Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer

“Love does not always come in convenient packages…”

When Edward Cullen and Bella Swan met in Twilight, an iconic love story was born. But until now, fans have heard only Bella’s side of the story. At last, readers can experience Edward’s version in the long-awaited companion novel, Midnight Sun.

This unforgettable tale as told through Edward’s eyes takes on a new and decidedly dark twist. Meeting Bella is both the most unnerving and intriguing event he has experienced in all his years as a vampire. As we learn more fascinating details about Edward’s past and the complexity of his inner thoughts, we understand why this is the defining struggle of his life. How can he justify following his heart if it means leading Bella into danger?

Although I was a devoted Twilight Saga fan back in the day, I have since moved on from paranormal romance so when I heard this book was coming out, I was keen to read it for the sake of tapping back into an old fandom but I did not have high expectations for this book. I felt this book was released at a good time when the world is enduring a global pandemic, revisiting an old fandom is just what we needed for a reprieve. Whilst I didn’t have high expectations for this book, I must admit the book did not disappoint. I had the pleasure of reading along with a group of friends and was able to share a fun reading experience with them.

First of all, what I enjoyed mostly from this book was how well Edward’s voice was captured. In some books, particularly books with multiple perspectives, it is difficult to distinguish between voices however in this one, I was able to tell straight away that it’s Edward. The way he converses, it clearly demonstrated he is an older person trapped in the role of a 17 year old boy. Admittedly his inner monologue felt like a grind at times but that being said, I understood the inner monologue and why it was constant. Midnight Sun shows us a very different Edward to the one we meet during the Twilight Saga. In Twilight, we see a vampire in control, the one who called the shots in the relationship – a very confident guy. In this book, we meet the real Edward beneath the confidence. He is in fact an individual struggling with his own demons and struggles with everyday choices of maintaining his oath to be a ‘vegetarian vampire’ and succumbing to the temptation of blood.

Midnight Sun also gave us more insight into characters we thought we knew from when we read the Twilight Saga. I was blindsided in learning the true personality of the characters we thought we knew and I was impressed at how cleverly we were able to capture the truth through Edward’s gift of mind reading. Edward’s relationships with his coven (or siblings) was also very interesting as I came to realise that there was so much about Edward and coven that I didn’t know simply because I read the Twilight Saga through Bella’s lens. Whom Edward is closest with, how each sibling came to become the Cullens etc – it was was very well written and intriguing.

Although this book takes place at the same time as Twilight and we follow the same storyline as we did in Twilight just through Edward’s lens, we are blessed with insight into Edward’s history as well as the backstories of his coven – my personal favourite is Carlisle’s backstory. I also found this book filled in a lot of blanks for example when reading a scene in Twilight that features Bella and not Edward, this book showed us what he was doing during those exact times.

Yes it’s over 700 pages long, Yes it’s been over a decade since I was really into this series… BUT… if you were a fan like me back in the day, I recommend this read… it was fun to tap back into this saga, interesting to see the gaps being filled and reading the historical aspects of Edward’s life (though I wish there were a bit more) it’s mostly dialogue so it was very easy to read but overall I enjoyed this reading experience and I was not deflated after the hype. I feel it’s worth the read.

PS: was very excited to be featured in the Sydney Morning Herald in the lead up for this book release…
Who’d of thought my fandom for this series would land me in the paper over a decade later!!!

With special thanks to Date a Book YA – Hachette Publishers for sending me a copy of this book.
-Annie

Havenfall by Sara Holland

“People can sniff out lies. If you can’t share the whole truth, share whatever little bit of it you can to get people on your side…”

A book that got me out of my reading slump!

Hidden deep in the mountains of Colorado lies the Inn at Havenfall, a sanctuary that connects ancient worlds—each with its own magic. For generations, the inn has protected all who seek refuge within its walls, and any who disrupt the peace can never return.

For Maddie Morrow, summers at the inn are more than a chance to experience this magic firsthand. Havenfall is an escape from reality, where her mother sits on death row accused of murdering Maddie’s brother. It’s where Maddie fell in love with handsome Fiorden soldier Brekken. And it’s where one day she hopes to inherit the role of Innkeeper from her beloved uncle.

But this summer, the impossible happens—a dead body is found, shattering everything the inn stands for. With Brekken missing, her uncle gravely injured, and a dangerous creature on the loose, Maddie suddenly finds herself responsible for the safety of everyone in Havenfall. She’ll do anything to uncover the truth, even if it means working together with an alluring new staffer, Taya, who seems to know more than she’s letting on. As dark secrets are revealed about the inn itself, one thing becomes clear to Maddie—no one can be trusted, and no one is safe…

Starting in the middle of Colorado, “Havenfall” is like the “inn” or “central station” connecting ancient realms however one day, a realm that was sealed off was reopened and the negotiated balance that once was has been called into question – it’s now up to one person, Maddie, to take a stand in her Uncle’s place. I enjoyed how this magical story is set in the real world, as though we are living in a parallel to the magical realms and “Havenfall” is an underground movement. The opening really lured me in, the setting is amazing and the world building was informative yet written in a pace that didn’t lose me as a reader. The characters were also quite interesting too, particularly our protagonist Maddie. I liked how she exhibits strength even when she is not 100% knowledgeable of what’s around her and she feels as thought the weight of the world is resting on her shoulders. Maddie is a likeable character and I admired the way she dealt with her predicament. She was very easy to follow and I enjoyed how she narrated this story.

This book also focused on the world building, the magical system and the mystery – not a lot of romance, which I have to admit, made a pleasant change. I loved the realms one can teleport through and how they interconnected with Havenfall and how a slight mishap such as leaving a door to a portal open when you shouldn’t have can lead to all hell breaking loose. The twists and turns throughout this story really held my attention. I can also see how readers may find this book cut short where there is plenty more to tell – I put this down to the fact that a sequel is coming.

A fast paced contemporary fantasy – I highly recommend to read it.

With many thanks to Bloomsbury Publishers for sending me a review copy of this book.

Look out for the sequel: “Phoenix Flame” out March 2021.

 

Slay by Brittney Morris: Blog Tour

“Separate is not equal… That doesn’t even come close to leveling the field…”

By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.”

But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.”

Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

“What kind of noob gets lucky enough to draw the Michael Jordan card and the Michael Jackson card in a single duel?”

I was very excited about this book when I first heard about it at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, YA Con. Having it being pitched as “Black Panther” meets “Ready Player One” I was sold. I like to call this the “Urban Ready Player One” It was an interesting and fast paced read and I really enjoyed following Kiera’s story. I liked her as a character and how she developed the virtual world of “Slay” a place where people of colour could have their own space in an online world. Kiera’s virtual avatar is Emerald and for me it felt like Kiera was more comfortable being Emerald in Slay than Kiera in the real world so her challenge with identity was interesting to me. It always made me question how such talented people can develop an amazing virtual world or explode on stage yet off stage or in front of the screen, they are very reserved.

Keeping Slay under wraps was the thrilling part for me – the case of high stakes secrecy and the thrill of keeping your talent a secret was exhilarating through out the story especially when the secret is out after something sinister happened in real life which was connected to the game. The elements of mystery throughout the book: a case of ‘who done it’ and ‘who is the troll’ was good and the development of the online world was interesting.

The dialogue was very “teen” but what I liked about Kiera was how she would speak like a real teen, be vulnerable in decisions but also have a mature outlook on life. Her sister Steph is quite funny, I liked her too. It was interesting to see how Kiera dealt with her identity, sense of duty/responsibility to others as well as her relationships with family and her boyfriend Malcolm, her friends and change that stem from her own creation ‘Slay’.

A good story that draws parallels to real life: what it’s like to stand out in your own school or community, you just want to be yourself rather than the authority of your own race simply because your skin colour is different to others. I can really see this book hitting the mark within the YA readership.

Special thanks to Date a Book YA for sending me a copy of this book for review and to Aus YA Bloggers for having me on board once again as part of this “Slay” Blog Tour!!!
-Annie

Lizard’s Tale by Weng Wai Chan

It’s Singapore in 1940, war is just around the corner—but twelve-year-old Lizard doesn’t know that. He lives in Chinatown above a tailor’s shop, surviving on his wits and hustling for odd jobs.

When he steals a small teak box containing a Japanese code book from a Raffles Hotel suite, he finds himself in a dangerous world of wartime espionage. Lizard doesn’t know who to trust. How is the mysterious book inside the box connected to his friend Lili, a girl full of secrets and fighting skills? Can he trust her, or will she betray him in the end?

This was an enjoyable and interesting MG that can be embraced by older readers. Set in Singapore, about a year prior to the bombing of Singapore by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Force and occupation of Singapore by Japan in WWII, this historical fiction MG follows Lizard, a poor boy who survives on ‘odd jobs’ and unintentionally gets caught up in military intelligence by finding a box he was sent on an errand for. He’s best friends with Lili who is harbouring a secret that can lead to danger for both Lizard and Lili but this mysterious box brings them together for an adventure both of them were not prepared for. With accurate historical referencing intertwined with a thrilling military – spy story, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it very quick and easy to read. Readers can learn a lot about pre-war Singapore in this book. I really liked the friendship between Lili and Lizard and even admired Lili’s jealousy of Lizard’s new friend Georgina – whilst Lili is tough, smart and fiercely loyal to Lizard despite the prejudice her family gave against Lizard due to caste, her flaws made her human.

An enjoyable book, recommended for both MG + YA readers.

Special thanks to Text Publishing for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

The Astrid Notes by Taryn Bashford

A compelling contemporary YA in the vein of Sarah Dessen and Brigid Kemmerer about finding your true voice in a world of love, loss and lies. Astrid Bell is a dutiful daughter and classically trained singer who yearns to write pop songs and overcome her stage fright when she uncovers a shocking family secret. Jacob Skalicky might be a trust fund kid and talented performer, but after he loses everything, he refuses to sing again.
More than just a love story, Taryn Bashford weaves a narrative that provides a fascinating glimpse into the exclusive world of the professional teen, exploring themes and issues that gifted young adults face when dealing with the demands of pressure.

Having read “The Harper Effect”, Taryn’s debut novel, I have to say I liked this one better than the first. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the first book, it’s just that in this one I can see growth with the author and her writing. The storyline was interesting as it relates to a teenager who is subject to extremely high expectations on account of her mother’s musical talent. A story that rings true to many. However the way it was written was quite easy to follow and I found the connection between Astrid and Jacob beautiful and the underlying message of courage to be who you want to be in life. The characters were written pretty well and the storyline was engaging. It has a little bit of everything and of course like most if not all YA novels, there is the romance that can either make you snort in derision or laugh.

Overall an enjoyable book and recommended to YA readers from the ages of 14 years and up. Additionally recommended to those who love music as a theme to the YA novel.

Special thanks to Pan Macmillan Publishers Australia for sending me a review copy of this book.
-Annie

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

“True power isn’t granted. True power can’t be taken away.” – The Cruel Prince, Holly Black

Great plot twists, interesting character conflicts/motivations, and strong female character. There’s a lot going on in this world of faeries, political intrigue, and family dramas. The story centers around Jude, a human girl taken to live among the faery royals. All Jude wanted was to prove herself, fit in and become a well-respected member of that society – however, in her quest to prove herself she soon gets embroiled in unraveling a huge scandal. For me, the romance aspect of this novel didn’t feel compelling, whilst it was explained in the plot why she was bullied but I just don’t get how you could still fall in love with someone that bullies you. That aspect aside, it is a fast-paced story with an intricately woven plot. It also explores Jude’s journey in navigating a world that discriminates mortals and one filled with faery trickery and politics. It explores themes of displacement, discrimination, identity, and choices. Recommended for fans of A Court of Thorns and Roses series and The Winner’s Curse series, and readers that enjoys the underdog trope.

– NJ

Book blurb:

Of course I want to be like them. They’re beautiful as blades forged in some divine fire. They will live forever.

And Cardan is even more beautiful than the rest. I hate him more than all the others. I hate him so much that sometimes when I look at him, I can hardly breathe.

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

“You have more power than you know, Samantha. You just have to be brave enough to realize it.” – How to Hang a Witch, Adriana Mather

Spooky, engaging and intense. I love how the story juxtaposed the Salem witch trials to modern day bullying and vilification. The author herself is a descendant of Witch prosecutor Cotton Mather which also added extra dimension to the story. This story is filled with witchcraft, ghost and strong underlying moral themes of kindness and compassion. Although I felt the ending was somewhat rushed and the love story was moderately interesting, it is the snippets of clues about the witch trial mystery and history that kept me reading. It was an interesting and fast-paced read which I would recommend to readers that enjoys thrillers with a side of supernatural.

– NJ

Book blurb:

It’s the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren’t enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it’s Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

Thank you to Walker Books for the opportunity to review this book.

 

The Rose & the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

“It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.” – The Rose & The Dagger

Book 2 of The Wrath and The Dawn – 4 stars!

Epic and a great ending to the love story of Shazi and Khalid. After reading The Wrath and The Dawn, I was really interested and excited to read the final book and see where it all leads. Without giving away any spoilers, all I can say is that the ending is filled with emotion, twists after twists and a captivating retelling of Arabian Nights. I enjoyed the plot, the sharp biting dialogue between the characters and the magic weaved throughout the story really shined through in this final book. Recommend if you have enjoyed the first book, like strong characters, magic, plot twists and thought-provoking dialogue.

– NJ