Hey there, it’s Sabrina! I have, for the most part, been having an amazing reading month which has been such a relief since May was mostly a fail. I’ve discovered four new favourite books and today, I want to review them because I have way more thoughts than can fit into a wrap up!
THE WEIGHT OF THE STARS BY K. ANCRUM
I’ve spoken a little about this book already (in fact I came up with a whole post about blue covers just so I could talk about it), but it is well worth discussing again. I was taken completely by surprise with how much I loved this contemporary YA with a hint of sci-fi and a sapphic romance. The story follows Ryann Bird, a teenage girl that wants so badly to travel in outer space but knows her circumstances will hold her back. Then one day she meets Alexandria, the daughter of an astronaut, and her life changes.
My favourite part of this book is how it was written: beautifully, and in short chapters that truly make every scene significant. It made it difficult to put down and a joy to read. Each moment impacted me in some way, which is so rare to find in a book.
The characters are all so special to me as well. Ryann has a close-knit group of friends that are more like a found family – they all clearly care deeply for each other. You can really see how they are all struggling and dealing with it in their own ways – but not alone.
Unlike some other books I’ll be talking about today, the ending to this story blew me away. It was absolutely perfect for the story – emotional and hopeful despite all the odds. I had a few tears to shed for this one!
If you like contemporary YA, you have to give this book a try!
STRONGER, FASTER, AND MORE BEAUTIFUL BY ARWEN ELYS DAYTON
I was truly fascinated by this book. It’s a collection of six slightly connected sci-fi stories that get progressively further into a possible future. The book has been described as a cross between Black Mirror and Westworld, and while I can clearly see the connections to Black Mirror because of both the short story format and healthy dose of irony, I think comparing it to Westworld must have been done simply to draw more people in.
I loved the way the stories differed, with each showing society’s progression (…or regression, depending on how you look at it). It also somehow managed to incorporate plenty of YA themes in an original and exciting way. Not only did each story take place in a different time, but there were quirks to the writing style that set each apart – at least for the first four stories, which were my favourites. The fifth and sixth weren’t quite as strong for me, which was a shame, but I did still enjoy them. And I was also still horrified by them.
The sixth was by far my least favourite and, despite everything, the least unsettling to me – in part because it was so far outside of what I’d consider to be the realm of possibility. I will say because of the context of the other stories, it definitely made sense for the book, but I think it was bogged down by extraneous details and tried to explore too many things, leaving them all done at a basic level – including the characters, which had been such strong elements of the other stories. This story could have made for a whole book, albeit a predictable one.
My favourite story was probably the fourth, titled Eight Waded. As with the previous tales in this book, the main character was so intriguing. I loved how his morals were questionable and explored through the story alongside the morals of society in the time he lives. The setting and writing style were also amazing.
I highly recommend this book if you like sci-fi that makes you reflect on the world as it is today.
GIDEON THE NINTH BY TAMSYN MUIR
This book is a fantastic mix of both fantasy and sci-fi with a sprinkling of humour. The reader follows Gideon, an orphan from the Ninth House (which, by the way, is a whole planet), as she goes on a journey with her nemesis, Harrow, in order to help out the emperor. What follows is sword fighting and necromancy and trials and puzzles and skeletons and mysteries and tombs, which all made for a very exciting and adventurous book that I didn’t want to put down.
To begin with, I worried the humour would ruin the story for me, because dirty jokes don’t typically appeal to me, lol, but it turned out to work well and it wasn’t overdone. There were several moments where Gideon in particular made me smile. Seriously, I love Gideon so much. The writing style in general took a little getting used to for me, but I ended up loving it – it was clever and descriptive without being too over the top. I also loved the way the world isn’t fully explained at the start – you just figure it out as you go along.
The biggest drawback of this novel for me were the character names. It was a great choice to feature all the names and houses at the front of the book, otherwise I wouldn’t have stood a chance. Not only are there a lot of significant characters (more than 17), they are all referred to by several different – and complicated – names. I was constantly flipping to the front to remind me if Camilla (one of the basic names – I would give you a different example if I could confidently spell it correctly) was from the Third or Sixth house, which cavalier belonged to which necromancer etc. It got to be extraordinarily frustrating, which was a shame.
Another drawback was the ending, lol. I have complicated feelings toward it, but I won’t talk anymore about it because I don’t want to share any spoilers. Also, Harrow was my least favourite character and the second book is named after her, so I’m apprehensive about that, but I’m definitely going to read it anyway.
THE SURPRISING POWER OF A GOOD DUMPLING BY WAI CHIM
I should know by now that I do actually adore realistic YA contemporary. For the longest time, I had convinced myself that realistic fiction is boring because it’s set in the real world, but that is not always the case and it was most definitely not the case with this outstanding book. The story follows Anna Chiu, a teen juggling high school, work, taking care of her siblings and a complicated relationship with her mother.
I was really impressed by the pacing in this, with the story lingering in just the right parts and swiftly moving on from others. It takes place over the course of about a year, if I remember correctly, but it doesn’t make you all too aware of that by dragging on and on. The quick passage of time also works to add impact to the story by making the small details that change in character relationships more noticeable.
All the character relationships in this book are developed to an incredible standard – I can’t pick just one as my favourite, but I will say the one between Anna and her younger sister had a huge effect on me. I was also unprepared for just how much Anna’s mother’s struggle and the effects that had on the family would impact me. Without spoiling anything, everything to do with that hit me like a tonne of bricks and left me tearing up so many times.
One other small thing that I want to mention: I really appreciated that Anna had a negative experience with her careers advisor, lol. I found the one at my high school to be totally unhelpful, and this is one of the first times I’ve read about a character with the same experience.
This book just felt so real. Every emotion Anna felt, every choice she made, her relationship with her siblings, her parents and Rory – it was all extremely realistic from my point of view. Even the ending felt true to life.
If you are looking for books set in high school in Australia, this is a fantastic one. I would also just recommend it for anyone who enjoys contemporary realistic fiction!
What do you think?
Have you read any of these books? Have you found any new favourites recently? Let me know!