The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The hate u give

Hard-hitting but inspiring

There are two Starrs. The one who goes to the preppy suburban neighborhood school and the one who grew up in drug-infested Garden Heights. Starr balances between her two lives, drawing the lines so that they never meet until…

Starr witnesses a police shooting of a childhood friend. Soon, she is thrust into the spotlight as the community seeks the truth and demands justice.

These are the kind of stories I love most – thought-provoking and hard-hitting. Angie Thomas addresses highly controversial topics in a gripping and creative narrative. Topics like modern day racism, hidden, disguised and perpetuated with words, money, and laws are laid bare, forcing the reader to dissect and examine each situation and intention.

Angie Thomas knows how to draw you in with witty dialogue and scenes that invoke all of the senses, including those of the heart. I love the familial and community scenes. There is tragedy, anger, and heart-ache in those scenes but also, a sense of community, sticking-together, sharing and greater-good.

While the topic may be tragic, I found the book uplifting and enlightening. It carries a message of hope and raises awareness of the society we should all be striving to build – one where the color of your skin truly doesn’t matter and where we all come together as one community to uplift one another.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Captured’ by Erica Stevens


Emotive writing

Aria sacrificed herself to save a child. Now, she has been taken as blood slave to none other than the Prince of darkness himself. Raised on tales of the cruelty of the vampires, Aria has first hand knowledge as daughter of the leader of the resistance. But The Prince is nothing like she expected…

As far as plot go, this one is relatively simple in structure. It’s a paranormal Beauty and the Beast story – and yet so much more. There is something so raw and poignant in this author’s writing. Not many authors have this kind of ability to rip into a reader’s emotions and turn a simple plot into a deep, passionate love story.

I loved the vulnerability of Aria’s character. She is strong without being perfect. She challenges the traditional mold of heroine because her beauty is much more of the soul than of the body. The world is which the characters live is a dark and well constructed one, without overly complicated details to leash the imagination.

Beautiful start to the series, can’t wait to read the next book!

5 of 5 stars to ‘A Shade of Blood’ by Bella Forrest

Shade of blood


No human has ever left the Shade alive. Now, after weeks of captivity on the sunless vampire island, Sofia is given the choice: stay, and remain with her beloved Derek Novak as his human slave; or return to her life with Ben and have some chance of normality. Can she live with the choice she must make?

Book 2 continues the series exactly where book 1 left off. If there’s one thing that jars me a little when reading this series, it’s that there are no clearly defined beginnings and endings to each of the novels. Each book seems far too short and ends abruptly, leaving you hanging, wondering what is next. Sheer genius of Bella Forrest, I think. I know that as readers, we like tidy little packages with all the ends neatly ribboned off, but when you’re reading a series, there has to be a reason to move on to the next book, and Bella Forrest certainly knows how to provide that. So, I’ve made peace with this series by viewing it as one long book that has been broken down into smaller chunks. And it’s one of those fast-paced series you have to read from cover to cover!

Book two featured a greater variety of character’s POV. I particularly enjoyed this, since it gave depth to many of the characters that I felt was missing in book 1. Strangely enough, I relished Lukas’ POV, it was just fresh and unusual to see things from the POV of the villain.

The emotional intensity from the first book was heightened in this one. I felt that Derek’s ‘fall’ following Sofia’s decision made him more ‘human’ and ‘inhuman’ at the same time. The chemistry and intensity between Sofia and Derek remained intact and there was some lovely character development all round, including for Ben.

This is definitely an addictive series.

5 of 5 stars to ‘A Shade of vampire” by Bella Forrest

Shade of vampire

Where has this book been hiding?

On the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Sofia Claremont is abducted into a dark and dangerous world. In the Shade, the sun never shines and humans live as slaves to their cruel, master vampires. Sofia is selected to be part of a gift to the newly awakened Prince Derek Novak and soon realizes that her best chance at survival is to stay in Derek’s good graces. But neither Derek not Sofia reckoned on the growing attraction between them, or the danger it would pose to Sofia’s life.

Stop the bus, where has this book been hiding? Bella Forrest has smashed her way straight to my top author list with this sexy, dangerous story. There is clear talent in her writing style, with scenes that unfold perfectly to move this fast-paced plot along. The premise is a popular one, and certainly not unique. I found myself drawing many comparisons with Twilight at the end, but it’s always been more about the telling of the story for me than the story itself.

Bella Forrest is like a master painter. She so easily creates vivid scenery and rich, passionate emotions with her choice of powerful words. The characters she has created, while not rich in history (yet?), are so intense that you can’t help but fall in love with them. Derek has that animalistic, protective nature all girls want in a book-boyfriend and Bella has the beauty and fragility to match. Telling the story from both character’s POV was a stroke of genius from Forrest. It added so much intensity to their interactions.

The ending was rather abrupt – but achieved it’s aim because I’m itching to find out what happens! This one’s a fantastic read, so don’t miss out!

3 of 5 stars to “The Death Cure” by James Dashner

The death cure

Fun but vague ending to the series

The trials are over – or are they? WICKED wants to promote the surviving Gladers from guinea pigs to partners in the search to find a cure for the deadly flare. The Gladers are divided with many, Thomas included, struggling to believe that this really is the end. Are WICKED’s promises just another variable in the process and is the cure really within their grasp?

After the build up and intense action of the last two novels, I feel a little let-down with this installment. For at least three quarters of the book, I felt that there was no real purpose behind what the characters are doing. They had no plans and just seemed to be running around wherever chance would take them. The first two books in the series had clear objectives, and the characters James Dashner created were so driven, it felt very out of place to have them just going with the flow.

Some of the plot points also seemed so inconsistent. WICKED is such a technologically advanced entity, yet they don’t have cameras in the rooms and a bunch of kids can overpower an entire battalion of security guards? They don’t go after Thomas, even though they know where he is and they believe that the entire world’s fate depends on him? Some of the scenes also seemed cliched and contrived, especially those scenes with the ‘rat man’. I also felt that the novel lacked proper closure on some key points.

The ending was unexpected but satisfying. I love that Dashner didn’t go with the obvious ending. There was a bit of a moral story in this series, which I enjoyed, and the end of the novel was fast-paced, imaginative and action-packed. Overall, still a fun series.

5 of 5 stars to ‘Blue lily, lily blue’ by Maggie Stiefvater

Blue lily lily blue

Bewitching and thrilling

Blue and her boys are this close to unravelling the mystery of the sleeping Welsh King. But in a place as magical and unpredictable as Cabeswater, nothing is certain and nothing is safe. Can they unravel the clues in time? Can they save those lost along the way? Can they resist waking the third sleeper?

It’s official. Maggie Stiefvater is my all time favorite author, and this is the book that cinched the deal. Every word and phrase melts in your mouth. The prose is utterly beautiful, haunting and bewitching. The storyline is like no other. Each character is so rounded, you can’t help but fall in love with them – even the arrogant ones! Every thought, every deed is so uniquely human, and drives the story relentlessly forward. It is the mark of a master story-teller to write with such flair that the backstory of each character, right down to their individual speech accents, is evident in each scene, without the telling of it.

This installment is particularly rich in suspense. It is a paranormal thriller, so well written, you will be perched on the very edge of your seat from beginning to end. When I think of this novel, and ‘The Raven King’ to come, my heart beats a little faster. This is writing at it’s very best!

Blue Sargent Kiss without a kiss

5 of 5 stars to ‘If I stay’ by Gayle Forman

If I stay

Get the tissue box out

In the blink of an eye, Mia’s life has changed. All her decisions in life have been stripped down to one. It’s the most important decision she will ever make in her life and as she lies unconscious on her hospital bed, sorting through memories, only she can make the ultimate decision.

Live or die?

Get your tissue box ready for this one! What an emotional and yet beautiful story. I must admit to being a little skeptical with the ‘out of body’ point of view of Mia, but it was surprisingly well done and nicely offset by the flash backs.

I truly enjoyed the characters in this novel, and particularly, the dynamics of Mia’s hippie family. The little descriptive touches of clothing and quirks really did it for me, as did the incorporation of music into the character development and storyline.

On a deeper level, I was forced to think about the choices we make in life, what really matters and how ultimately, only we can decide what happens to us.

I did feel that the story was a little too short but this is a sure sign of a gripping, well-written, emotive story.

If i Stay quote

5 of 5 stars to ‘Requiem’ by Lauren Oliver


Thought-provoking masterpiece

There’s only one way to survive in this world: build walls. Everyone is doing it. Inside the Delirium free cities, they build walls to keep the disease out. Outside the cities, they build walls to keep the hurt out. Stuck out in the wilds, torn between the two boys who have each stolen a piece of her heart, Lena learns this skill quickly. But is it all worth it? Is life really any better under the guise of ‘freedom’ and how far is she willing to go to fight for what she believes in, if it means tearing down the very walls that protect her?

I cannot fully explain how Lauren Oliver’s writing skills have awed me. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph has been painstakingly selected to provide maximum emotional impact. Her descriptions catapult you into the wilds, until you can actually feel the bite of the cold and see the rays of glittering sunshine piercing the trees.

Lena’s character development was heart-wrenching in this installment. The intensity of her emotional state was further heightened by Hana’s point of view. From the beginning, I loved the character of Hana, but her journey has been more of a ‘character change’ rather than ‘character development’, in keeping with the storyline. I loved the diverging and converging storylines of the two best friend’s and felt that the ending tied up things nicely between them. It was also a wonderful reminder, in the midst of the love triangle, that there are other types of ‘deliria’ than just the romantic kind.

The resolution of the love triangle was not what I expected. In many ways, the entire ending left many things up in the air. At first, I was in two minds about this, but when I considered the purpose of the storyline, I concluded that it just wouldn’t have been as effective with a more cut and dried approach. The entire series is about love and life and neither of those things is ever perfectly resolved or completed. I believe Ms Oliver wanted us to think about the issues she raised in her series long past the final page and in that mission, she has succeeded.

There were many times in this novel, when I began to question which side I was on, and whether the freedom to choose and to love really was something worth fighting for when it came at such a cost. This ability to make the reader feel and think is one of the rarest skills among good writers, especially when that writer makes you question the very premises she has established in the first series. I loved that we got to see things unfold from both sides of the wall. I also particularly enjoyed the parental themes, which included Raven’s wonderful character, and the effect she had on Lena.

Overall, this is one of the most thought provoking, well-written series I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Now to search for more Lauren Oliver masterpieces…

4 of 5 stars to ‘The unbecoming of Mara Dyer’ by Michelle Hodkin

Mara Dyer

Playing God

Just months ago, Mara Dyer’s life was normal. She had a best friend and had finally caught the eye of the boy she’d been drooling over. But all it took was one night to bring all the pieces of her life crashing down around her.

Now she wakes in a hospital, unable to remember the horrific accident that took the lives of both her boyfriend and her lifelong best friend. Unable to contemplate a life without her best friend, Mara convinces her family to start anew.

The Dyer family moves to a new city and Mara and her brothers start a new school, but Mara soon realizes that the troubles of the past are not so easy to leave behind. Not to mention the new troubles that come with this new life. Not only does she have a heap of school work to catch up on, but she finds it’s not so easy to make friends in this new school with its deeply entrenched social hierarchy.

Then Mara meets Noah. He’s at the top of the food chain and has both the good looks and the not so good reputation to match. No matter how much Mara keeps pushing him away, he won’t leave her alone. Then strange things start to happen to Mara and the only person she can turn to becomes the one she’d been trying to avoid. Can Noah save her from herself? Can he help her distinguish between what’s real and what’s not? Or will his own secrets be both their undoing?

This novel was a suggestion of one of my Goodreads bookclubs. It’s the kind of novel I love to read with a touch of paranormal in a normal young adult life. The character of Mara Dyer was highly refreshing. From the start, she’s not your average good girl. She’s crazy – in very real terms and she’s been through the wars. What a wonderful change from the perfect life of most teen heroines. Noah’s character was suitably mysterious and book-boyfriend-worthy. There were a few parts, like the Everglades scene, where I felt Mara’s reactions to him were not completely believable and there were too many unanswered questions surrounding him for me to feel completely satisfied.

The plot was well-paced and the overall story quite entertaining although I will say that the storyline with the legal case and Everglades felt a lot like it had been inserted as a last minute theme to setup the end scene’s moral dilemma. In terms of themes and messages, there are a few. Questions are raised about the power of the mind, about trying to start over without facing the demons of the past, and about the moral right to ‘play God’ with the lives of others, regardless of circumstances.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel – and I’m dying to know the outcome of that cliffhanger!

On a side note: I purchased an Audible copy of this book and was quite disappointed with the narration. It reminded me of Kindle text to speech. The cover, on the other hand, is one of my favorite ever!

5 of 5 stars to ‘Pandemonium’ by Lauren Oliver


Poetic prose and concurrent time frames

The old Lena is dead. Buried beneath a tree in the wilds. The new Lena has been born into the resistance. She knows what it is to be hungry, to be afraid and sick and also to be free.

Under the guidance of Raven, Lena has learned to bury her past and the boy she once loved. Raven has taught her to be strong and to survive. Raven has become her sister, her mother, her friend.

Then Lena is kidnapped by a violent and radical resistance and held prisoner with the boy who is the face of the DFA youth. Can she save them both or is she destined to have her heart broken yet again?

Pandemonium picks up right after Delirium and details Lena’s flight to freedom in the wilds after the devastating ending of the first novel. Ms Oliver has used a very difficult technique in this novel by running two concurrent time frames throughout. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that mastered this as successfully as she has managed to do here. Each scene from ‘then’ is expertly matched and timed with the ‘now’, delivering insight and understanding as and when the story unfolds.

The suspense is superb. Like a roller coaster, Ms Oliver has written in the ebbs and flows, hi’s and lows to perch you on the edge of your seat. The character development takes the series to another level entirely. Lena’s sorrow can be felt bone-deep and her healing is something the reader is forced to journey through with every experience.

The introduction of Julian’s character was a wonderful twist in the series. To me, he is so much more three dimensional than Alex ever was. The whole theme of second chances is healing and endearing too.

But I think the thing that strikes me most about Pandemonium and will have me raving about it to all my friends, is Lauren Oliver’s writing. Her writing – oh wow! Such emotive, lyrical, descriptive, poetic prose. She is the kind of author you preorder books for, no matter the topic because you just know that she’ll transport you completely into another world with her words.

If you liked the Hunger games or any of Maggie Stiefvater’s books, you will simply love this series!