Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins #1) by PL Travers

 

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From the moment Mary Poppins arrives at Number Seventeen Cherry-Tree Lane, everyday life at the Banks house is forever changed. This classic series tells the story of the world’s most beloved nanny, who brings enchantment and excitement with her everywhere she goes. Featuring the charming original cover art by Mary Shepard, these new editions are sure to delight readers of all ages.

It all starts when Mary Poppins is blown by the east wind onto the doorstep of the Banks house. She becomes a most unusual nanny to Jane, Michael, and the twins. Who else but Mary Poppins can slide up banisters, pull an entire armchair out of an empty carpetbag, and make a dose of medicine taste like delicious lime-juice cordial? A day with Mary Poppins is a day of magic and make-believe come to life!

(via Goodreads)

If all you know of Mary Poppins is the movie, you may be surprised. Mary is not the adorable and loving character we are used to seeing. She is gruff, curt, and goads the children. Jane and Michael Banks are joined by twins John and Barbara, so there are four children instead of two. Each chapter is a scene/event, and some aligned with the film. But I felt the chapters were just short stories about the children’s time with Mary.

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Mary keeps her magical abilities, and I really enjoyed the concept of the ‘Around the World’ compass. In the book, Mary talks to animals. They all seem to know exactly who she is. There is no origin story to Mary (except for the East Wind) though the Sparrow in the nursery does say she was a special person, who did not lose her ability to talk to animals and hear the wind. But that’s where it is left. I would have been very interested in knowing more. Maybe in the next books.

A series of eight books, the first closely resembles the film we are fond of. I wished there was more of Bert, the poor man only gets one chapter and Michael and Jane are absent from the trip into the painting. But it was still an interesting middle-grade read – and very quick! I will be checking out the others in the series.

4/5

 

 

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Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

28116714Celestine North is Flawed.

Ever since Judge Crevan declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick, the only person she can trust. 

But Celestine has a secret—one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing. 

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or risk her life to save all Flawed people.

(via Goodreads)

Perfect is book two in the Flawed series by Cecelia Ahern. Directly following on from book one, Perfect rejoins Celestine on her mission to have her brands removed and sentence overturned. There is not much telling when catching us up on the story, which was good. Despite the events of the first novel, I feel like Celestine is still naïve. She is still relying on others to tell her what to do. And it takes until two thirds of the way through the book before she starts relying on herself.

Celestine’s feelings for Carrick are slightly obsessive. And her feelings for Art interfering in her relationship with Carrick just turned it into a somewhat love triangle, which I loathe. I got tired of her constantly saying Art was a good person, when his actions consistently showed he wasn’t. The last minute turn in his character was too convenient. I think Celestine would have grown more as a character if Art had been a bad guy.

During the book we meet a number of evaders who are in hiding from the Whistle-blowers. I got a ‘Stepford Wives’ vibe from them. The confessions of the flawed, and Carricks’s parent’s admission that they were found flawed because they were anti-vaxxers, I didn’t feel endeared to them or sympathetic. I perceived the author put this in there to make a point about accepting people’s different opinions, but it failed for me. It is a stupid and dangerous thing to even be perceived as supporting.

I felt the end was too neatly wound up. For something so big, it just seemed to end with a wrap up and it was over. With that said, I don’t think there would be enough material for a third book, unless the guild kept going, or there was an uprising. Although, I did like Celestine in the last quarter of the book. I liked that she marched to her own drum and did what her gut told her. It made for a much better character.

3/5

Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist #1) by Renee Ahdieh

23308087The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

(via Goodreads)

Despite its size, Flame in the Mist was a quick read. Mariko was an interesting character, but I found her to be quite naïve – to the point of distraction on some occasions. She is described in the book as being a careful study and knowledgeable, but I didn’t really see this play out in the novel. I felt Mariko to be a slightly ‘feminazi’ character in places, especially when she’s punching the soldier. It was just a little too much rage against men in general, rather than directing it to where it’s called for.

It was never really clear why they wanted her dead (to me). No spoilers, but there is an attack on her convoy and she is forced to go into hiding, to hunt for those that tried to kill her. But even when the perpetrators are revealed, there is no clear reason why. I wonder if book two will be a little clearer. There was some great supporting characters that live in the background, Prince Wu and the consort were a couple that I wanted to know more about. I hope they expand these characters in the next book.

SPOILERS BELOW

I had two problems with the book. The first, when Okami realises Mariko is a girl, why did he not wonder where she came from and put two and two together, and realise she was the princess that was attacked? It takes him ages! Also, when she falls out with the Black Clan and returns to the forest to find them, they just accept her without question. There was no bridge. She wasn’t there, and then she was. And it was just accepted.

END SPOILERS

Mariko’s brother was a little misguided. I felt like his chapters slowed the book down. He seemed to intend to find her, go out, not find her and then come home. I would have believed it more if he had gone on without the soldiers to find her. That would be a more believable character action of a brother. And as an aside, funny that Prince Raiden was this strong cute guy until the very end and then all of a sudden he’s a jerk?

Overall, it was a good read, and I am hopeful that book two will answer questions and bring these smaller characters into play.

3/5

History is all You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Image result for history is all you left meWhen Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course.

To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.

If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.

(via Goodreads)

I felt so-so about this novel. It is a beautiful story of love and loss, coupled with tolerable teen angst. HIAYLM tells the story of the loss of Theo, and the impact his sudden death has on his ex-boyfriend Griffin, boyfriend Jackson, and best friend Wade. The grief and guilt is perfectly captured, it’s very real and very believable. With it, the complex feelings people may experience when faced with this type of tragedy.

What bothered me is the main character Griffin (or is Theo the main character, and all the others revolve around him? Food for thought!) is so reliant on others for every aspect of his self-worth and self-love. When he doesn’t seem to move past that through the book, it became frustrating to read. I know [SEMI-SPOILER AHEAD – JUMP DOWN TO THE NEXT PARAGRAPH] at the end we have the intimation that he will seek counselling and he will get better, I would have preferred the story to have a little more growth from Griffin as a character.

The story is told in dual timelines – ‘today’ and ‘history’. We see how Griffin and Theo got together and how they ended their relationship of firsts. The book teased a big reveal but by the time I got to it, I felt it a little predictable and anti-climactic.

With that said, this was a very accessible book with very a very important message beyond the surface of the death of a friend/lover. The more books produced by authors that represent LGBTQIA life, the better.

3.5/5

 

The Dry by Jane Harper

Image result for the dryLuke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

(via Goodreads)

Set in a small country town, The Dry is the story of Aaron Falk, Australian Federal Police Officer who is drawn to investigating the mystery of his childhood friend’s death. What seems a cut and dried murder suicide, becomes a mystery Falk cannot walk away from.

This is a powerful debut from Jane Harper. The story telling is tight and the imagery of this dry and hot town is palpable. Characters are compelling and well thought out. I found the mystery to be engaging and not an easy guess. Coupled with our main story is a mystery from Falk’s childhood, a death that has tainted his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It keeps the reader’s interest and the page turning. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a mystery novel.

4.5/5

Gemina (Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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The saga that began with breakout bestseller Illuminae continues aboard Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of BeiTech’s assault. Hanna is the station commander’s pampered daughter, Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station crew one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon, Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.

Told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

(via Goodreads)

I really enjoyed this book, as much as Illuminae. I think it has a lot to do with the female leads in the stories. Not to say the men aren’t entertaining and relateable, but these books have such a strong female lead that is refreshing compared to some other YA novels I’ve been reading of late (I’m looking at you, Lily from Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares!).

Onto our main Image result for gemina hannah donnellycharacter Hannah Donnelly. The daughter of the Captain, she is thrust into saving her world from infiltrators and a wormhole with it’s own issues. I was very pleased she wasn’t a carbon copy of Kady  Grant (Illuminae). Where Kady was tech-savvy, Hannah has a physicality about her that makes her actions in the book believable.

Her counterpart, Nik Malikov, is an alleged gangster who is always in trouble. But as we expect, there is more to him than meets the eye. Gemina does a good job of unravelling his back story slowly. And I liked the outcome. It wasn’t a cop out, or frustrating.

Kaufman and Kristoff have built an amazing and intricate world for this series. Gemina and Illuminae, though focusing on different characters and ships, do tie in to one another.  And we can’t have a review without mentioning the original text layout, the art work, the dossiers. It makes a very large book a quick read. And it’s always fun to have to turn the book upside down to read the next line 🙂

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I recommend this to lovers of YA and Science Fiction. A well written ‘space opera’ and I am looking forward to Obsidio (what’s going to happen??!!).

4.5/5

Star Wars: Lords of the Sith by Paul S Kemp

When the Emperor and his no23346660torious apprentice, Darth Vader, find themselves stranded in the middle of insurgent action on an inhospitable planet, they must rely on each other, the Force, and their own ruthlessness to prevail.

Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight, is just a memory. Darth Vader, newly anointed Sith Lord, is ascendant. The Emperor’s chosen apprentice has swiftly proven his loyalty to the dark side. Still, the history of the Sith Order is one of duplicity, betrayal, and acolytes violently usurping their Masters—and the truest measure of Vader’s allegiance has yet to be taken. Until now.

On Ryloth, a planet crucial to the growing Empire as a source of slave labor and the narcotic known as “spice,” an aggressive resistance movement has arisen, led by Cham Syndulla, an idealistic freedom fighter, and Isval, a vengeful former slave. But Emperor Palpatine means to control the embattled world and its precious resources—by political power or firepower—and he will be neither intimidated nor denied. Accompanied by his merciless disciple, Darth Vader, he sets out on a rare personal mission to ensure his will is done.

(via Goodreads)

Lords of the Sith is set after Revenge of the Sith, and is one of the first missions Vader and the Emperor embark on together. This is also where we see the first rumblings of the resistance.

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I really enjoyed this story for two reasons; we see the struggle between the Emperor and Vader, and the struggle within Vader himself.

When we were first introduced to Vader he was a robotic arch-villain. It was not until Return of the Jedi that we see his human side. He is redeemed, but there was this disconnect of sorts (for me, anyway) as to how he reached this decision to kill the Emperor. With that said, when the prequels were released, we could then imagine. But this story was great to see such human struggles within him. I really enjoyed it.

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The Emperor and Vader don’t have the tight relationship that it seems to be. The Emperor baits Vader, tests him, tries to trick him throughout the whole book. I imagine it will continue throughout the remaining books and into the original movies.

I wanted to see Vader rail back at him more. It made sense why he didn’t, he was new as a Sith, but it would have been good to see some more of that Anakin-esque rebellion come out of his character.

 

I also enjoyed a glimpse into the beginnings of the rebellion in the story. The character of Cham Syndulla was well written and you could really see his influence beginning to trickle down to the others. Very good choice for the story.

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What didn’t I like? Not much, some of the battle scenes were a little drawn out, but that might be just me. Overall, I really enjoyed this story.

4/5