Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

Release Date: June 1, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing
Buy: Available at all good bookstores!
Goodreads

Sabotaged high wires.
Ravenous lions.
A demonic ringmaster.
A circus without a safety net.

Ben, the teenage son of a powerful government minister, attends on opening night and falls under the spell of Hoshiko, the tightrope walker and star attraction.


But as he steps beyond the dazzle and spectacle of the arena, to reveal the horrors that lurk beneath, can he find the courage to resist, to rebel, to help end the cruelty and the carnage?

Before I got around to reading it, I thought Show Stopper sounded quite a bit like The Hunger Games. They both have the same idea of the rich upper-class watching the bloody sport and torment of the lower classes for entertainment. I couldn't wait to get to this one for that reason, as well as the fact that the tagline "the deadliest show on earth" sounds so ominous, so I knew I was in for a high-stakes read. My goodness, this one was PHENOMENAL. The plot was fast-paced, and every moment had me on the edge of my seat.

The story's content, despite the fantasy setting, was so true in depiction with regards to the attitude towards minorities, known as "Dregs" in this book. Barker clearly reflected today's mentality that unfortunately more than a few people have towards minorities, particularly in the western world. While I wish there was slightly more world-building–because I'm still a little clueless as to HOW different the world in Show Stopper is in comparison to our world today–the plot was packed enough to satisfy my appetite for this dystopian-esque world.

The characters were amazing; I enjoyed the dual-perspective narrative. Ben's storyline was pretty interesting, but Hoshiko's point of view is where it's truly at. It was quite harrowing to learn about her past, as well as the torture and torment she and the other performers go through on a daily basis. The only part I didn't really enjoy was the romance. It was slightly too insta-lovey for me. Like, if their romance had time to develop, then sure, it would make sense. However, Hoshiko basically goes from hating him to having conflicting feelings about him to loving him just like that.

When I got to the end of the book, it sounded like there might be a sequel. I guess it could work as a standalone, but how things ended left me wanting more. Nonetheless, Show Stopper was both terrifying and mesmerising–dark, lush and grim, this one had me flipping pages like mad. A sensational and allegorical narrative that mirrors attitudes in our world today, Hayley Barker's debut is one not to miss.

▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha at Pansing for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ ▪

If you like this, try...


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Waiting on Wednesday – Week 191

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It's to spotlight upcoming releases that I'm DYING to get my hands on!

This week's WoW is:
Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

Love grows such strange things.

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

October 3, 2017 ● Goodreads

I didn't even KNOW this was an Anna-Marie McLemore book until I got to the goodreads page, because it's super different to her other books' covers, but HOLY MOLY is it gorgeous! And if my thoughts on her other works–The Weight of Feathers (read my review) and When the Moon Was Ours (read my review)–is any indication, I'm bound to love this one too! If you haven't picked up one of her books yet, you're bound for a treat. Her prose is absolutely gorgeous and the way she handles magical realism in her books is beyond wonderful. I can't wait!

What are you waiting on?

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

How to Win at High School by Owen Matthews

Release Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads ● Website

Using Scarface as his guide to life, Adam Higgs is going from zero to high school hero.

Adam Higgs is a loser, and he’s not okay with it. 

But starting as a junior in a new high school seems like exactly the right time to change things. He brainstorms with his best friend, Brian: What will it take for him to take over Nixon Collegiate? 

Adam searches for the A-listers’ weak spot and strikes gold when he gets queen bee Sara Bryant to pay him for doing her physics homework. One part nerd, two parts badass, Adam ditches his legit job and turns to full-time cheating. His clients? All the Nixon Collegiate gods and goddesses.

But soon his homework business becomes a booze business, which becomes a fake ID business. Adam’s popularity soars as he unlocks high school achievements left and right, from his first kiss to his first rebound hookup. But something else is haunting him—a dark memory from his past, driving him to keep climbing. What is it? And will he go too far?

Looking at the cover and title, I first had How to Win at High School pegged as a light-hearted story about someone trying to climb the high school social ladder. Boy was I wrong. Social climbing? Yes. Light-hearted? Nope. I haven't actually seen Scarface–the book kind of explains the plot, which was helpful, because all I had to go on beforehand was "say hello to my little friend"–and referencing the movie sets this story up to have foreboding undertones. Owen Matthews's novel is a gripping tribute to the quest for popularity, one that's full of harsh realities and dark turns. 

First of all, I loved the format. I was more than a little surprised when I saw that there were more than 300 chapters, but upon reading it I found that most chapters were only one or two pages, some even just a sentence or a few sentences long. It definitely made for a quick read! And then there's the pretty unique writing style. It kind of reminded me of books written in free verse, with the purposeful line-spacing and use of parenthesis. It also flowed like a stream of consciousness narrative, which I thought was quite cool, because despite how fast I was able to read this book, I was still able to gage the depth of the situation and understand our main character.

I hated Adam, but I don't think that's much of a surprise. I suppose we are meant to hate him, as he starts to become absolved and obsessed with reaching to the top. Also, I can't believe a high school could be like this! Surely, someone would catch on. It seems unlikely that it could get this far without someone taking notice. Besides my suspension of disbelief, this whole world seemed too far from the reality of high school, which in a way kept me reading because I wanted to know how it would all go down.

A much darker take on the usual climb for popularity story, How to Win at High School was a gritty tribute to Scarface skilfully adapted for a young adult audience. With a unique writing style and convoluted characters you don't know whether to hate or support, I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from Owen Matthews.

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Stacking the Shelves (38)

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, sharing the books I've acquired this week (well, the past two weeks)!

Here are the books I got for review:
The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James (ARC)
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan (ARC)
The Wonderling by Mira Bartók (ARC)

I also got cool golden envelope with The Wonderling that contained a press release and a key with a lovely label!

I also snagged a couple of eGalleys because they were available to read now:

Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller
Invictus by Ryan Graudin

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Thank you so much to Sasha at Pansing and the publishers on NetGalley!

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

Release Date: August 10, 2017
Illustrated by: Hannah Horn
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens
Rated: MG 11+
Format: ARC
Source: Pansing
Buy: Will be available at all good bookstores soon!
GoodreadsWebsite

Fred awoke to find that a snake was watching him and that there was an aeroplane in the trees. It was on fire. Being on fire was a quality it shared with much of the surrounding jungle.

After crashing hundreds of miles from civilisation in the Amazon rainforest, Fred, Con, Lila and Max are utterly alone and in grave danger. They have no food, no water and no chance of being rescued. But they are alive and they have hope. As they negotiate the wild jungle they begin to find signs that something - someone - has been there before them. Could there possibly be a way out after all?

I've always had Katherine Rundell's books on my to-read list, so when I got the chance to review her upcoming book, I jumped at the opportunity. I mean, it sounded like the sort of book I loved reading when I was younger, and it had some major Hatchet vibes to it (throwback to those primary school days!). However, what intrigued me most of all, other than the need to know how this group of kids will survive, was the setting. How often is it that we see a book that isn't a fantasy/sci-fi that takes place somewhere else other than the US or the UK or Europe? The answer, my dear friends, is that yes, there are books out there, but the numbers are very very small in comparison to the mainstream settings that a lot of middle grade and young adult stories take place in. This one though? THE AMAZON. THE FLIPPING AMAZON JUNGLE, YOU GUYS. Count me in for this adventure!

I loved the varying personalities of the children. Fred seemed to be the main character, the narration primarily focusing on his thoughts and feelings, but the other three characters also definitely got close to equal page time too. I loved Max, even though I'm sure he would annoy me endlessly if I was ever stuck in the jungle with him–or give me a heart attack for that matter with the amount of times he disobeys his sister or disappears–but he was still an adorable 5-year old with some hilarious lines. Lila was such a sweet character, I totally identified with her, also being the oldest sibling and constantly having to chastise and make sure that people stay in order. And despite the rather chilly beginning, Con's character really grew on me. I loved her sarcasm; it added to the humour in an otherwise serious situation. Fred's character, while he definitely had an interesting emotional backstory, did some pretty stupid reckless things. Still, though–it makes for an good story.

The only problem I had was this book had more to do with the ARC rather than the actual book. THERE WAS NO ARTWORK!!! I absolutely adore artwork in books, and what makes me really happy about middle grade books is the fact that many of them feature artwork that intertwines with the written narrative. However, much to my disdain, there wasn't any in the proof copy. If the cover is any indication though, I'm sure the illustrations in the final book are going to be gorgeous.

An enjoyable survival adventure with more than a few shiver-inducing twists, The Explorer fits in with the likes of notable children's classics. Katherine Rundell's storytelling abilities will captivate readers of all ages, hooking them in from start to finish. Don't miss out on this one–it's gripping, it's terrific, and it's magical.


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha at Pansing for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ ▪

If you like this try...

Waiting on Wednesday – Week 190

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It's to spotlight upcoming releases that I'm DYING to get my hands on!

This week's WoW is:
Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi

In the walled city of Kos, corrupt mages can magically call forth sin from a sinner in the form of sin-beasts – lethal creatures spawned from feelings of guilt. 

Taj is the most talented of the aki, young sin-eaters indentured by the mages to slay the sin-beasts. But Taj’s livelihood comes at a terrible cost. When he kills a sin-beast, a tattoo of the beast appears on his skin while the guilt of committing the sin appears on his mind. Most aki are driven mad by the process, but 17-year-old Taj is cocky and desperate to provide for his family. 


When Taj is called to eat a sin of a royal, he’s suddenly thrust into the center of a dark conspiracy to destroy Kos. Now Taj must fight to save the princess that he loves – and his own life.

October 31, 2017 ● Goodreads

Besides the fact that this one has a GORGEOUS cover and a super intriguing synopsis, Beasts Made of Night is a "Nigerian-influenced fantasy." Um, YES PLEASE?!?! I need this book now and October cannot come fast enough!

What are you waiting on?

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Release Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.


Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

I first met Mackenzi when I was writing a profile for a class project, and I mean–as a book blogger, what better person is there profile than an author? Especially an author who had an awesome debut coming out later that year? After that initial meeting I've run into Mackenzi a few other times, so of course I was super excited to finally dig into The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue! I adored This Monstrous Thing (read my review), and I knew that this one was bound to be as good–or even better.

Oh.
My.
GOD.

I could not get enough of this book! Having just come back from a semester abroad in London and traveling around Europe, this was the PERFECT read. I fell in love with everything about this book, and seriously needed more when I got to the end.

Monty! Oh Monty, Monty, Monty. Definitely one of the most unabashedly hedonistic protagonists out there, but my goodness, did I love his voice throughout the book. Basically being the historical version of today's f***-boy, I loved seeing his transformation from beginning to end (thankfully, his humour and unabashed-ness stays in tact). Felicity was a total badass, and I can't wait for her spin-off novel, because if her character in this story was any indication, her story is going to be E-P-I-C. Percy was such a darling character, and I love how even though he was sort of the counter to Monty's character–in public, at least–they truly have a special friendship that turns into something more.

Speaking of which, the diversity in this book is WONDERFUL. Bisexual/gay main characters, people of colour, disabilities: I loved the representation in this book, despite of what we–meaning what we're forced to believe with a narrow-ass mindset–think of "typical" historical fiction. Screw that. Mackenzi had made a pretty important point when I interviewed her, which was that people with different sexual identities had always existed...it's just because it was condemned as illegal doesn't mean that they weren't there. So yes. HELLS YES to this book, because any sort of (positive) representation is important, regardless of the time period it's set in.

Narrow escapes, fantastic settings, and PIRATES to top it all off (looking at you Hamlet), The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue was an amazing read. A historical adventure across Europe with more-than-ordinary circumstances, Mackenzi Lee's latest novel is probably one of my favourite reads of this year. As I have mentioned earlier, I can't wait for the companion novel to this one–I need some more Felicity and that Montague charm!


If you like this, try...


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Literally by Lucy Keating

Literally by Lucy Keating

Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Rated: YA 14+
Format: eGalley
Source: Edelweiss
Buy: AmazonThe Book Depository
Goodreads Website

Annabelle’s life has always been Perfect with a capital P. Then bestselling young adult author Lucy Keating announces that she’s writing a new novel—and Annabelle is the heroine. 

It turns out, Annabelle is a character that Lucy Keating created. And Lucy has a plan for her. 


But Annabelle doesn’t want to live a life where everything she does is already plotted out. Will she find a way to write her own story—or will Lucy Keating have the last word?


Lucy Keating's latest book is about a girl trying to stop the story that she's been written into. The best way to put it is probably Stranger Than Fiction meets a young adult contemporary novel. And the best part? I really, really enjoyed it. This is a book I didn't know I needed, let alone wanted. I love meta stories and breaking the fourth wall, and Stranger Than Fiction is one of my favourite films–I could watch it over and over again and not get bored. This book, like the film, fictionalised the idea of literally breaking the barrier between creator and creation, and in the end has brought to life an imaginative, original and quirky story.

It must be pretty weird writing yourself in as a character! Sure, some of it is fictional, but I am pretty curious about the process that Lucy Keating went through writing this book and how she decided to portray herself on the page. Especially since she comes off as sort of a counter (not exactly antagonistic) force in this novel. The characters in this novel were fantastic by the way. You're really made aware that they are characters, but they tend to redefine themselves in unexpected ways. I actually don't think there was a single character I hated in this one–Annabelle was strong character (whose organisation skills I envy), I adored Elliot, I loved the developments with Will, and our protagonist's family was wonderful.

My only complaint would be about the resolution. I kind of didn't get it, and it seemed to cut too quick to the problem being solved. I enjoyed the several obstacles Annabelle has to go through–Lucy Keating doesn't make it easy for her!–but it just fell flat after. I liked the ending, but as I said, it seemed slightly too tidy for me. The book is pretty short, but I felt like exploring the meta-ness of this concept in tying up the main problem, as well as maybe delving a little more into the characters, the romance, the problems that family faces, the character-author relationship, and so on, could have made this an even better read (that's just my opinion).

Literally was sweet, quirky, full of heart, unique, adorable and–above all–fun. I love books with a larger-than-life premise, even though they take place in 'our world,' and this book had it all. Lucy Keating's books all seem to have this special spark to them, and I can't wait to read more from her (Dreamology: I'm coming for you!). 


If you like this, try...

Superpowerless by Chris Priestley

Superpowerless by Chris Priestley

Release Date: June 15, 2017
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Rated: YA 14+
Format: Paperback
Source: Pansing
Buy: Available at all good bookstores!
GoodreadsWebsite

To his mother and his best friend, Davis is just a teenager who spends too much time reading comics in his attic bedroom.

But David is not what he seems.


He has superpowers. He is a superhero with one mission: to save a man from drowning in a sinking car.


He is also spying on his beautiful neighbour, Holly, who sunbathes in the gardens at the back of his house. And Holly has secrets of her own.


There is one last secret too–one David hides even from himself. When it it finally dragged into the light, David will have to face the truth–and face it superpowerless.

From the title alone I knew that this was going to be a poignant read. Superpowerless. Kinda makes you think, doesn't it? Of course, when I got to the synopsis I knew I had to read this one. Emotions be damned, and all that. Well, I finally sat down with this one and devoured it in a few hours. Mental illness is a big topic addressed in this book, and I thought (not having experienced it myself, but having seen others struggle with it*) that Superpowerless tackled it pretty well. Priestley's book was a moving and a very (yes, I'm really going in for this pun) powerful read.
*Obviously, since I have not experienced any form of mental illness, I cannot vouch for how accurate it is, and this is based solely on my experience through hearing other testaments, reading or seeing other depictions, and knowing people who have gone through it.

I love illustrations in a book, but not too many young adult books actually have them unfortunately. It was definitely fitting for this book though, with David's love for comic books and super heroes, so I'm glad they were featured! The illustrations are absolutely gorgeous, and I'm in awe of Priestley's artistic depictions of his story. The comic-book style drawings usually showcase parts of whatever's going on, and it generally has to do with a flashback, or David's imaginings. I thought it was such a cool visual portrayal of synecdoche, as we see parts or close-ups of images that contribute to a whole. 

'Talking for us isn't a truth game, is it?'
David scowls. What is this?
'Why?'
'Because we're both liars, David,' says Holly. 'Don't you see? Wouldn't it be interesting to tell the truth. Just for once. Just us. Liar to liar.'
–p. 253, paperback

Other than me geeking out over the illustrations, the characters were so well fleshed out–even the secondary ones. You could really get a grip on the characters interact with one another, how David perceives them and how they perceive David. The writing style is a little different than the usual first-person or third-person perspective because it describes the actions (and I hope I'm describing this correctly) as if a narrator would. "David is reading a comic book in his attic" is sort of the way the prose is written, and while it mainly focuses on David's character, we come to know of other character's thoughts and feelings every now and then. It's a pretty unique way of storytelling, in combination with the drawings, and it absolutely lead to an interesting reading experience.

I'm gonna address the elephant in the synopsis: the spying on Holly as she sunbathes bit. Yeah...obviously I was not okay with that part, because 1) it's creepy and 2) why are guys like that, buttttt as much as I hated it, it 1) seems like a pretty realistic portrayal, because I mean teenagers are just hormonal in general (there's no denying that fact) and 2) it added to David's character. Definitely not saying that the spying okay, because it most certainly is not, but the constant thoughts about girls and all that hits the nail in creating a realistic teenager. But I do love the relationship that develops between Holly and David. Not gonna say what kind of relationship it is exactly, but it was wonderfully played out throughout the book, and provided some moments of relief as well from the sad storyline.

Raw and compelling with these fantastic (I seriously can't get enough of them) illustrations woven in, Superpowerless is a touching story about a boy who tries to move on from tragedy, but is held back by a secret. With fantastic and complex characters tied into an enthralling narrative, Chris Priestley's latest novel is remarkable.


▪ ▪ ▪ Thank you so much to Sasha at Pansing for sending me a copy for review! ▪ ▪ ▪

If you like this, try...

Waiting on Wednesday – Week 189

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine. It's to spotlight upcoming releases that I'm DYING to get my hands on!

This week's WoW is:
Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller

Sallot Leon is a thief, and a good one at that. But gender fluid Sal wants nothing more than to escape the drudgery of life as a highway robber and get closer to the upper-class―and the nobles who destroyed their home. 

When Sal steals a flyer for an audition to become a member of The Left Hand―the Queen's personal assassins, named after the rings she wears―Sal jumps at the chance to infiltrate the court and get revenge. 

But the audition is a fight to the death filled with clever circus acrobats, lethal apothecaries, and vicious ex-soldiers. A childhood as a common criminal hardly prepared Sal for the trials. And as Sal succeeds in the competition, and wins the heart of Elise, an intriguing scribe at court, they start to dream of a new life and a different future, but one that Sal can have only if they survive.

August 29, 2017 ● Goodreads

As much as I hate starting series with none of the other books out, the cover (!!) and the synopsis for this one might just tempt me to dive into it with no regard for the fact that later on I might have to re-read it *le sigh*. I mean, I was sold at gender-fluid character and ASSASSIN. Anyhoo, I was lucky enough to snag an eGalley of this one when NetGalley offered it, so I'm hoping that I can get to it soon.

What are you waiting on?

Introducing Readaholic's Blogging 101!

Hi friends!

I'm just gonna cut to the chase: 


I'm launching a Blogging 101 series! 

I've just been thinking lately about how I love it when other bloggers–book bloggers mostly–share their tips and give information that I've been DYING to know...but have never had the chance to ask. Why not spread the wealth of *my* experiences in blogging too? Granted, while I have been around for a "while" (7 years!!), I really don't know how much good advice I can give, but I want to share what I do know!

So feel free to ask away on the google form embedded below–anything from blog design (lol, I can try), to ARCs, to being an international blogger, to how I review...the sky is the limit!



I'm really excited about launching this, and hopefully *fingers crossed* I can help some of you all out, even just a little bit.

xo,
Rabiah

P.S. I also have a GIVEAWAY going on at the moment, which is open internationally!