to tell the tales of what has been happening. They want to destroy all the evidence of the past five years of torture, imprisonment, segregation and other vile acts that have been committed.

I read a lot of books set during WWII. It’s a very popular time period for historical fiction and there’s such a broad scope that with all the ones I read, it rarely feels like reading the same thing more than once. This is definitely the first time I’ve read a book with so much Jewish folklore in it. I’m not super familiar with golems and I don’t think I’ve read a book with one in it before either. I don’t know a lot about Jewish folklore and even though I’ve read plenty of books about Jewish people in WWII, not many have gone into their beliefs. This is quite heavy with the magical realism, which is something I can quite enjoy in books. Everything is held together by the creation of Ava and the fact that she’s been brought into existence purely to protect Lea/Lillie, to do more than just that. To love her, to be her proxy mother when Hanni is unable to fill that role anymore. It was very heartbreaking to read about that sort of sacrifice. Hanni chooses to ‘honour her mother’, to stay with her when she cannot leave Berlin, knowing that she’s most likely condemning herself to death but it will be worth it if she can save her daughter.

Every time I read a WWII book, I’m always horrified anew at the atrocities committed by Nazi soldiers in the name of the regime. And it’s also not just about that, but also about the way people turned their backs on Jewish people who used to be their friends, or dobbed in their locations to people in power in order to have them removed. In some cases it was probably fear but in other cases it’s an example of how pervasive the anti-Jewish sentiment was and how deep it was. How it became safety in numbers, an ‘us vs them’ sort of mentality where people forgot that they’d been friends or colleagues with these people just a few months or years beforehand. There’s so many instances in where they are treated worse than animals, so many instances where you realise what has happened to people from earlier in the book. Like in one part of this book, the children are spared but then later on it’s been decided that as a “kindness”, Jewish children will be able to accompany their parents on the trains, so that they might ‘be together’. I really appreciated the effort of several characters who join the resistance movement, helping spirit people over the border to Switzerland. It’s such a dangerous occupation and the risks of getting caught were probably extremely high and the consequences extremely deadly.

I really found this a very interesting and engrossing read with quite a lot of the story tugging at the heartstrings in one way or another.

8/10

Book #167 of 2019

This is the 2nd book completed for my Mate-A-Thon Challenge – read a book with 4 or more words in the title.

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Mate-A-Thon TBR

A little while ago I saw that Tien from Tien’s Blurb had signed up to Mate-A-Thon, an Aussie themed readathon challenge set to take place in the second half of October. I thought it sounded like a lot of fun and it’s been a while since I’ve done a readathon, so I signed up too! Hosted by Liza @duskangelreads on twitter, participants get sorted into teams. I’m team dingo! There’s 7 challenges and you can finish any or all – all pages you read during the time frame counts towards your overall total, even if they’re not books you’re counting towards the challenges. Also time you spend listening to audiobooks counts too. I actually forgot specifically when it was starting (that would be yesterday) until the day and so I hustled to my library to pick up a few books that would help make up my TBR for the prompts. I found a book for each of the 7, plus I have other books here on my October TBR that I’ll be reading during the time frame as well. But here’s the TBR specifically for the challenges:

So here we are.

  • Read A Book By An Australian Author – Weapon by Lynette Noni
  • Read A Book With The Letters M A T E In The Title – Flame In The Mist by Renee Ahdieh
  • Read A Book With A Green & Gold (or yellow) Cover – Kindred edited by Michael Earp
  • Read A Book Recommended By An Aussie – Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
  • Read A Book With A Map – We Hunt The Flame by Hafsah Faizal
  • Read A Book With A 2019 Release – I Am Change by Suzy Zail
  • Read A Book With A Title That Is 4 Or More Words – The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

This is a good mix of books I’ve purchased myself recently, two I’ve received for review and also some library books to round out the prompts! I’m super excited because some of these books I am really keen to read and this gives me a good excuse.

May the best team win!

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