Hideous Beauty Review

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

When Dylan and Ellis’s secret relationship is exposed on social media, Dylan is forced to come out. To Dylan’s surprise they are met with support and congratulations, and an amazing reception at their highschool dance. Perhaps people aren’t as narrow-minded as he thought?

But Dylan’s happiness is short-lived. Ellis suddenly becomes angry, withdrawn, and as they drive home from the dance, he loses control of the car, sending it plunging into Hunter’s Lake. Barely conscious, Dylan is pulled free of the wreck, while Ellis is left to drown.

Grief-stricken, Dylan vows to discover what happened to Ellis that night and piece together the last months of his boyfriend’s life – and realises just how little he knew about the boy he loved.

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I won this book out of a lotery during YALC, however that doesn’t change my review or do anything for or against it.

To start this review, at least one of the foxes given is purely due to the fact that I usually cringe at books that center on romance/a relationship and somehow this one didn’t annoy me, or make me frustrated or anything like that. I enjoyed the romance,so kudos to the author because somehow a 4 fox review has come out of a contemporary romance book. Someone save this one for posterity.

Maybe that should be the whole review, this book made me like contemporary romance. (But I am not going to go test the waters and ruin the experience I got out of this one book).

Now on to an actual review of it. It is a very interesting book, with a coming out, a high school dance where they are officially out, and then disaster. Both Ellis and Dylan were fleshed out as full characters and neither was just a ploy or just there, you could see and feel what they were going through. There are several parts of the story to follow. One is Dylan’s best friend and their friendship, which I enjoyed but also boy, was that intense (and no, no filthy thoughts).

Another part is what made Ellis to elusive and what was he keeping from Dylan? Why is Dylan suddenly getting pages from the sketchbook Ellis had? The mystery is there ever present but it is also something that is keeping Dylan going and in some ways keeing him from plunging deeper into his grief, but at the same time, he’s not letting go of that grief because he wants to keep searching for answers.

And of course, the last one, is grief (another grief book, definitely my type of book). It is on how his family and the rest of the world interacts with him, and it is about him reacting or interacting in return. On processing the grief, and trying to find a way in and out and somehow untangle the big tangle that grief is.

The book in general does well exploring the three points and the final discovery both surprised me in one of the things and was not that surprising in another. But it didn’t feel too far away from what could possibly be.

This is not a happy book, it is a book that is steeped in sadness an in discovery and just finding your place in the world and learning who you are and who your boyfriend was/is.

Still, definitely worth a read.

A Girl Like That Review

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

A timeless exploration of high-stakes romance, self-discovery, and the lengths we go to love and be loved.

Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school.  You don’t want to get involved with a girl like that, they say. So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia? When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

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I can’t remember the exact reason why this book caught my eye but it had been a preorder that ended up in my too big pending to be read book list. And I felt like reading it and wow.

A Girl Like That packs a punch and a half. Seriously, this was a very powerful read.

We start with Zarin and Porius hovering over the car accident that has cost them their lives. I’ve only really ever seen this type of narrative of the spirit/soul witnessing something happening or that happened to their body and helping with the narrative work well once (in Gayle Foreman’s books) but it works here too.

That first chapter of the accident and the scene and just setting up the key players and our main cast of zarin and Porus gives you a glimpse into them and who they are. We then get a few points of view telling us how they either see Zarin, why they see her that way, or of Zarin or Porus telling us about hoe they came to be in the car that night.

For a very long time I had a theory about the car accident and kinda didn’t want to be right, and I weasn’t, which made this even better. Anyway, it is interesting to see Zarin trying hard to make herself be what she needs to be, but at the same time rebelling and wanting to be herself, to not ahve to hide so many things. She finds that letting others have an opinion of her gives her space to breathe, they are already judging her, so it means they pry less, they assume more and she has a little bit more freedom.

Because even though they say she is a girl like that, the kind mothers tell you to avoid being, the kind boys talk about; there’s is way more to Zarin than just being a pretty girl that goes out with boys despite the fact that they shouldn’t. And Porus can see somehow beyond that.

The relationship between Porus and Zarin was an interesting part to see develop and how it was developing from each side, there were points when I wanted to just grab them and go “now kiss” and times when I just wanted them to go on their own path or felt bad for one or both of them. I had so many feelings going on while reading this.

It explores a lot how subtle power can be, as the form of gossip and knowledge, as a way of knowing you are attractive and using that as power to get things you wouldnt otherwise, as reputation, and sometimes how manipulation can be power. It also poises the fact that men have more power in a society like that and what can entail. There is a lot of questioning why choices are made and what the consequences may be.

I enjoyed this book a lot, learned a lot from it and it made me question things a little more. I do recommend reading and expect some intense moments throughout the book, this isn’t a soft book but a gritty book about abuse, about reputation, about love, about friendship and beliefs.

The Place Between Breaths Review

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The Place Between Breaths by An Na

From master storyteller and Printz Award–winning author An Na comes a dark, intensely moving story of a girl desperately determined to find a cure for the illness that swept her mother away, and could possibly destroy her own life as well.

Sixteen-year-old Grace is in a race against time—and in a race for her life—even if she doesn’t realize it yet…

She is smart, responsible, and contending with more than what most teens ever should. Her mother struggled with schizophrenia for years until, one day, she simply disappeared—fleeing in fear that she was going to hurt those she cared about most. Ever since, Grace’s father has worked as a recruiter at one of the leading labs dedicated to studying the disease, trying to lure the world’s top scientists to the faculty to find a cure, hoping against hope it can happen in time to help his wife if she is ever found. But this makes him distant. Consumed.

Grace, in turn, does her part, interning at the lab in the gene sequencing department daring to believe that one day they might make a breakthrough…and one day they do. Grace stumbles upon a string of code that could be the key. But something inside of Grace has started to unravel. Could her discovery just be a cruel side effect of the disease that might be taking hold of her? And can she even tell the difference?

Unflinchingly brave, An Na has created a mesmerizing story with twists and turns that reveal jaw-dropping insights into the mind of someone struggling with schizophrenia.

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This little book packs a punch. However, there’s a few things to consider before you read it. It is a book about mental health and schizophrenia. It is not a fluffy cuddly book. This one bites, and confuses.

The second thing is that the author has South Korean origins. Meaning that the Eastern (because “not Western sounds meh”) influences are heavy in the writing style of the book. Think Murakami, Yoshimoto, etc, who have a particular style of wiriting that isn’t what most Western authors do.

And why do I say both things before I even review the book? Because if you’re expecting a perfectly “coherent” fluffy book, this book is not it and it definitely isn’t a Western view of the world even if it is set in the US.

The author writes this book in seasons, in cycles. The book does its best to show you how schizophrenia entangles you and all the “ripples” it has. Your main character is Grace King who believes in logic and is fighting against her genes, while trying to work and help find a cure or something for schizophrenia. The story shifts between “season” chapters, that show slightly different things but they do make a cohesive whole. (I don’t want to spoil the book too much).

There are a lot of twists and intriguing bits in the story where at first you aren’t sure but as the story progresses you begin to realise how much Grace is fighting and what “enemy” she’s fighting.

In my opinion it was a very clever book with the way it sets thing and how it leaves you guessing. You need to be in the right midnset for it though, and it is worth (only after reading it) to go check Goodreads reviews, the author explains her purpose in writing it the way she did and a little better what is and isn’t in a reply to a reviewer.

 

The Burning Review

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The Burning by Laura Bates

A rumour is like a fire. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames

New school.
Tick.
New town.
Tick.
New surname.
Tick.
Social media profiles?
Erased.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks … until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets, Anna finds herself irresistibly drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna’s own…

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This book sounded like the kind of grippy gritty books I have recently been into, so I grabbed it. It wasn’t exactly what I was expecting (not to say it really wasn’t at all).

I expected the thing that Anna is trying to forget to be something else, so when it finally surfaces I was more like “oh, it’s that? meh” rather than “oh wow!”. Won’t spoil what it is, but this book certainly touches on topics like abortion, torture, abuse, bullying and the kind.

The witchy part was my favourite of it all. When they move to the new house Anna notices some odd marks scratched into the beams of the house and things like that, and turns out they’re witches marks, to try to disuade the spirit of the witch to come back and haunt the people that bought the house.

All the story of the “witch” was quite interesting, and it was intense. I was so angry for her, and I really liked that Thomas had an opinion and the part he “played” in it (yes, I wish it was different, but hey, this was way far back in time).

Another thing I really enjoyed was the friendships developed here. Partly it touches on how friends can turn on you and fall to peer pressure, which is something I had happen a lot during high school when I used to be bullied. My “best friend” would bully me in public then outside of school treat me completely different. Go figure! Regardless, it is interesting to see how each of the old and new friendships Anna slowly biulds develop, and that they are unique, most of the characters involved didn’t feel bland which was lovely because they were part of Anna’s world and not just plot props. Kudos for that.

The topic and the thing Anna deals with is important, I just imagined something else and it then fell under my expectations, but it hooked me so I read it before dinner the other day.

I guess you’d say my overall rating comes from having different expectations (my fault a little, part the blurbs fault) but it was an interesting book that I enjoyed reading.

Four Three Two One Review

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Four Three Two One by Courtney C. Stevens

In this contemporary YA novel, a girl reunites with the three other survivors of a bus bombing that killed nineteen people, and together they face the secrets, struggles, and emotional warfare that each has been enduring.

Golden “Go” Jennings wasn’t supposed to be on Bus 21 the day it blew up in New York City. Neither was her boyfriend, Chandler. But they were. And so was Rudy, a cute stranger whom Go shared a connection with the night before. And Caroline, a girl whose silence ended up costing nineteen people their lives.

Though it’s been a year since the bombing, Go isn’t any closer to getting over what happened. Since Chan shuts down every time Go brings that day up, she decides to reach out to Rudy. Just like that, the two fall right back into their easy, deep connection. Facing the past head-on with Rudy has opened up a small window of healing Go never thought was possible. So she makes an impulsive decision: Round up the rest of the survivors and head to New York City. There they will board an art installation made of the charred remnants of Bus 21.

But things are never easy when it comes to rehashing the past. Uniting the four stirs up conflicting feelings of anger and forgiveness and shows them that, although they all survived, they may still need saving.

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This was a free proof provided by the publisher but the review is all my own, not paid or whatever.

Now that that is out of the way… When I saw this as a book blurb before it was even published I was intrigued. Four people survive a bombing, each has secrets they keep and they are all building up to going back into a remade Bus that exploded, that is now an exhibition.

I don’t usually read books about terrorism (domestic or otherwise), but I found the clashing of lives something I wanted to read. And Four Three Two One was very powerful. At the beginnign we get the “bus explodes” chapter, then we meet our characters months after the explosion and days before the exhibition opens.

There a lot of concepts happening here. There is the whole “what is love” question in there, and if the things that happen to us make us, defines us, or how they affect us. But there is also the survivors guilt being explored and how that redefines us, and how much it can affect not the survivor’s life but the lives of those around that person.

As all five main characters come closer and closer to getting to Accelerant Orange and to facing Bus 21, things get more and more tense. The first question that should probably be answered is, can they step inside the bus? It is known that people that had an aircrash may never fly again, or in this case never get on a bus again. So can they? (I won’t say if they can or can’t, that’d be a spoiler, but it is a question that sticks around). But it isn’t the only question to answer. There is a why are you (each survivor) going to the exhibition? What are you holding back? What is that “secret” you’re trying to protect everyone else from?

We know the “secret” one of them holds from early on, but that doesn’t prepare you for the other secrets that come up to the surface as they share a ride towards New York, and towards the exhibition of Bus 21.

No, this isn’t a popular book, sadly it is overlooked. But it is interesting and powerful and worth reading (it is also a relatively light read, in that it is easy to read, the writing flows easily but the topic is intense, there is talk about suicide, and well, terrorism). However, I enjoyed the execution of it, and how much feeling there was in it (and I’m not always fond of adding too much feeling to stories).

Go read it, give it a chance.

Fierce Fragile Hearts Review

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Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard

‘This time around, I’m going to be so much better. I’m going to prove to them that it was worth waiting on me.’

Two years after a downward spiral took her as low as you can possibly go, Suzanne is starting again. Again. She’s back in Brighton, the only place she felt she belonged, back with her best friends Caddy and Rosie. But they’re about to leave for university. When your friends have been your light in the darkness, what happens when you’re the one left behind?

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I know I am late to the party and that finished copies are already out, but Sara’s books are very intense and I had to be in the right mindspace for it. (And I am glad I waited or I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much).

We find Suzanne ready to rebuild and start “over” again in Bristol. She’s an adult now, at 18 and wants to be independent. And gosh, just this part of the story was heartbreaking, because ebing an adult is really difficult, and becoming independent completely and trying to make ends meet is also hard. I loved the fact that she doesn’t just magically afford every single thing and have it perfectly fine without any issues.

The rawness of the book is one of the best things, seriously. But it also means that this book should come with the warning of saying that it deals with mental health, drugs, alcohol, relationships and abuse. This is done in a tasteful (to my palate at least) way without being too preachy but also not just like “it’s drugs and rock n roll”.

There is a lovely old lady as part of this book, and I just loved this so much. Everything about it made me smile and cry and just it is beautiful (don’t really want to spoil a lot). There’s a cute dog. And friends, and how friendships change.

Sue also has to learn that she’s not the only one having issues, and hey, she can actually try to help her friends. And discovering how to help others and how to be a friend are part of what this book touches on.

Gosh, it even made me want to go visit Bristol and find the places it mentions. And now I am not making a lot of sense. But basically, this book will give you a lot of feelings and make you emotional, different emotions at a time like sadness, happiness and anger (there are others and at times I just laughed in the middle of the bus while I was reading, weird looks were given, I didn’t care).

 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart Review

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Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

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I struggled a little with this book. It has some really really good things, but it also has some pet peeves so it was hard to rate it highly due to them (and there were sadly a lot).

One of the topics of the book is what the concept of love is, and another is grief. Both give it really good points, and they are explored in an amazing way. Each character affected by the death of Mika grieves differently and you can see this (and as the story progresses, Rei becomes more aware of it too) which I found really good. This grief not only affects each of them and who they are, but their relationships and as I mentioned above, it is done very well.  (I would even add, the grief you feel for different deaths/loses is different in itself. You think you know what grief is after one and then another one happens and it is not the same!)

However, Reiko was an extremely spoiled person and that meant low points. Life is so “easy” and she just can’t seem to think outside her circle, even when things aren’t going the way they are meant to (or that she thinks they should be going).

The homecoming party was odd, and I know that it is part of what spurred the whole book but it felt a bit empty. However, things start to get better from this point on in the book. For most of the first half, all I did was cringe a lot about almost everything going on. And there is a huge case of parents that are there when needed as plot devise but absent the rest of the time, conveniently. (I understand it is hard to make parents be part of the story, but in this particular one, they should’ve been less a plot devise and more part of it, they could’ve played a bigger better part).

Still, I liked some parts and even had to share a quote (last paragraph of page 286, UK paperback edition) with my friends, because it was just very perfect and I had to. And I found the exploration of “who do we fall in love”, and how people change (or our perception of them, or even ourselves change) a refreshing topic and it was a lot less romance than I expected it to be (which in this case is a plus).

Moon recommends

I’d say to give this lovely book a spin. If you’re more curious on explorations about grief try Letters to the Lost and for some reason this book reminded me of Floored, so why not check that one out too?

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that whatever the circumstances it was as good as it could be.