Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

Theodosia was six when her country was invaded and her mother, the Fire Queen, was murdered before her eyes. On that day, the Kaiser took Theodosia’s family, her land, and her name. Theo was crowned Ash Princess – a title of shame to bear in her new life as a prisoner.

For ten years Theo has been a captive in her own palace. She’s endured the relentless abuse and ridicule of the Kaiser and his court. She is powerless, surviving in her new world only by burying the girl she was deep inside.

Then, one night the Kaiser forces her to do the unthinkable. With blood on her hands and all hope of reclaiming her throne lost, she realizes that surviving is no longer enough. But she does have a weapon: her mind is sharper than any sword. And power isn’t always won on the battlefield.

Ash Princess : Ash Princess - Laura Sebastian

 

Title: Ash Princess

Authors: Laura Sebastian 

Genre: young adult, fantasy

Release Date: April 2018

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Link to buy book here.

 

 

My Review

I absolutely love this book! I was instantly drawn in by the complexity of Theodosia’s character – her identity crisis and her internal conflict in this fantasy world conquered and colonised by the Kalovaxians and their king – the Kaiser. The fact that her name had been intentional changed from Princess Theodosia Eirene Houzzara, to Lady Thora, the Ash Princess amongst the Kalovaxians also physically and metaphorically explored the clash between her old identity and her new identity that has instigated her into being a mentally broken girl. The catalyst of the story occurs when she is forced to kill someone she deeply loves to show her obedience and loyalty to the Kaiser. She is a deep and complex character undergoing constant internal struggles, suffering from severe Stockholm syndrome, especially with her relationship to her deceitful friend Lady Crescentia.

I love the world Sebastian created. The polytheistic religions of Astrea and Kalovaxia were influenced by Ancient Rome and Greece – so I’m a sucker for anything from the ancient world and mythology. The lifestyle Theo has is a great mix of the medieval world and the ancient world, especially shown through fashion and the courts.

There is quite a lot of violence – physical and emotional abuse, but it doesn’t go into any gory details. It’s all about how Theo becomes mentally strong and resilient in the world she’s living in. I love the fact that from her horribly subjected position in the kingdom she is able to methodically plan her vengeance, while also understanding the moral and ethical ramifications of her actions. I also loved the juxtaposition of Kalovaxian Prinz Soren and Astrean-born Blaise. And the last 100 pages I couldn’t put down – I was on the edge of my seat wondering how this was going to end!

There is so much to say about why I love this book, but I’ll start going into spoilers, so I’ll stop here. It’s a must read for any lovers of mythology, fantasy and ancient history. I can’t wait for the next book in this trilogy!

My favourite quotes from the book are:

“My mother was known as the Fire Queen, regal and strong.
But I am the Ash Princess, a living joke.” – Page 38

“It’s more of a symbol than anything else, after all.
The food, the music, the clothes are all Astrean, but Astreans themselves – ourselves – are no longer allowed to exist.” – Page 42

 

Rating

5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Laura Sebastian’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

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Hive by A. J. Betts – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

HIVE_Image2 Claire Catacouzinos

Synopsis

All I can tell you is what I remember, in the words that I have.

Hayley tends to her bees and follows the rules in the only world she has ever known.

Until she witnesses the impossible: a drip from the ceiling.

A drip? It doesn’t make sense.

Yet she hears it, catches it. Tastes it.

Curiosity is a hook.

What starts as a drip leads to a lie, a death, a boy, a beast, and too many awful questions.

A. J. Betts: Hive

 

Title: Hive

Authors: A. J. Betts 

Genre: young adult, dystopian

Release Date: June 2018

Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia

Link to buy book here.

 

 

My Review

An artfully crafted dystopic and coming of age story about Hayley, a fifteen-year-old beekeeper with headpains and living in an underwater city, until she discovers the secrets about the city and her world. Hayley tends to the city’s garden and is their senior beekeeper. Other groups include: the netters, the enginers, the kitcheners and the seeders. The story unfolds with Hayley hearing and seeing a drip in the ceiling of an engineer room where she escapes for peace and quiet, while pretending to catch a rogue bee. This event is the catalyst of the story, and her political and social awakening of the world she lives in.

Betts has skilfully contrasted Hayley’s character to her best friend Celia, and their opposing views on the world. There is wonderful world-building in this story with the concepts of marriage, disease and plagues, hierarchy, politics, social paradigms, education, daily routines, and the dangers of imagination and curiosity explored. And like with all dystopian worlds Betts critiques on society’s aim for social cohesion, unity and harmony by instigating ostracism, and suppressing individuality and power.

She also uses intertextuality and plays with famous nursery rhymes and phrases to show the alterations made in the city’s world.

Can’t wait for the sequel!

My favourite quote from the book:

“Stirring blue wonders while the rest of the world slept. A starry, secret solitude.”
– Page 195

Rating

4.5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

HIVE_Image Claire Catacouzinos

 

For more information:

Visit A. J. Betts’ website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

A Song Only I Can Hear by Barry Jonsberg – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

Rob has a huge crush on the new girl at school. But Rob is painfully shy and suffers severe panic attacks. How is her heart to be won? Another wonderful and heart-warming comedy drama from the award-winning author of My Life as an Alphabet.

Good evening, Rob. Your first challenge follows.

These challenges have nothing to do with impressing Destry Camberwick. They are all to do with Rob Fitzgerald impressing Rob Fitzgerald. Bear that in mind at all times.

Challenge 1. You will enter the Milltown’s Got Talent competition. This gives you over a fortnight to polish your act and work out strategies to overcome panic attacks. I would wish you luck but the point of this challenge is that you don’t need it.

Introducing Rob Fitzgerald: thirteen years old and determined to impress the new girl at school, but it’s a difficult task for a super-shy kid who is prone to panic attacks that include vomiting, difficulty breathing and genuine terror that can last all day. An anonymous texter is sending Rob challenges and they might just help. Or not.

Beautifully moving and full of heart and humour, A Song Only I Can Hear is a delightful novel about dreaming big, being brave and marching to the beat of your own drum.

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Title: A Song Only I Can Hear

Authors: Barry Jonsberg 

 Genre: young adult, contemporary

 Release Date: July 2018

 Publisher: Allen and Unwin

 Link to buy book here.

 

My Review

A beautifully written and charming coming-of-age story about thirteen-year-old Rob Fitzgerald as he suffers from severe panic attacks, is painfully shy, and madly in love with a girl called Destry Camberwick. Even though it’s YA, there’s no swearing, except for the insert of the word ‘blankety’ when someone is meant to say ‘fuck’. But by doing this, the author has brought humour to the story, and developed Rob’s Pop with a funny character trait.

I love how Rob writes descriptive notes for each family member and his friends and enemies who he encounters throughout the story. But it’s also a great hint for the reader to ask, why is he doing this, and what is the function of this literary device?

Rob goes through so many obstacles until the end of the story there is an ultimate twist that I didn’t see coming at the Milltown’s Got Talent event!

Great uses of intertextuality with Macbeth by Shakespeare and the compassionate use and empathetic quality of Wilfred Owens’ poem Dulce et Decorum Est.

I thought this was going to be an ordinary young adult novel about a thirteen year old at the start of high school eg boy likes girl, boy tries to get girl, boy realises girl doesn’t want him, but he learns about his true self-identity along the way. The story is focused on this story arc, but it offers so much more with the last five chapters. A must read for this year!

My favourite quote from the book:

“I had my earbuds in, my phone tucked into my jeans pocket. Sweat trickled down my forehead. But I felt good, walking to the beat of a song only I could hear.” – Page 276

Rating
4 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Barry Jonsberg’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

The Build-Up Season by Megan Jacobson – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

From the author of CBCA-shortlisted Yellow comes a powerful exploration of family and identity set against the humid build-up to the wet season in Darwin.

He’s back.
The monster.
It’s the middle of the night and I’m awake, because even though I’m seventeen I still haven’t outgrown the childhood monster that haunts you in the dark. I haven’t outgrown it, because when I was a child, the monster was real.
He was my father.
But the thing is, the monster was the person I was closest to in the whole world, closer than I’ve been to anyone since.
That will tell you everything you need to know about me.
And still, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill the monster.
That will tell you even more about me.

Seventeen-year-old Iliad Piper is named after war and angry at the world. Growing up with a violent father and abused mother, she doesn’t know how to do relationships, family or friends. A love-hate friendship with Max turns into a prank war, and she nearly destroys her first true friendship with misfit Mia. Ily takes off her armour for nobody, until she meets Jared, someone who’s as complicated as she is.

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Title: The Build-Up Season

Authors: Megan Jacobson

Genre: young adult, contemporary

Release Date: July 31, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia

Link to buy book here.

 

My Review

The Build Up Season was so raw and Ily was such a great character that Jacobson created. Some of the written sections on domestic violence was a bit scary, but definitely eye-opening for individuals to be aware of bad habits, signs, and people’s use of manipulative and belittling language in a hostile relationship.

But on the other hand, there were some beautifully written romantic scenes that every older girl will love while reading this book. But there was also darker and confronting scenes that needed to be written for Ily to understand her self-worth. I thought that each romantic scene written was crafted really well to get the big message across: that every girl should understand her self worth, and be introspectively aware of how she feels in a romantic relationship.

The ultimate question that you’ll keep asking yourself, will Ily end up with the hunky wannabe actor Jared, or the annoying and obnoxious trickster, Max?

Again, to me, self worth was such a huge theme in the novel. And my hat goes off to Jacobson!

I also loved how Jacobson used the setting and landscape as a character. We’re thrown into the harsh, and humid build-up of the wet season in Darwin. The environment complimented each scene Jacobson crafted, especially a feisty yet heartfelt moment on a boat while a crocodile crawls along a riverbank. Great imagery!

Furthermore, the Darwin atmosphere becomes a significant metaphor of Ily’s relationships with her friends and family. Each element of Darwin and the inner life of Ily crosses paths strategically by Jacobson, which help map the reality of Jacobson’s book.

Lastly, I’m a sucker for any books that have references to mythology and ancient history. And the fact that Ily’s real name is Iliad – let’s just say my heart swooped! Especially that her name is so inextricably connected to her relationship with her father, and her evolving identity.

One of my favourite quotes in the book:

“You named me Iliad after a book filled cover to cover with war, Mum! How can I be anything but hostile.” – Page 4

A fantastic work of fiction on such a hard topic to write about!

Rating
4 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Megan Jacobson’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

The Truths and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

This second novel from Emily Barr is a race-against time thriller and a true coming-of-age story. It explores the highs and lows of first love, all set under a blazing Rio sun.

Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.

And realises her life has been a lie.

Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

 

Title: The Truths and Lies of Ella Black

Authors: Emily Barr

Genre: young adult, contemporary

Release Date: January 2nd, 2018

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Link to buy book here.

 

My Review

Amazing! Another wonderful story from Emily Barr!

After reading the first couple of chapters I was hooked! And after reading the whole book, Ella Black’s conflicted physical and emotional journey through Rio will stay with me forever. Dealing with overprotective parents, having a fake boyfriend, and hiding her psychopathic dark side, doppelganger Bella, Ella is a struggling young adult trying to come to terms with her true identity before she turns eighteen.

But the best part, why did her parents whisk her off to Rio, and what dark, calculated secret are they hiding? As soon as Ella learns the whole truth about her life in a foreign land, she’s instigated to make a change, for the better and for the worse, all by herself, smashing her way through life!

One of my favourite international YA books of the year!

Rating
4.5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Emily Barr’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.

 

 

This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada – Book Review (Spoiler Free)

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Synopsis

A breathtaking debut about one girl’s quest for answers in a genetically and technologically advanced future.

When a lone soldier, Cole, arrives with news of Lachlan Agatta’s death, all hope seems lost for Catarina. Her father was the world’s leading geneticist, and humanity’s best hope of beating a devastating virus. Then, hidden beneath Cole’s genehacked enhancements she finds a message of hope: Lachlan created a vaccine.

Only she can find and decrypt it, if she can unravel the clues he left for her. The closer she gets, the more she finds herself at risk from Cartaxus, a shadowy organization with a stranglehold on the world’s genetic tech. But it’s too late to turn back.

There are three billion lives at stake, two people who can save them, and one final secret that Cat must unlock. A secret that will change everything.

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Title: This Mortal Coil

Authors: Emily Suvada

Genre: dystopian, apocalypse, young adult

Release Date: October 30th, 2017

Publisher: Penguin Random House Australia
Link to buy book here.

 

 

My Review

Wow. Wow. Wow. Since the first page and first chapter I was hooked! What a fantastic tornado of characters, relationships, deception, secrets and the ultimate revelation at the end that brings this beautifully crafted book to such a climatic end.

It’s not just the DNA, scientific language and dystopian world but the beautiful and heart wrenching love story in the midst of an apocalypse.

This is the ultimate story of a crazy mad scientist like Dr Frankenstein, childhood lovers and futuristic technology mixed with a dystopian world tortured by a bloody plague on humanity.

I loved it! One of my favourite international YA books of the year!

Rating
5 / 5 stars

Best wishes,
Claire

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For more information:

Visit Emily Suvada’s website.

Check out more of my book reviews here.