A Very Large Expanse Of Sea

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Shatter Me

Furthermore

Synopsis:

It’s 2002, a year after 9/11. It’s an extremely turbulent time politically, but especially so for someone like Shirin, a sixteen-year-old Muslim girl who’s tired of being stereotyped.

Shirin is never surprised by how horrible people can be. She’s tired of the rude stares, the degrading comments—even the physical violence—she endures as a result of her race, her religion, and the hijab she wears every day. So she’s built up protective walls and refuses to let anyone close enough to hurt her. Instead, she drowns her frustrations in music and spends her afternoons break-dancing with her brother.

But then she meets Ocean James. He’s the first person in forever who really seems to want to get to know Shirin. It terrifies her—they seem to come from two irreconcilable worlds—and Shirin has had her guard up for so long that she’s not sure she’ll ever be able to let it down.

Thoughts:

I have enjoyed Tahereh Mafi’s writing for quite some time now and was intrigued to find out that she was releasing a contemporary book. She usually writes in the dystopian genre. I was definitely interested to see how A Very Large Expanse Of Sea would compare to her other books. I thought it was a fantastic read on a very important subject.

The story is set in 2002, a year after 9/11. Shirin, is a Muslim-American girl who is dealing with the fall out and racism after 9/11. Shirin wears a hijab which causes her to become a target for bullying and racist comments within school and the local community. Shirin has started to become hardened to the way she is treated. She doesn’t come across as a very nice person anymore because her guard is up. She’s desperate to protect herself. When Ocean comes along, he wants to get to know her. Shirin has to learn how to let her guard down and let someone become closer to her.

The relationship between Shirin and Ocean is both sweet and frustrating. I think that’s pretty relatable though for the age of the characters. Sometimes I just wanted to push them together, but I think their struggles and stubborn behaviour were totally spot on. Having a relationship for Shirin, would have been a challenge, especially post 9/11. I loved Shirin as a character. She’s so fierce and not afraid to speak her mind despite what the community is doing to her.

This story does heavily involve romance, but it’s also more than that. Tahereh Mafi takes you into Shirin’s world. We find out how terrible people can be towards Muslims, especially those wearing a hijab. It was interesting (although horrible) to read about Shirin’s experiences with racism, but it was also lovely to read about the people that really cared about Shirin. I think there was a good balance. It mean it’s not all doom and gloom.

I feel like Tahereh Mafi somewhat educated readers about some aspects of Muslim culture. Of course, not all Muslims are the same, but it did give you an insight into some of their lives without being condescending. I appreciated that. I loved how we learnt about Shirin’s family. Her mum and dad were immigrants and aren’t sympathetic towards her drama at school. You can understand when you read about their experiences, however, they do still care about their daughter. That’s clear.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A very touching read. It was lovely to read a contemporary story from Tahereh Mafi. Especially a topic in which she has so much personal experience with!

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Learning To Breathe

Learning to Breathe

How did I get it?:

It was a gift!

Synopsis:

Indira Ferguson has done her best to live by her Grammy’s rules—to study hard in school, be respectful, and to never let a boy take advantage of her. But it hasn’t always been easy, especially while living in her mother’s shadow.

When Indy is sent to live with distant relatives in Nassau, trouble follows her. Now she must hide an unwanted pregnancy from her aunt, who would rather throw Indy out onto the street than see the truth.

Completely broke with only a hand-me-down pregnancy book as a resource, Indy desperately looks for a safe space to call home. After stumbling upon a yoga retreat, she wonders if perhaps she’s found the place. But Indy is about to discover that home is much bigger than just four walls and a roof—it’s about the people she chooses to share it with. 

Thoughts:

I was immediately gripped by the synopsis of this book, so I put it on my Christmas wish list. I received a copy for Christmas and decided to get around to it ASAP. I’m pleased I did because although it didn’t blow me away, I thought it was a really interesting read. I will warn you though, it’s not an easy read. There’s sexual violence involved so proceed with caution.

Learning to Breathe follows Indy. She’s only just turned sixteen and finds herself pregnant after being assaulted. Indy now lives with her Aunt who couldn’t care less about her. She went from living with her dear Grammy who protected her, to someone who judged Indy on her mother’s reputation, which let’s just say, isn’t exactly glowing. Indy finds herself hiding the pregnancy, desperate to not be tarred with the same brush as her mother.

Indy is such a lovable character. I really wanted to reach into the story and protect her. I wanted to shake the adults in her life and get them to care more about the girl in front of them. I think the teachers at her school needed a good talking to as well. Completely useless!

This is Janice Lynn Mather’s debut novel and I think it shows a lot of promise. I did the feel like the pacing of the story was a little off. Sometimes it dragged and then the ending happened so quickly. The pacing of the story is what prevented me from giving this book 4 stars.

Would I recommend it?:

Yes!

A promising debut novel. The story isn’t easy to read but the main character is well developed and she makes you wish for a happy ending!

Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) *spoilers for previous books*

Restore Me (Shatter Me, #4)

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Shatter Me

Furthermore

Synopsis:

Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Thoughts:

I was really worried when I heard that the Shatter Me series was going to get another book. I really enjoyed the trilogy and I was anxious that it might not live up to expectations. I know not everyone likes this series, but there’s something about it that really captures my attention. I find it utterly readable. Now, this review might seem a bit short and vague, but I really don’t want to ruin it for those that haven’t read it yet, so I’m going to try and keep it as brief as I can.

Restore Me picks up not long after Ignite Me. Juliette has taken over the Sector 45 and has been named the new Supreme Commander. She has Warner and needs to get her sh*t sorted out. Understandably, Juliette is struggling with the enormity of the task. There’s so much she doesn’t know and secrets are starting to be revealed. Secrets that could turn her whole life around. The world in which this story is set is pretty terrifying and it doesn’t seem to be getting any better…

I loved that we were introduced to some new characters and met up with some others from the previous books. I absolutely loved that Warner and Juliette narrated this instalment. I used to be on neither ‘team’ but over the series I’ve really come to love Warner. I’m really excited to see where this story goes.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Bring on Book 5! Not something I usually say… but I’m excited!

It Only Happens In The Movies

It Only Happens in the Movies

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Standalone

The Spinster Club 

Synopsis:

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to get around to this book for ages, so I made sure I had time for it recently. Holly Bourne is a terrific YA writer and I highly recommend reading her books if you haven’t done so already. I devoured It Only Happens In The Movies and I’m going to make it my mission to read the books I haven’t read of Holly’s by the end of the year.

It Only Happens in the Movies centres around the main character named Audrey. She has a summer job at the local, fancy cinema. Audrey has always been into drama, but when her own personal drama got too much with her ex boyfriend, she decided to not audition for the school musical and throw herself into her job. Her job was also an escape from her home life. She’s dealing with the aftermath of a messy divorce in her family. She’s concerned about her mum’s mental health after the divorce. Audrey has so much going on in her life, that her job helps her concentrate on something else. The trouble is, Audrey has become so jaded about love. She scoffs at romance movies and believes love like that only happens in the movies. Audrey meets Harry, a film maker, at her job and their relationship goes from strength to strength. Drama follows Audrey though and it’s not long before secrets begin to affect their relationship.

Romance does play a huge part in this story, but it was an interesting take because I felt it was more focused on how the relationships developed despite the struggles that both Audrey and Harry had in their own lives. They were both facing struggles but somehow managed to get together despite their own family drama. I thought I was going to predict where this book went, but I didn’t. I don’t want to spoil it, but it’s not your typical romance ending and I bow down to Holly because of that. It’s real and raw and that’s what I want from my books.

Holly is also one of my favourites because she talks about issues that are often neglected in many YA reads. I loved how it addressed how movies have unrealistic expectations about romance. So many romance movies have either unhealthy or controlling relationships and they put this out as something ‘normal.’ That’s a big no.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. There are some laugh out loud moments alongside some very poignant and heart-breaking moments.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Holly Bourne isn’t your average YA writer. Her books are a lot deeper than you’d expect and she’s not afraid to show that life can be messy. Highly recommended!

The Dangerous Art Of Blending In

The Dangerous Art of Blending In

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Evan Panos doesn’t know where he fits in. His strict Greek mother refuses to see him as anything but a disappointment. His quiet, workaholic father is a staunch believer in avoiding any kind of conflict. And his best friend Henry has somehow become distractingly attractive over the summer. 

Tired, isolated, scared-Evan’s only escape is drawing in an abandoned church that feels as lonely as he is. And, yes, he kissed one guy over the summer. But it’s his best friend Henry who’s now proving to be irresistible. It’s Henry who suddenly seems interested in being more than friends. And it’s Henry who makes him believe that he’s more than his mother’s harsh words and terrifying abuse. But as things with Henry heat up, and his mother’s abuse escalates, Evan has to decide how to find his voice in a world where he has survived so long by avoiding attention at all costs.

Thoughts:

I have been meaning to read this book for about a year now and I’m finally pleased to say that I finished it. I did have high hopes for this book and whilst it wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me, I still thought it was bloomin’ marvellous and a very accomplished debut. I will warn you that there’s some horrifying abuse in this story so beware if that content may upset you.

It centres around 17 year old Evan who is trying to find out where he fits in life. His Greek mother believes he’s a disappointment and regularly beats him. She constantly puts him down and the abuse he goes through is absolutely horrific. Evan’s mum is incredibly religious and uses religion as an excuse to beat her son who she believes God thinks is wicked and sinful. The reason why she feels this way is that she believes that her son could be gay. Evan feels terrible about himself and tries to be the ‘normal’ Greek son, even if it means hiding his true self. Evan’s father pretends the abuse isn’t happening as do others in Evan’s life and it’s absolutely heart-breaking.

Evan is an amazing character. I grew to love him really quickly and I hated to read about the abuse he suffered. His self-worth was obviously so low and I wanted to reach into the book and tell him his worth. I liked how the book showed the effects of his mother’s abuse on Evan. He clearly wasn’t used to nice and when it happened to him, he rejected it. My heart broke once more.

Evan and Henry’s relationship is very cute. It develops from a friendship and that’s my favourite sort. I also appreciated that Henry wasn’t a character to make everything better. Evan had to help himself and I like that. No-one wants to be reliant on another for happiness.

I thought that this book was such a good debut and I look forward to reading more from Angelo Surmelis.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book is heavy-going and intense but so beautiful!

I Have Lost My Way

I Have Lost My Way

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

If I Stay

Synopsis:

Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from home to find the boy that he loves, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City after a family tragedy leaves him isolated on the outskirts of Washington state. After the three of them collide in Central Park, they slowly reveal the parts of their past that they haven’t been able to confront, and together, they find their way back to who they’re supposed to be.

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Gayle Forman’s If I Stay and do need to read more of her books. When I heard about I Have Lost My Way I wanted to read it. It certainly sounded like my sort of thing.

I Have Lost My Way centres around three teenagers who come quickly into one another’s lives when they need a friend the most. There’s Freya, who is tipped to become mega famous down to her beautiful voice, Harun, a Muslim who is about to leave his home to find a wife and finally Nathaniel who is visiting New York for the first time. What’s interesting about these characters are that they’ve all lost something. They’re searching for their place in the world and each one of them has a battle to face. It is their developing friendship that enables them to confront the past and move forward for the future. The story takes place over 24 hours but I believe it packs a powerful punch!

I really enjoyed the characters in this story. It is a short, fast-paced read, so if you want to know all the characters deeply, then it’s not the book for you. However, I felt like I knew enough about them to root for them and want them to find their place in the world. I loved how it flipped between the past and the present for the characters. It makes the reader realise what has gone on in the character’s life.

If you’re looking for a decent, slightly deeper YA read then I would highly recommend Gayle Forman. She is a wonderful writer. It’s a powerful read that covers some very important topics.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

I really enjoyed this book! Deeper than you might think!

Banned Books #56- Northern Lights/The Golden Compass

Banner made by Luna @ Lunaslittlelibrary

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Northern Lights (His Dark Materials, #1)

First published: 1995
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint, violence.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: Of course not. I’m one of those people who never experienced reading the His Dark Materials series as a child so I only came to it with an adult mentality. Either way, I think I would have had the same opinion. There is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned, ESPECIALLY for the reasons mentioned. As always, I tried to guess the reasons why this book, the first in the series, might have been difficult for some people to stomach and once again, I was completely wrong. I assumed that the fantasy/magical aspect might have offended a few people (even though children clearly love a good, imaginative narrative that doesn’t necessary have to be believable!).

CHRISSI: I have to say no. It’s a load of poppycock. I have no idea why this book was challenged. Like Beth, I thought it might be about the fantasy elements, I know some of the parents of children at my school don’t like fantasy because of religious reasons and I wondered whether that could be it. No. Political viewpoint? Religious viewpoint? This confuses me.

How about now?

BETH: Northern Lights was challenged over ten years after it was published and to be honest, I’m struggling to see why if there were challenges from concerned readers, they didn’t appear prior to 2008? If anyone has any ideas, please do enlighten me! Additionally, it really does irritate me when the reasons for challenging a book point towards a political or religious viewpoint. Now, I’m not a particularly political or religious individual BUT I do like to learn about different attitudes/cultures and viewpoints and I very much enjoy it when there’s a difference of opinion to my own in a novel, unless I feel like I’m being preached to. Saying that however, I really didn’t think there was a strong viewpoint either political or religious in Northern Lights and I’m a bit confused as to where this reasoning has come from?

CHRISSI: I am utterly confused by the reasons for challenging this book. I didn’t think it had a particularly strong political or religious viewpoint. Even if it did, why does it matter? Why should it be banned? Shouldn’t we be allowed to make our own minds up? Shouldn’t we open our minds a little to other’s views?

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I really love His Dark Materials as a series but particularly this first novel, Northern Lights. Lyra is a wonderfully rich character who never fails to make me laugh, the world-building is imaginative and thought-provoking and I adored the adventure aspect of the entire novel. Plus, I absolutely love the idea of having a daemon companion as a unique part of your personality. I’d love to know what yours would be in the comment below if you’ve read this book? Mine would be a ring-tailed lemur!

CHRISSI: Ooh. This is a toughie. Whilst I appreciate that Philip Pullman is a talented writer and that this story is fabulously creative… there’s something about it that I don’t connect with. I have a disconnect with it and I can’t tell why. I usually like fantasy/magical reads but this one leaves me quite cold. I know I am in the minority with that. I certainly wouldn’t dissuade anyone from reading it! Oh and my daemon would definitely be a lop eared rabbit!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!