Monday, 3 July 2017

The Harry Potter Spells Tag! CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF HARRY POTTER #HarryPotter20

I've been wanting to do an exciting and creative blog post for a while and what would be better than to do it celebrating the 20 year anniversary of Harry Potter! I haven't exactly read the books yet (if you count me being forced to read the Philosopher's Stone when I was ten and when I chose to skim read the Half Blood Prince before the movie came out when I was fourteen) but I plan to, and I've watched all the movies at least twice. Plus I just recently got a copy of Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them: Screenplay and I've been sorted into Hufflepuff so I guess I am valid enough to be able to post this (please don't judge me for not having read enough or being a Hufflepuff!).

1. Expecto Patronum!
(A childhood book connected to good memories)

I could have chosen Roald Dahl's Matilda, The Twits, or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as I read all of those at least twenty times or more when I was still in primary school, but to be fully honest, my best childhood memory was reading Stacy Gregg's Pony Club Secrets series from the time I was eleven. These books basically introduced me to reading with a passion and also cured my obsession with horses - they didn't, however, help me get me horse riding lessons like I always wanted. But these made my life bearable during those hard years of pre-teen life and I will be forever grateful.

2. Expelliarmus!
(A book that took you by surprise)

I don't think I've ever read a historical fiction novel before but this one blew me past the stars and back. Not only was Kiersten White able to successfully write a story about a Vlad the Impaler that made my heart fill with excitement, but she did it by gender swapping Vladislav to create Ladislav Dragwyla AAAAAAND also adding in an element of LGBTQ! I was surprised because I saw no faults in anything and I don't think many other people did either - NOT MANY PEOPLE CAN PULL OFF SOMETHING AS BADASS AS THIS, GUYS! The sequel has also just released and I can't stop thinking about it because I'm broke and can't even afford to buy a $16 paperback... this post is soon going to be nothing more than a 'I need this but can't afford it but happy anniversary Harry Potter!' post.

3. Prior Incantato!
(The last book you read)

This has got to be the best contemporary novel I've ever read and best of all... it's written by a fellow kiwi (New Zealander)! I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it is probably the most accurately written young adult novels about being a teenager suffering from depression with themes including self harm, loss, and grief. It was terrible for my emotions but great to show how it really is for a teenager in this day and age.

4. Alohomora!
(A book that introduced you to a genre you had not considered before)

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly was the very first review book I'd received from HarperCollins New Zealand and it will forever hold a place in the darkest part of my heart. I had never read a mystery or thriller before this one and it definitely scared the living daylight out of me but gave me a new appreciation for books like this that have bigger themes and symbolism for us to understand. It was moving and brilliant and beautiful and sad: just go read it and humour me.

5. Riddikulus!
(A funny book you've read)

I've never read something where I've laughed out loud more than once, let alone more than like ten times maybe. I still need to read the third instalment, American Monsters, but oh my, this was a read I wish wouldn't end! The protagonist, Amber, finds out she is a demon and ends up on a long road trip with a guy called Milo because she is running from her parents. Why? Because they want to eat her. Typical right? Well it's so worth it! You be the judge! This book did not disappoint and I hope you'll try it too!

6. Sonorus!
(A book you think everyone should know about)

I received this book from Tammy because I found her through YouTube and after I heard her read the synopsis, I practically BEGGED her to send me a review copy. She is such a darling because she sent me a copy all the way from the U.S.A to New Zealand and just recently sent me the sequel too. I absolutely loved this book! If you loved Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout then you will absolutely LOVE this book! Just saying but I could absolutely see Kat Graham or Zendaya as Jaylen if this were turned into a movie and I fervently hope it will be one day!

7. Obliviate!
(A book or spoiler you would like to forget having read)

It's so stressful when a book from your favourite book series comes out and then social media basically blows up with spoilers... well unfortunately this book was somehow released early in some parts of the U.S.A and I was spoiled about a certain character's fate before it was even out! So yeah... I just wish that had never happened. Otherwise I'm still excited to read it and hopefully will get to read this and A Court of Wings and Ruin veeeeerrryy soon!

8. Imperio!
(A book you had to read for school)

I didn't really read this because we got to watch the movie as well so technically I only read maybe a few pages. It's also the only book I remember having to read for school so here it is! It was a sad but beautiful story though!

9. Crucio!
(A book that was painful to read)

I hate being that person that hates a book but I really hated this one. It had terribly overused clichés and just made me feel like I was wasting my time on a book that someone clearly didn't really feel passionate about when writing. When I mean passionate, I mean writing a well-written novel that has meaning, purpose, and doesn't shove unnecessary themes in your face. This book might have seemed okay if I were ten years old, but I truly feel like this was absolutely cringe-worthy.

10. Avada Kedavra!
(A book that could kill - interpret as you will)

I also have to be that person where I am absolutely typical and say that A Court of Mist and Fury tore me apart limb from limb, organ by organ. Yes, Sarah's books have become somewhat of a cliché for posts like these, but I am dead serious (no pun intended) when I say that this book ripped me to shreds emotionally and I am so happy for that. I'm sure many other people chose books that were terrible or ones where the protagonist or their love interest dies and it's just absolutely devastating, but this just killed me because it was so good and I am so happy and scared to read A Court of Wings and Ruin because I KNOW it'll just do the exact same thing to my heart, if not do any more damage. Please have mercy on my soul, Sarah!

That is it! I hope you enjoyed reading through my little celebratory post for Harry Potter's 20th anniversary. I hope I can actually get around to reading them soon but I'll actually have to acquire them all first (Bloomsbury Australia, all eyes are on you right now)!

If you are reading this now, you are officially tagged! Please remember to tag me on your social media accounts so that I can see your posts. I would love to see all your answers - I tried to be creative with mine but I still feel like I need to be more selective. Improvements will be noted for the future!

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Sunday, 2 July 2017

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel: Book Review

Vowing to discover the fate of her missing cousin, a woman returns to her family’s Kansas estate where she spent one haunting summer as a teen, and where she discovered the dark heart of the Roanoke clan that left her no choice but to run.

Lane Roanoke is fifteen when she comes to live with her maternal grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, at the Roanoke family estate in rural Osage Flats, Kansas, following the suicide of her mother. Lane knows little of her mother’s family, other than the fact that her mother ran away years before and cut off all contact with her parents. Allegra, abandoned by her own mother at birth and raised by her grandparents, introduces Lane to small-town life and the benefits of being one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But there is darkness at the heart of the Roanoke family, and when Lane discovers its insidious pull she has no choice but to run, as far and as fast as she can.

Eleven years later, Lane is scraping by in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls with the news that Allegra has gone missing. “Come home,” he beckons. Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to Osage Flats, determined to find her cousin and assuage her own guilt at having left Allegra behind all those years ago. Her return might mean a second chance with Cooper, the boyfriend whom she loved and destroyed that fateful summer. But it also means facing the terrible secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between the summer of Lane’s first arrival and the summer of her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.



The contents of this book had me in a whirlwind of captivation, despite the disturbing truth that comes with the Roanoke legacy. The one thing I loved most about The Roanoke Girls is that it pointed on something that is very real for some people and families and the lesson at the end doesn't sugar coat it. The author clearly did enough research to ensure that anyone reading this that might be able to relate won't feel like their experience was represented badly. I personally don't know what it is like since I've never gone through what the Roanoke girls did, but I can imagine that it would be almost exactly how it was portrayed in the book. Amy Engel stated that she had researched this horrible reality thoroughly to ensure her accurate portrayal of the events within her novel. I'm glad that authors like her have taken precaution and proceeded with absolute care when trying to present a novel that is not only fascinating, alluring, and filled with dark themes, but is also somewhat of a realistic setting which most people have sadly had to deal with in their own lives.

“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

Lane Roanoke was the sole focus of this novel, the story being told mainly through her eyes - though many of the multiple POV's were from the other dead Roanoke girls, such as Lane's mother, Camilla, Camilla's sisters and her aunties before her. All in all, Amy Engel did the most amazing job at time-lapsing between when Lane went to live with her cousin, Allegra, after her mother died when she was sixteen, and when she came back after Allegra went missing eleven years later. Never once did I get confused as to who I was reading about or what was happening and I definitely enjoyed how the story played out even though there were some tear-jerking scenes that broke my heart.

“Sometimes it's a revelation, even to me, how much more comfortable I am with cruelty than with kindness.”

The dark scenes that plague this novel are intriguing but gruesome, much of it showing how the reality of the Roanoke's past have emotionally destroyed all of the girls. Lane and Allegra are now the remaining heirs of their grandfather and grandmother who have acted as guardians of Allegra after her mother ran away. The girls are known for their similarities in beauty but not in personality, however they both seem to grow closer thanks to the outcry of Allegra's need for attention and a sister who will have her back when there is no one else there for her. As Lane begins to realise the disturbing truth that hides behind the closed doors of the Roanoke mansion, her escape from the madness of her mother's deep depression seems to become more and more of a prison than a safe haven. When she returns to Osage Flats eleven years later, still harbouring the knowledge that she learnt all those years ago, things are strained with her family and the close bonds she developed with Allegra's friends, Tommy and Cooper. With the help of her first love, Cooper, she manages to find the safe haven she longed for and accepts the harsh reality that the Roanoke family will never be as innocent and desirable as what everyone else thinks. The message behind the Roanoke girls' growing madness made me realise how some people do struggle to accept the love they are given and feel that they deserve less than what they're offered when it comes to being happy. Lane goes through a number of gains and losses before she finds the answer to Allegra's disappearance and can start to heal from her past.

“You can't outrun what's inside of you. You can only acknowledge it, work around it, try and turn it into something better. I may not know exactly where I'm headed, but this time I'm choosing my own destiny.”

This book breaks from the typical themes that most books show and I loved that even though the reality of this story was pretty out of the ordinary and scarily real for some people, it committed to being tender to the touch, a great thriller, and overall a gripping read that you all should pick up. I gave The Roanoke Girls a 5 out of 5 stars!

Thank you Hachette NZ for the review copy!
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Sunday, 25 June 2017

Pieces of You by Eileen Merriman: Book Review

Wise, tough, heart-breaking, funny, this compulsive love story is about facing your demons.

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca McQuilten moves with her parents to a new city. Lonely but trying to fit in, she goes to a party, but that’s when things really fall apart. 

I couldn’t tell anyone what had happened. Especially since I was the new girl in town. Who would want to believe me?

Things look up when she meets gregarious sixteen-year-old Cory Marshall.

‘You’re funny, Becs,’ Cory said.
‘You have no idea,’ I said, and clearly he didn’t, but I was smiling anyway.
And after that, he was all I could think about.

Cory helps Rebecca believe in herself and piece her life back together; but that’s before he shatters it all over again . . .


I was lucky enough to be one of the few people who received an early copy of Pieces of You along with a box filled with related goodies inside, all thanks to Penguin Random House New Zealand. I was so excited that I took a bunch of photos of everything and posted them on Snapchat. This book was nothing but a brilliant piece of young adult literature and I am so glad that I was able to have the chance to read something that brought a fraction of my teenage reality to life. I've never come across a novel that has been able to pin point specific issues that teenagers struggle with every day and has been able to resolve it in a way that doesn't leave you feeling frustrated and ripped off. I'd like to personally award Eileen Merriman for writing the most accurate and unbelievably heartfelt young adult debut EVER!

Pieces of You has to be one of the most important young adult novels ever written because it shines a light on depression, self harm, rape, and grief - a few of the many things that can bring a person to their death if not dealt with sooner than later, and that's exactly what this book entails. Rebecca 'Becs' McQuilten is a fifteen-year-old girl who is forced to move to Auckland from her South Island hometown of Dunedin where she struggles to fit in with her peers. Like many young girls, Becs feels self-conscious about her appearance and struggles with adjusting to her new life where winters are unbearably cold with no snow and being the new girl in a big city is just as bad as moving to a tiny one. I absolutely loved this book with a passion, despite having to put it down many times because of university work. Much of the content reminded me of personal matters I had to deal with during my teenage years, including depression and self-harm, although I used the nail-digging method rather than a blade but I had friends who did and felt exactly the same as Becs. This became almost too much at times because it reminded me of the countless nights where I would worry for hours, staying up texting, trying to make sure my friend wouldn't take their own life. In a way, Becs is the beacon of light that many teenagers might need to relate to and I am so grateful for that. My only worry is that this book may be somewhat of a trigger to those who have cut themselves and I firmly suggest preparing yourselves for a few hard-to-cope-with scenes - I personally had to put the book down during the very top of page 166 because it had hit me a little too hard with the imagery. It hasn't triggered me to self-harm again but it might for others so please be careful.

Here are a list of pages that may be triggering: 22, 35, 44, 94, 165 & 166.

"Nothing compares to kissing the boy you've fallen in love with. Nothing."

One thing I loved was that there were so many times that actual places in New Zealand were mentioned and Maori language was used as well. The Marshall's beach house in Cooper's Beach, Kaitaia, and the Four Square (a mini supermarket which is placed in almost every city and small town of NZ). Being quite connected with the rest of the world and having knowledge about Maori words and traditions, I realised that the book did not have a glossary at the back for those that may not know what some of the words were. I personally was so excited to see them included but I realised that my friends around the world who will probably want to read this book might need a little help with the language so I've taken it upon myself to write a small glossary here so that everyone can refer to it when they read it.

Maori translated to English:

Kia ora: Hello, thank you
Kia kaha: Be strong
Hongi: A Maori tradition where two individuals will press their noses and foreheads together as a greeting (this word was not mentioned but I noticed this happened on page 238 - your welcome!)
Ngai Takoto: A Maori iwi from Northland, New Zealand
Iwi: Tribe

I think the most beautiful thing about Pieces of You is how real and intense the relationship that Becs had with Cory Marshall. Despite having many inner demons, she opens up to him through their mutual love of literature. Their relationship isn't forced like many in other YA novels, it falls together piece by piece and is glued tight with trust and hope. Cory is the type of male that every girl wishes she'd find - a guy who loves reading and writes poems to illustrate the beauty and darkness of the life around him. Without giving too much away, Pieces of You does an amazing job of showing how someone can struggle so much with their own problems that sometimes it blinds them to the suffering of others. I love that this book did not end on a sour note or made out to be a perfectly happy ending, because real life doesn't work that way and depression and grief needs to be tended to over time, not just fixed with a magical pill or potion.

I have chosen to give this book a 5 out of 5 stars for it's ice-breaking reality and beautifully told story that might help inspire many teenagers around the world to see that there is so much more on the other side of the blinding mountain. It is well deserved and I think that this is probably the only book I've read that has really shown what it is like to live as a modern day teenager in the suburbs of Auckland (damn the fact that we don't get snow!). I would recommend to everyone because this is a story that the world needs to read, no matter the location - this is the story that will hopefully help change lives. We all need more heroines like Rebecca McQuilten!

Thank you Penguin Random House NZ for the review copy!
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Friday, 14 April 2017

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige: Book Review

First kisses sometimes wake slumbering princesses, undo spells, and spark happily ever afters.

Mine broke Bale.

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in Whittaker Psychiatric—but she isn’t crazy. And that’s not the worst of it. Her very first kiss proves anything but innocent…when Bale, her only love, turns violent.

Despite Snow knowing that Bale would never truly hurt her, he is taken away—dashing her last hope for any sort of future in the mental ward she calls home. With nowhere else to turn, Snow finds herself drawn to a strange new orderly who whispers secrets in the night about a mysterious past and a kingdom that’s hers for the taking—if only she can find her way past the iron gates to the Tree that has been haunting her dreams.

Beyond the Tree lies Algid, a land far away from the real world, frozen by a ruthless king. And there too await the River Witch, a village boy named Kai, the charming thief Jagger, and a prophecy that Snow will save them all.



In all honesty, I have to say that this book was not up to the exact level of excitement I thought it might be. But that aside I will admit that I definitely thought this book was an awesome retelling of "The Snow Queen" by Hans Christian Andersen. I didn't actually read the original story until just after I had finished the book but I could definitely see the similarities and how Danielle managed to weave many of the same elements into her own little fantasy story. This review may be filled with mixed emotions about multiple parts of the book as I felt like there were some things about it that I thought could have been better or slightly different to enhance the overall opinions from many readers including myself - though I do feel like I enjoyed the themes that lay within the fantastical world filled with snow-covered cities and beauty amongst the darkness of an evil king who had ruled Algid for many years before Snow's arrival.

The protagonist of the story is a young girl who is introduced as Snow and resides, much to her dismay, in a mental asylum in New York where she is monitored on a daily basis by her orderly, Verne, takes pills that she named after the seven dwarves, and lives for the moments when she gets to see Bale - which is almost never since he broke her wrist after their first kiss - and all of that because she tried to walk to a mirror as a young girl and cut herself badly by accident. I personally felt like I could resonate with Snow as she is described to have issues controlling her anger and I feel like that is something that many people struggle with but there is so much stigma around the idea because it can be a scary thing for those that don't want to know about it or be around people who have the potential to blow up for any particular reason. Her issues trusting her mother and feeling hardly any love for her because of the mirror incident is something that I feel is believable and true for those where their family won't support or help them when they feel like they need it the most. Snow goes through many instances where her loyalties are tested and ties are torn in ways that are brutal, and in that way I felt for her because she never knew her family like she thought she did. The friendships she gains along her journey to fulfilling the prophecy are of deep importance and show Snow what real life, despite having entered a fantasy world, can be for her if she decides to choose to stay and help Algid defeat their curse. Unfortunately a bit of the plot seemed slightly off track and went in directions that didn't quite add up - I was thinking that maybe the manuscript could have been edited up to be a little better prepared for publication.

I know that this would have been a book that I would have said five stars to right away when I was only a young teenager starting out with young adult novels like The Twilight Saga and the Vampire Academy series, but sensibly with time I have come to a state of mind where every thought seems to be critical in the best and worst ways sometimes. I definitely did enjoy Stealing Snow but I just feel like it wasn't written the best way it could have been. Many people I know have mentioned their distaste for the love triangle and I totally get that. But it didn't bother me as much as I thought it might so I'm sure many others can feel the same way I do! I'm thinking that the next book will follow things up in terms of the spread-out plot so it could impress a lot of the readers that may not have liked this one. I'm just hoping that we get to see more badass magic, snow-tornados, and Gerde and Kai because their scenes just weren't enough and I loved them specifically to bits! Snow's anger issue didn't exactly have much development and a clear resolution or point of importance in my opinion. There were a few other things that should have been cleared up as well but I guess I could be wrong with my assumptions and they might all be answered with absolute detail and serve a better purpose for the second novel. But I guess we won't know until it comes out!

I have decided to give Stealing Snow a 3 stars out of 5 because it would appeal more to a younger audience that may not have many issues with the simplistic style of writing and feel too overwhelmed by the direction of the plot line. I do think many people will love reading this story for the awesome fact that it's almost like envisioning Elsa from the Disney movie, Frozen, as Snow with her magical flurry of ice powers. It just lacked in major character development, a clear vision of the story, and better sentence structure, which might have really given this book a kick of enthusiasm. However, I am still looking forward to reading Danielle's other series, Dorothy Must Die, as I heard it is a great series and is a retelling of The Wizard of Oz which is absolutely awesome considering it being such a classic oldie! 

Thank you Allen and Unwin NZ for the review copy!

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  Go add Stealing Snow to your Goodreads list HERE

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Find it on the Allen and Unwin website HERE

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