The Fault in Our Stars Movie : A GIF Review by Sarah McDuling

Getting invited to an advanced screening…

On the way to the cinema…

When the movie is starting…

Five minutes after the movie has started…

Every time Augustus Waters appears on screen…

Every time anyone says the word “Okay”…

Isaac’s eulogy…

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Augustus’s letter…

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The End…

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Grab a copy of The Fault in our Stars here

Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  

Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming.

She is also an enthusiaster fibber.

You can read her other posts here or see her tweet about all things Young Adult-ish at @sarahmcduling.

You can also follow her on tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

REVIEW: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira (Review by Sarah McDuling)

love-letters-to-the-deadLove Letters to the Dead is a powerful coming-of-age novel that will grab hold of your heart and soul, drawing you into the narrator’s world so completely that finishing the book is actually quite upsetting – like having a door slammed in your face by your new best friend. As far as I’m concerned it’s one of the top Young Adult novels of the year.

This book first came to my attention when I saw that Emma Watson had tweeted about it. As a general rule, I will do whatever Emma Watson says because she is Hermione and therefore my idol. So when she gave her seal of approval, I obediently googled Ava Dellaira and discovered that she’s friends with Stephen Chbosky and had worked as an associate producer on the movie adaptation of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. After that I was naturally desperate to get my hands on a copy. 

Love Letters to the Dead is the story of Laurel, a young woman who is quietly drowning in grief and guilt. We are introduced to Laurel as she starts her freshman year of High School. (That means Year 9, for those of you who don’t speak American.)

At a glance, all the usual hallmarks of YA contemporary literature appear to be present and accounted for:

1. The (seemingly) Unattainable Crush:

In this case, his name is Sky. And if Sky was a mathematical equation he would look something like this:

Hot Guy + Mysterious Loner = Swoon10   

(Maths was never my best subject but I’m pretty sure that’s accurate).

2.  The Friend/s with Serious Life Problems:

Ava_Dellaira_author_photo Laurel’s two closest friends, Hannah and Natalie, are in love!  But their relationship is complicated. Neither of them are quite ready to come out of the closet and Hannah is dealing with a pretty stressful home-life situation.  Also she keeps ditching Natalie to date boys.

3. The Parents Who Just Don’t Understand:

Neither of Laurel’s parents have a very clear understanding what she’s going through. Her father is blinded by grief and her mother has skipped town at a time when Laurel needs her most.

4. The Thing That Happened in the Past that Must Remain Secret (until the end):

Laurel’s family was torn apart after the death of her older sister, May. But only Laurel knows the whole story behind what happened the night May died. And she can’t talk about it. She can barely even think about it.

So there you go. The bare bones of the story probably sound familiar to you. Most of us have read books like this before. But while the ingredients that have gone into making Love Letters to the Dead may be standard staples, Ava Dellaira throws a serving of raw emotion into the mix that takes everything to a whole new level. And I think that’s what makes Love Letters to the Dead such a special treat. It’s a genuine heartbreaker.

Another thing I love about this beautiful book is the fact that it’s written as a series of letters addressed to dead celebrities. As a pop culture junkie, I got a real kick out of this. Kurt Cobain, Judy Garland, Janis Joplin, Amelia Earhart and River Phoenix are just a few of the intriguing people Laurel chooses to write to. She writes the first letter for a school assignment, but then cannot bring herself to turn it in. Instead, she keeps writing letters to dead people. And as she writes she slowly reveals the tragic secret behind the death of her older sister, May.

love-letters-to-the-deadDellaira writes with such perfect pitch and subtle skill, Love Letters to the Dead feels like a modern classic. Laurel is a very self-contained and unassuming protagonist, one who spends the majority of the book repressing her feelings and denying the past. The true depth of her suffering is revealed so gradually that  I think I was about a third of the way through the novel before it dawned on me that she wasn’t just wallowing in typical teen angst. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, mind you. I happen to love wallowing in teen angst, and I’m a proper grown up adult (supposedly).

This is one of those books that sort of creeps up on you. You start reading and everything seems pretty cool. You’re like, “Oh hey! I see what’s going on here. High school girl with high school problems. Boy drama! Teen Issues! Burgeoning womanhood! I know the drill.”

But as you keep reading you find yourself starting to think, “Hold up. I’m having some strong feelings about this book. Powerful emotions are happening! This is not a drill!

This beautiful book is the perfect for fans of poignant (i.e. emotionally apocalyptic) Young Adult literature like The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in our Stars. And the craziest part? This is the author’s first book! I’m completely blown away by that fact. After such an impressive debut, I can’t wait to see what Ava Dellaira does next because … wow.

Grab a copy of Love Letters to the Dead here

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Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiastic fibber.

You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Book Trailer of the Week – Half Bad by Sally Green!

This week’s Book Trailer of the Week goes to Half Bad by Sally Green.

Intense, mysterious, gripping, our own Sarah McDuling reviewed Half Bad recently and absolutely loved it, saying that, despite her “ridiculously high expectations, Half Bad did not disappoint.”

Could Half Bad be the next Harry Potter? The next Hunger Games?

Order your copy today and find out.

Grab a copy a Sally Green’s Half Bad here

Grab a copy a Sally Green’s Half Bad here

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REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green (review by Sarah McDuling)

half-badEvery so often you hear about a book that’s being touted as a “global sensation”. Usually in such cases the film rights have been bought, the author is being labelled “the next J.K Rowling” and the general consensus seems to be OMG this is it! The New Craze! The Next Big Thing! And so on, and so forth. We’ve heard it all before, right?

And yet it doesn’t seem to matter how many times I hear it, whenever a book like this comes along I get caught up in the hype. My expectations soar to dizzying heights. I find myself thinking, “This book is going to change my life! It will blow my mind and rock my world. It will save the rainforests and end world poverty! God bless this miraculous book!”

Of course, I’m nearly always disappointed.

It’s not the book’s fault. It’s just that sometimes hype can be dangerous. Too much hype can kill a good book, purely because it can’t possibly measure up to the high expectations of the reader. However, Half Bad by Sally Green might just be the exception to this rule

(NB: Half Bad by Sally Green is probably not going save any rainforests or end world poverty.  I mean it might. But probably not. I just want to be upfront about that, before we go any further.)

Sally Green, author of the upcoming Half Life trilogy, really doesn’t have all that much in common with J. K. Rowling. Well … except that they are both British. And female. Also, both are blonde and have children. Does this qualify Sally Green as the next J.K Rowling?  I’m not sure about that. What I am sure of are the following facts:

1). Sally Green is a first time author.Sally Green

2). Her Half Life trilogy has been sold into 42 countries.

3) There was a massive bidding war between major studios in order to secure the film rights.

4) All of this happened before the first book in the trilogy had even been published.

Now that’s a lot of hype to live up to.

In terms of what the book is about, I’m almost reluctant to say. Any kind of synopsis I give is probably going to make it sound like a Harry Potter rip-off. The truth is, comparisons to Harry Potter are unavoidable here. Both books are about teenaged boys with magical powers –  boys who must navigate their way through an intricate world of witches/wizards, burdened by tragic pasts and unwanted notoriety.

Still, despite these superficial similarities, Half Bad is actually a very fresh and imaginative take on a well known theme. At no point does it come off feeling clichéd or unoriginal which (let’s be honest) is an impressive feat for a Young Adult novel about witches. This is not new territory, after all. And yet, somehow Sally Green has managed to put a whole new spin on a familiar tune. Whereas Harry Potter is very much a fanstasy, Half Bad is more of a gritty, comptemporary coming-of-age story … that just happens to include witches. More importantly, it’s an enthralling page turner starring a complex and compelling protagonist. All up, a riveting first act in what promises to be an impressive show.

So. Will Half Bad live up to the hype and become the next big publishing phenomenon? I certainly hope so, but I can’t say for sure. These things can be hard to predict.  All I can say is that I completely understand why people are so excited about this new trilogy. Even handicapped by my ridiculously high expectations, Half Bad did not disappoint.

This is a series I’ll be very glad to see capture the hearts and minds of a new generation of teens.

Spoiler Alert: Despite what you may have heard, Half Bad  does not contain a map to the lost city of Atlantis or the secret to eternal youth. It is, however, a very good book that you will  have difficulty putting down.

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Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of Half Bad here

half-badIn modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both.

Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page.

REVIEW: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris (review by Sarah McDuling)

LokiHere’s what I knew about Norse mythology when I first picked up The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris.

a)     Norse gods live in a place called Asgard.

b)    Loki is the coolest god . Sure he’s evil, but he’s also played by Tom Hiddleston (see left) and therefore his evilness is cancelled out by his perfect male beauty.

c)     Thor is the god of Thunder. He has very large muscles and a magic hammer.

So yeah. As you can see I had some major gaps in my knowledge. Gaps that have now been filled with Joanne M. Harris’ spellbinding recounting of Norse myth and legend, through the eyes of the most instantly engaging narrator I have encountered in a long while.

The Gospel of Loki is a surprising book. For starters, the only other book by Joanne M. Harris that I’ve ever read is Chocolat and The Gospel of Loki is a very different kind of read. I loved Chocolat. It was enchanting, heart-warming and utterly lovely.  The Gospel of Loki is none of these things. It’s dark, quirky, occasionally grim, often hilarious and gloriously bold.

Given the subject matter, I was expecting The Gospel of Loki to be more of a traditional fantasy epic, heavy on world building and probably involving some kind of The Gospel of Lokiheroic journey quest. Instead, I found myself lost in a series of episodic adventures, wicked little parables on how best to lie, cheat, trick and bluff your way to success. In Loki’s case, of course, success means getting revenge against his fellow gods and causing the downfall of Asgard.

By far and away the most wonderful thing about this book is the voice Joanne M. Harris has given her delightfully immoral anti-hero. I’m not always a great fan of first person narrative but I have to make an exception for  The Gospel of Loki because this is how first person narration should be done! Loki’s character shines through in every line, dripping sarcasm, twinkling with mischief and humming with that special kind of unrepentant arrogance so often found in archetypal “trickster” characters like Robin Goodfellow and Peter Pan.

This is a character who, when asked if he can achieve the impossible, routinely replies, “Of course. I’m Loki.” He is gloriously conceited, packed full of swagger and playful cheek. He’s a lovable villain, a mischievous bad-boy, a fiendish puppet master who knows just how to manipulate people. It doesn’t take much. Just whisper into someone’s ear, a well-timed and seemingly offhand comment and voila! Disaster ensues!

And yet, the true genius of Harris’ Loki is that he is so dammed lovable. Despite his inherent wickedness, you just can’t help rooting for him. He’s not malicious, after all. He’s simply a creature of chaos. It’s in his nature to cause trouble.

Now come on. Tell me he doesn’t sound like the coolest god ever?

Joanne m. harrisHarris gives us a Loki who is constantly mistreated by his fellow gods. Always an outsider, always rejected, always everybody’s convenient scapegoat.  This of course makes him the ultimate underdog. No matter how evil his plots become, or what depths of wickedness he sinks to, the reader cannot help cheering him on because … well … he’s Loki.

So thoroughly did I enjoy The Gospel of Loki that I was compelled to check whether Joanne M. Harris has written any other books in a similar vein. To my joy, I found out she has!  Runemarks and Runelight  – two Young Adult fantasies inspired by Norse mythology, both which of I will be reading as soon as possible.

And now excuse me while I go and pray to Odin, Allfather of the gods and ruler of Asgard, to give Loki his very own Marvel movie (with at least two sequels).

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Sarah McDuling is a contributor to the Booktopia Blog and Editor of the Booktopia Young Adult Buzz.  Her hobbies include (but are not limited to) sword-fighting, ghost hunting and lion taming. She is also an enthusiaster fibber. You can read her other posts here or follow her on Tumblr at Young Adult @ Booktopia

Grab a copy of The Gospel of Loki here

the-gospel-of-lokiWith his notorious reputation for trickery and deception, and an ability to cause as many problems as he solves, Loki is a Norse god like no other. Demon-born, he is viewed with deepest suspicion by his fellow gods who will never accept him as one of their own and for this he vows to take his revenge.

But while Loki is planning the downfall of Asgard and the humiliation of his tormentors, greater powers are conspiring against the gods and a battle is brewing that will change the fate of the Worlds.

From his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos, through his years as the go-to man of Asgard, to his fall from grace in the build-up to Ragnarok, this is the unofficial history of the world’s ultimate trickster.

 

Banish by Nicola Marsh: A Review by Sarah McDuling

banishBanish really surprised me.

When I pick up a Paranormal Romance these days, especially in the Young Adult genre, I automatically brace myself for a barrage of tropes and clichés.

1) Average human girl meets brooding immortal boy – cue Love At First Sight.

2) Requisite villain does something villainous (at which point, I usually start yawning and skipping pages).

3) Happy ending.

The details may vary slightly. Sometimes the brooding immortal boy is a vampire. Sometimes he’s a werewolf, or a fallen angel or a fairy prince. But the basic formula never really changes.

Now maybe it sounds like I’m complaining. And maybe it sounds that way because I am complaining. The truth is, I’m sick to death of reading the same story over and over again, so when I come across an author who breaks away from all the predictable stereotypes, that’s when I reach for my metaphorical pom-poms and start cheering.

Continue reading

Chasing the Valley by Skye Melki-Wegner: Review from Sarah McDuling

Sarah McDuling, the fearless editor of Booktopia’s Young Adult Buzz, takes a look at the latest offering from author Skye Melki-Wegner.

Chasing the ValleyI’m not really sure how to categorise Chasing the Valley. Unless “Phantasmagorical” can be considered a category?

No? Okay, fine. Categorise this:  An insanely glorious blend of Steampunk Adventure and Dystopian Fantasy with a touch of Romance and the promise of a great series to follow. In other words… awesome! That’s Chasing the Valley for youin a nutshell.

Our heroine here is plucky orphan girl, Danika Gylnn. Along with a rag-tag group of rebellious teens, Danika runs from a life of poverty and oppression in the slums of the city, striking out in search of a legendary safe haven. Their destination is a place called Magentic Valley, however, no one really knows where it is or how to get there. Continue reading

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