Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Put Down Everything Else, You Need To Read "After The Flood"


Title: After the Flood
Author: Kassandra Montag
Publication Date: September 3rd, 2019

A little more than a century from now, our world has been utterly transformed. After years of slowly overtaking the continent, rising floodwaters have obliterated America’s great coastal cities and then its heartland, leaving nothing but an archipelago of mountaintop colonies surrounded by a deep expanse of open water.

Stubbornly independent Myra and her precocious seven-year-old daughter, Pearl, fish from their small boat, the Bird, visiting dry land only to trade for supplies and information in the few remaining outposts of civilization. For seven years, Myra has grieved the loss of her oldest daughter, Row, who was stolen by her father after a monstrous deluge overtook their home in Nebraska. Then, in a violent confrontation with a stranger, Myra suddenly discovers that Row was last seen in a far-off encampment near the Artic Circle. Throwing aside her usual caution, Myra and Pearl embark on a perilous voyage into the icy northern seas, hoping against hope that Row will still be there.

On their journey, Myra and Pearl join forces with a larger ship and Myra finds herself bonding with her fellow seekers who hope to build a safe haven together in this dangerous new world. But secrets, lust, and betrayals threaten their dream, and after their fortunes take a shocking—and bloody—turn, Myra can no longer ignore the question of whether saving Row is worth endangering Pearl and her fellow travelers.

Review

I really wanted to write this review as soon as I finished reading it, but I kept typing than deleting because I couldn’t find the right words to eloquently explain how incredible After the Flood is. I came to the conclusion that I would just keep it simple. Here are three things I loved about Kassandra Montag’s debut novel:

I loved that After the Flood was a heavy read. The entire time I was reading this, I felt I was sharing a sense of burden not only with the protagonist but every other character on page. The emotions that were bouncing between the characters were so intense, I was forced to feel and process them as well. However, despite being so emotionally invested, not once did I feel mentally exhausted and had to put the book down. It was a one day read, because I just wanted to continue on the journey with the characters. 

I loved that the Montag made me think. Not only does she make the setting in a world that could possibly happen to us, with the effects of climate change ever increasing, she also makes her characters and the situations so realistic that I had to question myself on everything that was happening. What would I do if the world began to flood? How would I survive? How far would I go to survive? And do I think about myself only or those around me as well? Themes of loyalty, humanity, sacrifice, guilt, family ties and love are explored in After the Flood, amongst others, and it really made me think hard on it all. 

I loved that the characters were so flawed. Each and everyone of them carried a secret, a burden, a trait that, peeled away, revealed so much history. It’s hard not to empathise/sympathise with them but also at times dislike them. The choices the characters made stemmed from their previous lives, what they’ve encountered and the losses they’ve endured. The best part was that it wasn’t just the main character that had depth. It really was every character that was introduced and played a large part in the novel. Such a realistic portrayal of people. No one is perfect and everyone carries scars, and Montag creates such a great representation of that through her characters. 

I wholeheartedly give Kassandra Montag’s debut novel a full five stars because it was that amazing.  It’s not my first five star rating for the year, but definitely the first read, in awhile, that had me engrossed from the very first page. I’m struck by how much I still think about it want to discuss it with others who have read it. Please do yourself a favour and pick this up.


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Sunday, 18 August 2019

Reviewing Debut Novel "Relic" by Bronwyn Eley

Title: Relic
Series: The Relic Trilogy
Author: Bronwyn Eley
Publication Date: September 12th, 2019
Add to Goodreads
In the city of Edriast, there is no deadlier duty than to serve as the Shadow.

As the personal servant of the powerful Lord Rennard, the Shadow's life is all but forfeit. Rennard possesses one of five rare and dangerous Relics – a jewel that protects his bloodline, but slowly poisons everyone else in its proximity. When the current Shadow succumbs to its magic, nineteen-year-old blacksmith Kaylan is summoned to take his place. It's an appointment that will kill her.

As the time Kaylan has left ebbs away, hope begins to fade...

That is, until she discovers a plot to destroy all five bloodlines in possession of the Relics. As her life hangs in the balance and rebellion bears down on Edriast, Kaylan must decide where her loyalties lie – and how she'll leave her mark on the world.

Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Eley's strength lies in her ability to evoke sensations and emotions. She describes the experience of being near the relic and the effects it has on Kaylan in such a vivid manner that I was physically recoiling in some moments. The use of language works, making it easy for me to position myself within the scenes and feel as though I was there with Kaylan as well. She was also able to set up the plot and world quite well by the end of the novel. However, I would say that it took me awhile to fully understand how the world worked and why the relic was so important. Furthermore, majority of this first book was dedicated to just setting up for the climax of this series. It's not a bad thing per se, but I was hoping to see some action or scenes that didn't just involve talking. If anything, Eley's managed to build a solid foundation in which I'm hoping will launch us into an action-packed second book that is a lot more gripping and intense.

I struggled to fully love Kaylan as the protagonist, but can acknowledge that there must be more to her than what has been revealed in Relic. I did come to love Markus, but felt like he was written for readers to be attracted to - as really the only male that is of any interest. At first, I couldn't grasp whether Lord Rennard was suppose to be a villain or a flawed character to empathise with and learn to understand. Even now I'm conflicted as to how to feel about him, only because the characters that are around him and seemingly know him aren't also sure how they feel about him either. I'd like to think that there will be more characters revealed in the second instalment that could perhaps be written with more conviction.

The plot line is intriguing and different to many of the other YA fantasy novels out there, in that the protagonist does not support some form of cause (at least not yet) and the desire for power isn't necessarily driven by an individual or group. It really questions human nature and why people fight for what they believe in, which I liked. I'm interested to see where Eley takes this trilogy when it comes to world expansion, character growth and overall plot development. If you're up for exploring a debut Australian author in a world that's questioning its own authority and bound for change - good or bad - definitely give Relic a try!


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Wednesday, 24 July 2019

IT'S BEEN 7 YEARS OF BLOGGING Y'ALL! LET'S CELEBRATE TOGETHER.


PrintedWords& has turned 7 years old. It’s incredible to think that 7 years has passed since I started this blog in 2012, as a hobby to procrastinate from studying for VCE (Year 12 exams) but also to reach out and discover a community to share my love for reading. It’s definitely been a bumpy ride. I had a smooth run for the first 3 years before hitting roadblocks, including reading slumps, lack of organisation and falling off the writing process altogether. The last time I celebrated an anniversary for the blog was in 2016 - PrintedWords& 4th birthday. I missed the 5th and 6th anniversary due to my lack of commitment. In fact, I barely posted anything! It’s definitely been a disappointment for me - as a personal project I was so proud of but have been unable to be consistent with it. I can blame life, sure, I live a life that is constantly go go go, but I see other bloggers who are able to balance both their life and online presence so really it’s not a great excuse. 

To celebrate 7 years of being online, albeit not always present, I wanted to tweak the look of PrintedWords& a little (look I didn't do much honestly), and invite you guys back into this space as I begin to produce new and more consistent content. I think I’ve come to realise that part of the reason why I was never motivated enough to continue blogging was because I felt so pressured releasing blog posts that I hoped would gain thousands of views or read books to review based on its popularity within the book community, not because I liked them. PrintedWords& return really is going to be based on what I like and am excited to share. I’ve always had people look at me weirdly when I tell them the blog name has the “&/and” at the end, but to me, it’s because I’ve always wanted to expand beyond just book reviews. I’ve written travel posts, film reviews, other discussion posts etc and know I will continue to do so. Most of what I write will be book related content, but if there’s something I think is worth highlighting 100% I will share it with you all. 

I had to think hard as to whether I wanted to continue this blogging journey. It would’ve been so easy to pull the plug and call an end to 7 years of writing, but it didn’t feel right. I am still very passionate about reading, writing and being able to discuss it all. So without further ado, this is PrintedWords& new look and I hope you all love it as much as I do. 

Anniversary Giveaway


Of course it wouldn’t be a blog anniversary without some type of giveaway to celebrate! I'll be giving away the thing I love most - books (surprise, suprise)! I want to share with you guys some of my favourite reads in the last few years, that I think deserve more love. The giveaway is international, I'll be relying on Book Depository to ship out to you!

YA Giveaway


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I absolutely loved how whimsical and poetic this was, but also how heartbreaking and haunting the entire read became. It really made me sad, so much that I couldn't forget it. 
Read my full review here.

Middle Grade Giveaway


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Middle grade is a genre I could never, ever be bored of and A Face Like Glass kept me entertained and engrossed from the get go. A very unique and intriguing concept with great writing. 
Look, I'll link my full review even though it's a 7 minute video that I did in like 2013 or something, when I had braces still hahaha.

Adult Fiction Giveaway


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This was my favourite read last year, a full five stars to Neil Gaiman for his writing and story development. The Ocean at the End of the Lane is absolutely incredible and you are doing yourself a disservice if you have not read it, 
Full review here.

I am actually so excited to have reached 7 years! 


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Sunday, 7 July 2019

"War of Mist" Was The Finale I Was Waiting For


Title: War of Mist 
Series: The Omerere Chronicles
Author: Helen Scheuerer
Publication Date: July 25th, 2019

War is here. 

Toxic mist drives all life to the brink of destruction and the conquerer queen, Ines, has her talons in the kings of the realm. Bleak, having discovered her true heritage, must now scour the lands for the one thing that might save them all. 

But the search is a treacherous one - and it will push her to the very limits of endurance. Amidst secrets, lies and the intricacies of battle, Bleak and her companions learn just how far they'll go for the ones they love. But will it be enough? 

As deadly forces grapple for power across the continents, families, friends and allies unite to take one final stand.

Review


I received an e-ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Previous reviews:

War of Mist is the finale to The Omerere Chronicles, and I can wholeheartedly say I loved every moment of it. I wasn’t sure how the third novel would turn out after reading the last two and felt as though I enjoyed it but didn’t fall in love with the storyline or all the characters. I surprised myself by flying through War of Mist in 2 days, not wanting to put it down and feeling a little lost having finished it. 

There were so many positives in War of Mist. Unlike another finales to a series, War of Mist is just slightly shorter than its predecessors, but so much more impactful. It didn't waste time dwelling on unnecessary things such as further world building and new characters when the novel just needed to be fast paced and action filled - and that it was. It wasn't hard to predict the ending (in regards to the result of the war) but the how in getting there was still nerve wracking and intense. The events were also really realistic. It wasn't always peaches and cream for the characters. The plot ebbed and flow, giving me only slight moments of relief before being on edge again. 

I also didn't realise how attached I had grown to the characters, I felt like I had gone on the journey with them and I was a part of their party. In the last two books the characters were spread across the realms and I liked reading through certain characters but this time around I really enjoyed the scenes where all, if not most, of the characters were together. IF anything - and this may sound exaggerated - I felt slight separation anxiety when I was reading about some of the characters but not the others. 

Overall, Scheuerer has produced a series that is well worth the read. The plot was well thought out - I liked that it didn't aim to do too much: a heroine, not realising she is a heroine, wanting to just float through life and then taking on the responsibility to save the realm, although not alone. However, as simplistic as that sounds it offers so much more. I went through the motions with the characters, not just what Bleak learns on her self-discovery and self-growth journey. Instead, every character had an important lesson to deliver, that was reliable and valuable. It wasn't all about just having magic and fighting for power, there were lessons of love, loss, honesty, loyalty and trust - the list goes on. It was also great to read a series that wasn't so fixated on romance as a main element to the plot, or it being so simplistic. Emotions are super complex and Scheuerer portrayed that so well in her writing. She conveyed, through her characters, that being in love or love in general, is never just about two people feeling affection for each other and that would equate to everything working out perfectly. It was so refreshing to discover that in The Omerere Chronicles. Sometimes the person you love isn't someone you end up with or should even be with. Moreover, I liked that romance wasn't the driving force for the characters actions but rather friendships and partnerships are as, if not, more important. 

War of Mist was my favourite read of the three in The Omerere Chronicles. I'm actually so glad I started Heart of Mist and kept reading through to the end because it was well worth waiting for the finale. I was anticipating how Scheuerer would wrap everything up and am deeply satisfied, albeit feeling a whole other range of emotions whilst reading the finale. 


Overall Series


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Thursday, 4 July 2019

The Pilot Episode of Euphoria Isn't Very Euphoric (But That Doesn't Mean It's Not Good)

The Pilot Episode of Euphoria Isn't Very Euphoric (But That Doesn't Mean It's Not Good)


Euphoria is HBO’s latest show, starring Zendaya as 17-year-old Rue Bennett, returning to her family after being admitted to rehab. Despite the title implying joy and ecstasy,  the show is far from out.

According to HBO, “Euphoria follows a group of high school students as they navigate love and friendships in a world of drugs, sex, trauma, and social media.”  The description provided is very much a downplayed version of the show itself, or the pilot episode at least, that recently aired. Sure, the description introduces all the themes explored in the episode, but it doesn’t prepare you for the imagery and scenes that assist in exploring these aspects. 

There are definitely a variety of other shows out there that cover the same topics. So why am I writing about this? Euphoria has stood out to me. It’s brought to the table something that I think is significant and needs to be addressed - navigating life as an adolescent, in high school specifically, with a vast range of external factors that can influence you whilst learning about your own self. 

The first episode alone introduced issues that many would find relevant, but have become taboo topics, such as:
  • Mental health
  • Substance abuse
  • Healthy/unhealthy relationships
  • Sex and intimacy
  • Self-esteem and body image
  • Digital age - including use of social media, dating apps and pornography
It also explores more familiar themes such as family ties, love, trust, morality and loss. 

Euphoria is hard to watch. It’s confronting and shocking, and initially I found it to be the reason why I like this show. It didn't shy away from showcasing issues that many would rather pretend didn't exist and that ignoring it could make it go away. Generally, mass media representations of any of these topics are quite negative and promote the need for further control and prohibition. Instead, Euphoria addresses the why. Why do adolescents resort to substance abuse? Why do they commit to relationships that produce more harm than happiness? Why do they submit to peer pressure? And on, and on, and on. The show tries to address these questions because no one else ever seems to want to.  Most of the time we align kids, teenagers, young adults who are "troubled" as "deviant" and require punishment rather than trying to understand what has reduced them to being identified as just their actions. Understanding the why can provide answers to how - how to intervene and help.

The show does feel like it bundles together all these topics, put them under a microscopic lens and enhances them. It feels sensationalised for the sake of entertainment, but despite the first episode covering a variety of issues, it's not as far fetched as many other drama shows tend to be. Real life people do have the same experiences as the characters on the show. It’s absolutely terrifying to even consider let alone acknowledge but the problems are there. Rather than ignoring them, as a community, we should be encouraging younger people to speak up about these real life topics.

My only criticism though, and why I might reconsider watching every episode in detail, is that, despite being about teenagers in high school, I'm not sure the show is suited for teenagers. There is a lot of nudity, drug and alcohol taking, sex scenes and other scenes that may trigger trauma in individuals. I felt super uncomfortable 30 seconds to 1 minute into the second episode with the amount of nudity involved.

Euphoria is attempting to be different. It's attempting to stir reactions and create some noise amongst the heavy proliferation of images and videos of drugs, sex and violence in the media that young people have to navigate through. I appreciate its effort, I really do. There are 3 episodes out already and I will mull over as to whether I will continue to watch the show, for the sake of seeing how successful the show is at raising awareness and addressing these important themes. The website does offer support resources, which I love to see with any show that wants to create social justice change.

You can stream Euphoria on HBO for free or through Foxtel Showcase (in Australia).

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