book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Starfish Review

29456598Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Published: April 5th 2018 By Ink Road

Rating: XXXXX

“Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreaming一it’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it”
Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

This book has a gorgeous cover. That was my first thought when I saw Starfish on NetGalley a little while back, I had a quick glance at it, realised it was contemporary and I already had a mound of books to get through and moved on. A month or so later I came across the author on Twitter and I thought she was (and still is) lovely and that I would share her promoting posts etc because although this book wasn’t for me I wanted it to do well. A few weeks before it’s release Zoe from NoSaferPlace posted a quote from the book about anxiety at a party and it resonated so much with me that I immediately went back to NetGalley and requested it. My request was approved and I devoured this book over the course of a few days and I think it may be the most important book I have ever read.
This book touches on so many subjects, mental health, emotional and sexual abuse, divorce, beauty ideals, racial discrimination, family issues, suicide and the terrifying feeling that you have no idea what to do with your life when things don’t go how planned. I honestly don’t know how to describe the emotion this incredible book is filled with, it manages to somehow be so tender and painfully raw at the same time. Kiko is a character I think a lot of young people (and like myself, not so young) can relate to today for one reason or another and she’s  such an easier character to empathise with because of that.
The writing is a joy to read, it feels like Akemi seems to be able to pluck these emotions right out of our souls and paint them onto the page in the form of words. I laughed, I cried, I was devastated, shocked and proud throughout this book, it completely sucked me in and I was there right along side Kiko watching her learn and grow and I felt like I was learning and growing too. Kiko is a great example of when we know we’re doing something that is detrimental to our health or isn’t good for us but we can’t stop because we rely on it and watching her learn to be strong and do things for herself was eye-opening and heart warming. It made me want to be a better person.
The story itself is balanced well, it doesn’t drown out the important thoughts and choices Kiko has but still keeps everything moving and interesting. There are some great twists and turns hidden away in this beautiful unassuming book with a perfect ending for a stand alone novel. There aren’t many books now days that I will reread, no matter how good they are but this feels like a book I’m going to read every once in a while to remind me of all the lessons is teaches. This has been a hard book to review because it’s one that has felt so important to me and I’ve had trouble trying to find a way to put how I feel about it into words so I’ll close with a few of my favourite quotes
“Beauty isn’t a single thing. Beauty is dreamingit’s different for everyone, and there are so many versions of it that you mostly have no control over how you see it”
“We all have to dream our own dreams. We only get one life to live—live it for yourself, not anyone else.”
“I’ve always felt like I desperately needed to say my feelings out loud – to form the words and get them out of me, because they’ve always felt like dark clouds in my head that contaminate everything around them.”
“I draw a girl without a face, drawing somebody else’s face onto her own reflection.”
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TBR Thursday

It might just be me but even when I’m reading a book that’s really great I’m almost always thinking about what I want to read next. In some cases it’s a book I already own but quite often it’s a book I don’t own so it also addresses my need to always buy more books. I figured ibe Thursday a month I would go through some of the books I’ve decided I want to read next and my reasons for picking them, in turn hopefully helping me decide what I actually want to read next and what is just a passing fancy. Let’s roll out this week’s contenders!

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1. Illuminae by  Amie Kaufman and  Jay Kristoff
I have picked up this book and thought about buying it SO many times I’ve honestly lost count and now that Obsido is coming out I’m feeling the itch to try out this book! I had originally been put off by all the strange pages of blacked out text and other things but the more I see it the more that is starting to feel like a selling point to me. This is very high on the want to buy list and is so far one of the most likely. I’m honestly resisting the urge to just order it right now.

 
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2. Vicious by V.E. Schwab
Ever since I started becoming super interested in Victoria’s tweets about Vengeful and looked further into it realising the book she was currently writing would be a follow up to Vicious, a book about a pair of villains I knew I needed in. I’ve been tempted a few times but it’s never quite felt like the right time but I’ve been on such a Star Wars kick the past month or so that I feel this could help bring me out of it.

 

 

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3. State of Sorrow by
This one I actually own! Melinda is another author I love and ever since I’d read the sampler I’ve been excited to read this book! It’s literally on my shelf staring at me but I can’t help thinking of buying a new book! This is the book I should read next.

 

 

 

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4. The Unmumsy Diaries by Sarah Turner/The Unmumsy Mum
Another strong contender as this is a book I already own. I loved the first one and my little one is not feeling so little anymore and I feel like I could do with some “not all parents are perfect” right now before I pull my remaining hair out. I can always count on Sarah to make me laugh when I want to cry as I slowly drown in a pile of clothes that need washing and food shopping that needs doing while my preschooler tries to drag me to the food cupboard for a snack. This one is looking like a really good choice right now too.

 

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5. Big Bones 
by  Laura Dockrill
My rating on Netgalley is starting to look horrendous because I requested a load thinking I wouldn’t get approved for many but instead got approved for all of them. I started reading Big Bones but put it on hold for some Star Wars books and mostly because I’ve been having trouble reading it, the writing itself is okay but I hate the main character with a passion and just reading from her point of view makes me angry so I decided to take a break from it. Looking at other reviews it’s scored fairly okay but I’m honestly not sure if I can finish it. I feel like I either need to give this one more go or just move on and start making my way through my other Netgalley titles.

I’m still only about half way through The Last Jedi Novelisation at the moment and six hours off from listening to Rouge One: Catalyst at the moment so it’ll be at least a good few days until I make it to any of these but I will be in the vicinity of a bookstore on Sunday so that may sway my decision. I think a big factor will be when I finish my current read, if it’s before Sunday I think I might have one more go at Big Bones and if I don’t get on with it dive straight into State of Sorrow or The Unmumsy Mum diaries depending how caught up on the housework I am. If it’s Sunday morning or even Saturday night though I think Illuminae is a very strong contender. We shall have to wait and see. This TBR thing is harder than I thought.

book reviews, spoiler free

To Kill a Kingdom – Review

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To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo 

Rating: XXXXX

Published: March 6th 2018 by Hot Key Books
(I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review)

“I have a heart for every year I’ve been alive.”

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

I’d heard of “To Kill A Kingdom” in passing a few times on Instagram, a few online friends and other bloggers had received hard copies from the publisher etc but I hadn’t paid it much mind, seeing the tentacles on the cover and assuming sea monster story. WRONG. It caught my eye again while browsing for a new read on Net Galley and after finally reading the synopsis for myself knew that I needed to get hold of this book. I like swimming, I like mermaids but I also like kick ass female characters and not too much silly romance (not all romance is silly but some can feel a little gag inducing). Mermaids weren’t often the center of much ass kicking but sirens however…now we’re talking! Reading this synopsis I imagine a much more blood soaked retelling of The Little mermaid and smoosh that request button so hard. Suffice to say the moment my request was approved I squeaked, did a little dance and shut myself in my room with my kindle and a packet of biscuits.

The start of this book is blood thirsty, dark and is certainly not pulling any punches, I love a good book that can get my adrenaline going from the start and reel me in. From the beginning the Siren’s side of things is often blood soaked and raw, even the way they treat each other, these scenes are often so tense with the promise of savagery and violence that I devoured them up with reckless abandon, hungry for more.  We see this story from the Prince’s point of view as well which provided a good insight and needed information as well as another interesting perspective and dynamic. That and he, his pirate crew and his ship “The Saad” are absolutely brilliant and just as important characters as Lira herself.  The Over all the plot is good, fun and mostly exciting, even if some of the excitement comes from intrigue instead of purely action (there is plenty of both though!). It did however feel a little short to me and that everything at the end happened so fast that I wasn’t entirely sure what was going on. I think this might possibly  be because of the fact it’s a standalone book which is sadly a rare commodity these days. That and I devoured the last half of this book in a day or so which made it felt like the end appeared rather quickly – this is purely my own fault though.

The writing felt easy flowing and kept the pace going at the right moments and then beautiful and descriptive when needed. There’s nothing I hate more then a tense or action filled scene caught up with too many words that aren’t needed, thankfully that isn’t the case here. I will say I found the POV changes a little jarring and they probably could have done with being labelled so I knew who I was reading as sometimes I would get a paragraph or so into a chapter before realising who’s side of the story I’m reading. It wasn’t the end of the world though and after a while I reasoned it was a good example of how similar Lira and Elain  really are if I can’t tell at first glance who’s narrative I’m reading.

I really enjoyed Lira’s character progression, although it takes a fairly obvious route there’s much more to it, the same could be said for Elain, although his is a little more standard both character arc’s feel fairly natural as do the connections they make and conclusions they come to which is a breath of fresh air from some of the books I’ve been reading lately. It’s not until after when I tried to list their characteristics that I truly realise how similar Lira and Elain mirror each other, they’re both sassy as hell and this means that a lot of their banter is brilliant and quick witted. If nothing else had sold me on this book that alone would have kept me reading, it was done so well.

“They’re insane and wonderful.” Elain himself finds the best way to describe his crew. Although the crew is fairly big we get a few main characters and personalities to focus on, I particularly loved the relationship between Kye and Madrid who are a couple and click so well while not being too much, they give me serious Zoe and Wash vibes (Firefly) and are total relationship goals. Each named character feels genuine and fleshed out, whether that be by description, dialogue or inferred from the environment. It makes them easy to read and imagine.

There is a romance in this which like the character progression I feel is fairly obvious but in the same way is different from a lot of the standard romance troupes we see in YA at the moment. Lira never loses sight of the end game and her goals. I’m so pleased to see a heroine not completely lose her head (or fins) for a love interest. Not once does this fierce, passionate creature become overly simpery or compromised in an uncharacteristic way and I’m all about that. There is one little scene that felt a bit strange and out of nowhere which I wasn’t keen on but it was fast rectified with a similar and much better connected moment later on so I can forgive it.

Overall this book was super enjoyable and covered a lot of bases for me. It was fast paced, fantasy based, just the right amount of romance and some of my favorite types of characters. Also pirates…did I mention pirates? I couldn’t put my finger on an exact rating for this, torn between XXXX and XXXXX as I enjoyed the heck out of this book and will certainly be recommending it to everyone I can as well as buying the finished edition when it releases but the XXXXX rating is often reserved for feels destroyers which this wasn’t quite for me but is nether the less a great book. Therefore I shall award my first XXXX/X rating to “Kill a Kingdom” it was well earned.

You can pre-order this book at Book Depository, Amazon or Waterstones and you can add it to your Goodreads here.