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One highly opinionated feminist YA nerd's twisted, snarky and informative journey through the genre's perils, pitfalls and sparkles.

Review: "The Bride's Farewell" by Meg Rosoff.

“The Bride’s Farewell”

Author: Meg Rosoff.

Publisher: Puffin.

Pages: 192.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): On the morning of her wedding, Pell Ridley creeps out of bed in the dark, kisses her sisters goodbye and flees — determined to escape a future that offers nothing but hard work and sorrow. She takes the only thing that truly belongs to her: Jack, a white horse, and small mute Bean who refuses to be left behind.

The road ahead is rich with longing, silence and secrets, and each encounter leads her closer to the untold story of her past. Then Pell meets a hunter, infuriating, mysterious and cold. Will he help her to find what she seeks?

With all the hallmarks of Meg Rosoff’s extraordinary writing,The Bride’s Farewell” also breaks new ground for this author, in a nineteenth-century, Hardyesque setting. This is a moving story of love and lost things, with a core of deep, beautiful romance.

Cover impressions: I love Meg Rosoff’s work. “How I Live Now” and “Just In Case” were refreshing and vibrant, with a fascinating layer of unease throughout the simple but highly effective prose. Both books received mass acclaim, both from teens and adults, and many literary awards, such as the Carnegie Medal and Printz Award. I highly recommend her first two books to anyone in search of a book that proves YA can be just as moving, surprising and intriguing as anything intended for adults. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing for “The Bride’s Farewell.”

As always, Rosoff’s prose is wonderful, managing to be deceptively simple but striking and void of overt sentimentality. It’s certainly the strongest thing about this short book but great prose isn’t enough to make a story worthwhile. After a strong start and the initial establishment of a strong, independent heroine, the story quickly loses momentum and dissolves into many paragraphs of exposition and summaries more suited to a “Previously on...” introduction to a TV series than a novella. There is no real strong narrative to the novella; instead, we are left with chapter after chapter describing each unconnected thing Pell does, occasionally meandering off for a little exposition on a barely developed character of no real importance. I can’t blame the short length of the story for this since many wonderful novellas and short stories have been written before this that manage to get in ten times more characterisation and plot. Pell’s introduction started off so strong but quickly fell apart as it felt like Rosoff became bored with her own story and characters. So little time is spent allowing Pell to grow – and the few decisions she does make later on seem at direct odds with her early characterisation - and by the end of the book I felt apathetic towards her fate. I had similar feelings, or lack thereof, towards the supporting cast, who are so thinly drawn they’re transparent. Many of these characters also veered wildly into caricature territory. Almost every man in the story is a philandering drunk who does not care for his numerous children, while anyone who openly talks of faith and God is usually a ranting fool with no regard for kindness or basic human decency. Not only were such descriptions borderline offensive, they were also plain lazy. When the reader is asked to sympathise with one particular case – a man who abandoned his wife and child and only comes back to see his son to teach him to ‘be a man’ and hunt – because he becomes the designated love interest, it’s hard to stomach.

My biggest problem with the book came with the story. As I said before, there really is no strong narrative structure to “The Bride’s Farewell” as Pell meanders from one place to another, but almost everything that happens in this story is misery porn. If something’s going to go wrong then chances are it will. Pell is mistreated, mocked, left to starve, robbed, cheated, the whole shebang. Almost every woman that Pell encounters, no matter how long they appear for, immediately mistrusts her or believes her to be out to steal their men with her beauty, another lazy character element that left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I am fine with unflinching unsentimentality, many writers have made masterpieces from such plot choices, but here it feels lifeless and completely pointless. Pell doesn’t grow as a character because of these events, she doesn’t become a stronger person (actually, I think she becomes even more downtrodden and submissive than before), so to pack this short book with such defeated angst for no reason feels like bad storytelling. It’s such a disappointment because I know Rosoff is capable of brilliance.

Someone asked me if it was worth reading a bad book if it had one truly wonderful redeeming feature, in this case the prose. Even though I think Rosoff is a wonderful writer and her prose is always strong, in the case of “The Bride’s Farewell”, it’s just not worth it. Great prose cannot singlehandedly support lazy characterisation, clumsy plotting and a story that seems more concerned with making its characters miserable than allowing them to truly grow. I cannot recommend Rosoff’s other books highly enough so I recommend you pick those wonderful pieces of YA up to read instead of this one, which I hope is merely a minor speed bump in her career.


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Review: "Wildefire" by Karsten Knight.


Author: Karsten Knight.

Publisher: Simon and Schuster.

Pages: 401.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): Ashline Wilde is having a rough sophomore year. She’s struggling to find her place as the only Polynesian girl in school, her boyfriend just cheated on her, and now her runaway sister, Eve, has decided to barge back into her life. When Eve’s violent behavior escalates and she does the unthinkable, Ash transfers to a remote private school nestled in California’s redwoods, hoping to put the tragedy behind her. But her fresh start at Blackwood Academy doesn’t go as planned. Just as Ash is beginning to enjoy the perks of her new school—being captain of the tennis team, a steamy romance with a hot, local park ranger—Ash discovers that a group of gods and goddesses have mysteriously enrolled at Blackwood…and she’s one of them. To make matters worse, Eve has resurfaced to haunt Ash, and she’s got some strange abilities of her own. With a war between the gods looming over campus, Ash must master the new fire smoldering within before she clashes with her sister one more time… And when warm and cold fronts collide, there’s guaranteed to be a storm.

Cover impressions: Over the past few years, in the wake of the sparkle madness, we’ve seen a wide variety of paranormal mythologies saturate the YA market to the point where much of it has become derivative, overdone and frankly, a little dull. To find something original in the market is always pleasant, so a novel centred around a reincarnated Polynesian goddess was automatically a must read for me. So far, my GoodReads friends have been mixed in their opinions on the novel, so I will have to be the dull one here and fall right in the middle.

Ashline is a great protagonist. She’s often stubborn and incredibly sarcastic – the banter she shares with her friends is a particular highlight of the book – and makes stupid mistakes, but she also suffers with consequences and has to learn how to mature and figure out what to do with her life and newfound destiny. Her relationship with her friends, family and the culture clash she has known through her whole life made her an often complex but always interesting heroine. This was also an instance where the obligatory romantic element didn’t bother me so much; she and Colt had great chemistry, actually took time to get to know one another and didn’t spend all their time obsessing over one another.

Aside from Ashline, the supporting cast ranges from good to bad in terms of development. Her group of close friends and fellow gods were especially humorous and their interactions made for some of the best parts of the novel. They actually felt like teenagers, not adults in smaller bodies, and their own personal journeys, while handled a little clumsily (the prose is serviceable but nothing particularly groundbreaking), brought further layers to the mythological elements, another high point in the book. However, I had a strong dislike (and not in the way the author intended) to Eve, Ash’s sister. She was a straight up sociopath with nothing beyond her two dimensional destruction and selfishness. I can understand what Knight’s intentions were with the character, and there are hints of bigger repercussions in her relationship with Ash, but they were overwhelmed by her psychotic behaviour. The moments where she is supposed to develop beyond this felt hollow, making her ultimately an underwhelming antagonist to the story. Another possible antagonist is introduced late into the novel who is even more two dimensional than Eve, complete with Bond villain style exposition of her past, but she’s dropped almost immediately.

From the first chapter, the book grabs you and is paced to keep you invested in the mystery, rushed ending aside. However, this opening may also put off many readers because of its violence. There is a lot of violence in the novel (as well as casual use of the term 'bitch', which everyone called almost every girl at some point) and it verged dangerously close to being gratuitous for me. I can understand the inherently violent nature of the gods and goddesses, and their struggles to keep control over their strange, burgeoning powers, but the characters often take a disappointingly flippant view of this violence which I found to be grating as the novel progressed. The opening chapter’s fight was a particularly bad example of this – I don’t care how violent or peaceful your neighbourhood is, there is absolutely no way you’d only get one week’s suspension from school for that sort of fight. The fact that this fight takes place over a boy didn’t please me much either. As well as the violent elements, I felt that the group accepted their fates a little too quickly, and seemed to take control of their powers with the same unrealistic speed.

While I didn’t love “Wildefire” in quite the same way many of my reviewer friends did, it was refreshing to read a paranormal YA with unique mythos, a strong, complex female protagonist and a circle of friends with witty interactions who actually cared about one another and did more than act as plot devices. Now that the first part of the story is told, I hope Karsten Knight can further develop a great story free deserving of that killer cliff-hanger, which will leave you both infuriated and waiting for more.


"Wildefire" will be available in USA on July 26th. I received my e-ARC from Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab.

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Review: "Magic Under Glass" by Jaclyn Dolamore.

“Magic Under Glass”

Author: Jaclyn Dolamore

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Pages: 225.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): Nimira is a music-hall performer forced to dance for pennies to an audience of leering drunks. When wealthy sorcerer Hollin Parry hires her to do a special act - singing accompaniment to an exquisite piano-playing automaton, Nimira believes it is the start of a new life. In Parry's world, however, buried secrets stir.
Unsettling below-stairs rumours abound about ghosts, a mad woman roaming the halls, and of Parry's involvement in a gang of ruthless sorcerers who torture fairies for sport. When Nimira discovers the spirit of a dashing young fairy gentleman is trapped inside the automaton's stiff limbs, waiting for someone to break the curse and set him free, the two fall in love. But it is a love set against a dreadful race against time to save the entire fairy realm, which is in mortal peril.

Cover impressions: I, like many people I imagine, first heard about “Magic Under Glass” after the less than publicity friendly but justifiable outrage over the whitewashing of the heroine on the first cover of the book. Luckily, the publishers listened to the complaints and gave the book a lovely new cover with the appropriate cover model so remember good readers, public pressure does sometimes work! But that unfortunate incident aside, this has been a book on my radar for a while after several excellent reviews and the promise of a book with Steampunk elements that wouldn’t make me want to fall asleep.

Indeed, “Magic Under Glass” is a very sweet read, chock full of charm and imagination. It’s a book that can easily be read in one sitting, which I found to be both a good and bad thing; good because it was well paced and highly readable, and bad because the slightness of the novel left me feeling a little unsatisfied. The story and world Dolamore has created is so jam packed with potential and while the story occasionally lives up to it, I felt like there was definitely room for more. The alternative Victorian-esque universe of forbidden sorcery, fairy-human political strife and clockwork creatures was fascinating but much of it is only hinted at. I understand a sequel is in the works but as a stand-alone novel, which “Magic Under Glass” works well as, there was much opportunity for these elements to be expanded upon. Unfortunately, the ending as a result also feels a little rushed. Larger events are hinted at, ones of political complexity and cultural hostilities, which I was eager to learn more about, but were never given much time to truly develop. Dolamore writes wonderful, very readable prose, and clearly knows how to pace a story, so I firmly believe she could have easily added another 50 or so pages to this novel for such elements, as well as some extra character development, without any change to the structure of the novel.

The novel’s strengths lie mainly in the heroine Nimira, a strong, independent if occasionally stubborn and entitled young woman who has come from a life of privilege and adoration to one of decidedly less importance, where she is looked down upon both for her occupation and ethnicity. I enjoyed Nimira’s voice immensely, especially in the way she fights to be recognised as more than a trouser girl. Her interactions with most of the other characters seem a little one-sided, which is mostly down to the supporting cast being much less developed than she is. The villain is far too one-dimensional and predictable to ever be truly convincing and the potential her early discussions with Erris, the fairy prince trapped inside the automaton, have potential and a tentative charm, it quickly turns to romance with no real depth, which was a great disappointment, especially since Nimira’s interactions with Hollin, a much more complex and developed character, are much more believable as the beginnings of a possible relationship. I never truly believed the evolution of Nimira and Erris’ relationship.

While I thoroughly enjoyed “Magic Under Glass”, I do feel that it could have benefited from further character and plot development, as the potential offered in this book is truly great. The beginnings of wonderfully imaginative and varied world-building, as well as the hints of complex political intrigue, give Dolmore a great head start in creative what I hope to be a rich and enjoyable series. This world would make a wonderful Studio Ghibli movie. It’s a quick, if very slight read but it leaves the reader wanting more.


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Review: "Wrapped" by Jennifer Bradbury.


Author: Jennifer Bradbury.

Publisher: Atheneum.

Pages: 324.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): Agnes Wilkins is standing in front of an Egyptian mummy, about to make the first cut into the wrappings, about to unlock ancient (and not-so-ancient) history.

Maybe you think this girl is wearing a pith helmet with antique dust swirling around her. Maybe you think she is a young Egyptologist who has arrived in Cairo on camelback. Maybe she would like to think that too. Agnes Wilkins dreams of adventures that reach beyond the garden walls, but reality for a seventeen-year-old debutante in 1815 London does not allow for camels—or dust, even. No, Agnes can only see a mummy when she is wearing a new silk gown and standing on the verdant lawns of Lord Showalter’s estate, with chaperones fussing about and strolling sitar players straining to create an exotic “atmosphere” for the first party of the season. An unwrapping.

This is the start of it all, Agnes’s debut season, the pretty girl parade that offers only ever-shrinking options: home, husband, and high society. It’s also the start of something else, because the mummy Agnes unwraps isn’t just a mummy. It’s a host for a secret that could unravel a new destiny—unleashing mystery, an international intrigue, and possibly a curse in the bargain. Get wrapped up in the adventure . . . but keep your wits about you, dear Agnes.

When I was little, I went through a serious phase of loving all things ancient Egypt, which grew into a Victorian detective novel love when I hit my teens. This book combines two of my greatest nostalgic loves so of course I had to pick it up! Overall, I was pleased with “Wrapped” and enjoyed it, but I didn’t love it.

The greatest strength of “Wrapped” lies in Agnes, its witty, independent and imaginative heroine. She falls into the typical heroine trope traps but is executed with a certain flair I found rather charming, and also manages to have several moments of surprising complexity I didn’t expect in what is essentially a light-hearted romp. For a novel with this sort of story, I think you need a heroine like Agnes, and she was what kept me reading throughout the occasional drops in pace. There was one thing about her that frustrated me and that was her frequent references to A Lady, the pen-name for Jane Austen. Agnes is a smart girl with a love of books, which I appreciated and related to, but her constant references to Austen began to grate on me very quickly. The other characters didn’t quite have the same impact on me and felt very stock, but they got the job done.

There really isn’t much for me to say about “Wrapped” because it’s a simple, light-hearted romp that one shouldn’t take too seriously. There dialogue is often anachronistic, some of the history doesn’t quite add up and the mystery at the centre of the story is pretty predictable, but it’s all very readable, often highly enjoyable and a good way to waste a few hours, which is in no way a criticism. I had fun reading about the Egyptian myths and rituals, It’s not going to break any boundaries or set a standard in historical YA, but it is a good fluffy read. I think younger YA readers may enjoy it more than I did.


I received my e-ARC from Simon and Schuster's Galley Grab programme.

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Review: "The Girl in the Steel Corset" by Kady Cross.

“The Girl in the Steel Corset.”

Author: Kady Cross.

Publisher: Harlequin Teen.

Pages: 477.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one…except the "thing" inside her. When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch….

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help—and finally be a part of something, finally fit in. But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on—even if it seems no one believes her.

Cover impressions: There’s been much talk amongst the blogosphere of a possible upcoming Steampunk craze in YA, in the wake of Cassandra Clare’s best-selling but incredibly mediocre foray into the genre. Kady Cross, the pseudonym for author Kathryn Smith, mentions in the acknowledgements for her book that she wanted to write a cross between “X Men” and “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.” As a fan of both (I have a serious guilty pleasure love of the latter movie adaptation, even though I’m perfectly aware of how bad it is) I approached this with cautious optimism but, after a great opening chapter, found myself quickly bored.

The potential for greatness is definitely there but these promising elements are put together so clumsily and in such a derivative fashion. The love is always in the details, and such things are genre expectations for Steampunk – it’s not just about shoving in some cogs and corsets and calling it a Steampunk novel, you have to create the entire world in all its depth and intricacies. Unfortunately, this novel tries to throw in so much detail that basic elements of storytelling such as plotting and pacing suffer. There’s just so much stuff to be described and Cross does so frequently and it weighs down the pacing until its dead in the water. There’s so much technology on show, so many paragraphs on the intricacies of a piece of equipment that it quickly becomes exhausting, especially when the story seems to have disappeared. It’s such a shame because the story starts with an intriguing bang that promises much but doesn’t quite deliver. The world never really feels like a well constructed alternative Steampunk universe. Instead, it’s more like a Victorian set romantic mystery with some stuff thrown in. I did find a lot of the technology interesting but its place in the story felt forced and shoe-horned in, never organic to the proceedings. Like the story itself, much of this technology is told to us and not shown.

It’s also a disappointment to see how many of the YA paranormal tropes this book falls into. The love triangle, for unfortunately there is another one in a YA novel, is the typical series of events we’ve come to expect in this genre, with little development of the actual characters Finley is supposed to be so taken by. Finley herself was another example of squandered potential. Her genuinely interesting issues were plodded out in such a pedestrian manner that, like everything else in the story, I quickly became bored by her. The mystery that has much more interesting potential than the love triangle is sacrificed for the romance, although what little mystery we were given was a little too predictable. I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that this story wasn’t complete. I know it’s the first in a planned trilogy but on its own, “The Girl in the Steel Corset” felt half-done. I later found out that Cross had released an online prequel to the book which leaves me with mixed feelings I may have to address in a later blog post.

“The Girl in the Steel Corset” is another example of great potential sadly squandered, and not the Steampunk YA saviour one was hoping for. There are moments of excitement and interest amidst the plodding story and tedious pacing but it never really amounts to something worthwhile. The basic idea of the story is definitely one with possibilities, so I hope Cross can expand upon them and iron out the story’s weaknesses in the rest of the trilogy.


"The Girl in the Steel Corset" will be available in USA on May 24th. I received my e-ARC from

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Review: "Sister Mischief" by Laura Goode.

“Sister Mischief”

Author: Laura Goode

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Pages: 350.

Synopsis (taken from GoodReads): A gay suburban hip-hopper freaks out her Christian high school - and falls in love - in this righteously funny and totally tender YA debut, for real.

Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.

Cover impressions: I’m really not a hip-hop fan and, despite the prospect of a quirky, funny and diverse LGBT love story, I was hesitant to read “Sister Mischief” because of worries over cultural appropriation and such. However, by the end of this book, I was ready to apologise to it for ever doubting how good it would be. This review may not be the most objective thing I’ve ever written. Sometimes a book comes along that you completely fall in love with, even though you know it’s not perfect and you know not everyone will have the same wild feelings towards it as you do but you’re ready to cheerlead for it until everyone stands up and takes notice. I liked this book so much that it’s turned me into a cheesy mess!

First and foremost, it’s a book about identity and individuality. Esme’s a white, Jewish by birth but non-practicing teenager who loves to rap and is coming to terms with her sexuality while living in a Christian conservative town. She and her friends could so easily have slipped into caricature mode, especially with their frequent use of hip-hop speak and slang (which may annoy the hell out of many readers), but Goode fills them with such humour and depth that they’re never anything less than complete characters. It’s so refreshing to read a YA where the group of friends are so close and loving, not just in theory but in practice. There’s been a long period of YAs ruled by loners and outsiders who have a small group of friends they rarely interact with, much less act like real friends with. Throughout their tough times, fights, conversations and laughs, you never for one moment doubt Esme’s love for her friends and vice versa. At first glance they mat fit broad moulds – the butch one, the confident one, the meek Christian girl, the geeky and insecure Indian girl – but they evolve into so much more, busting stereotypes and questioning the identities they’ve been slapped with. They’re young, they do stupid things, they drink and take drugs and have sex, but they’re also smart enough to take responsibility for their actions and grasp the bigger picture, often in a very funny and touching way. They also kick arse!

The hip-hop element was handled with real skill and humour. The girls question their right as Caucasians and Asians (this book also gets huge props for his multi-cultural society which and highlighting the issues of being different in a predominantly SWASP environment – the extra S is for straight, as added by Esme) to appropriate hip-hop and also ask a lot of interesting questions about culture, identity and stereotypes. If I must be a little objective, at points this does feel a little forced, as if Goode is using the girls as mouthpieces, but for the large part, it’s handled well and explored multiple issues without turning it into a preach-fest. Esme frequently notes down lyrics throughout the book, often left as footnotes, along with texts and tweets, using her music as a way to express herself and sort out who she really is.

The relationship between Esme and Rowie was sweet, often beautiful and never simple. It felt real, as did the different ways both girls reacted to their burgeoning sexualities. Esme, the daughter of an extremely liberal single dad to whom she is very close (her dad was one of my favourite supporting characters, but I also loved that all four girls had parental interactions) takes it in her stride for the most part while Rowie is much more reserved, wanting to hide her secret from the world for fear of disappointing her more traditional father, who she believes is already disappointed in her because of her Americanised attitude. Their relationship effects not only them but their friends and family, which we see unfold over the few months the book takes place. It’s a time of change – the book is set around the time Barack Obama was elected President – and this profound moment in time reflects the girls’ struggles. It’s realistic, it’s relatable and, like most teen loves, it’s awkwardly beautiful.

I was, however, disappointed by the portrayal of the main female antagonist. I understand that Goode wanted to set up a contrast to Tess to show the differing attitudes of Christians in teen America – Tess is more relaxed and willing to ask more questions while remaining dedicated to her faith while the antagonist is stricter – but she just came across as a nasty cardboard cut-out. I really wanted to see the community’s wider reaction to the growing LGBT movement in the school, not just from this one token bitchy girl. While we do get an insight into the school’s political workings, it feels insubstantial and disappointing, especially since the rest of the book is so inquisitive and full of colours and ideas, not just black and white. That’s what stops this book from being close to perfect in my eyes.

I loved “Sister Mischief.” I know a lot of people will hate the hip-hop element and there are times where it came close to grating on me, but there was so much love in this book and it was brimming with ideas and questions, I couldn’t help but love it. It’s a book about so many things – love, growing up, discovery, identity, feminism, religion, culture, friendship, school, lies, heartbreak, music, change – and I found it to be nothing less than a delight. It’s not for everyone, it’s not perfect, but I’d still highly recommend it to all. There aren’t many books out there so jam packed with as much creativity, diversity and heart as “Sister Mischief.”


"Sister Mischief" will be released in USA on July 12th. I received my e-ARC from

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