Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich


Dear Evan Hansen
by Val Emmich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I’ve listened to the Dear Evan Hansen broadway soundtrack several times a week for the last year so when I heard it was being released as a YA novel I was desperate to get my hands on it. It was the only ARC at YALC I was desperate to go home with and sadly I didn’t manage to win the raffle. I was lucky enough however to be granted access via Netgalley AND my husband bought me a copy of the final published book (can you tell I went on about it a bit?!)

I find this story really sad. My heart hurts for Evan and the struggles he faces and the situations he gets himself into. Reading the book was more emotional than the musical because the novel format allows you to delve further into Evan’s brain and really expand on the emotions and issues he experiences. This also makes the book far heavier than the musical as there are no lighthearted catchy tunes to raise the mood. With no light relief the book is a really intense reading experience which is incredibly immersive.

The author’s writing is captivating and very believable. I imagine it was extremely hard to write this story without making it sound preachy- how can Evan learn his lesson without making it sound like a cheesy cautionary tale?
The authors managed to tell the story with compassion and through it all Evan remains a sympathetic, lovable character.

I recommend curling up with this book with the soundtrack on in the background. You can never have too much Dear Evan Hansen!

View all my reviews

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time but never really got around to. After seeing the trailer for the film adaptation at the cinema I decided it was time to pick the book up. Not least because if I didn’t read the book I couldn’t allow myself to see the film and it looks really good.

‘Simon vs…’ is everything you want a contempory romance to be. It’s full of cute, romantic moments that make your heart explode and just enough drama to keep you flipping the pages. Simon and Blue’s email relationship developed beautifully, it was like a YA gay version of You’ve Got Mail and I have all the time in the world for that.

The friendship dynamics in this book were fantasically portrayed, the arguments they had, the way they all started pairing off into couples and had crushes on each other and the way they looked out for each other was all so typical of 16 and 17 year olds and how intense friendships can be at that age when you’re all just trying to make it out of adolescence alive.

I binge-read most of this book in one night and stayed up far later than I should have but it was such a readable, hilarious and adorable book I was having too much fun to put it down. I didn’t even try to guess the identity of Blue because I wanted to be surprised but I think it’s fair to say that there are enough clues in the book that if you really tried hard you could guess who it was. I’m glad I didn’t solve the mystery though because the reveal was so worth the wait.
View all my reviews

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of Zenith via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

This was easily my most anticipated book of the year and I am thrilled that for once a book lived up to the hype surrounding it. From the first page I was completely immersed in the worlds that were being built as the story unfolded and I was torn between wanting to read as fast as my eyes could manage and wanting to savour spending time with the characters I grew to love.

Zenith follows a group of female space pirates as they travel around the Mirabel Galaxy in a glass starship taking on jobs and fighting to survive. The book has a real “Firefly” feel about it, not in terms of plot but in terms of the camraderie and relationships of people who spend most of their lives in close confines together travelling in Space.

The strongest part of this book is, for me, the characterisation. Andi, the fearless captain of the ship is brave and heroic but also vulnerable. Alsberg and Cummings have managed to create a character who is believable as a powerful and fearsome mercenary but with a delicately woven backstory that explains her guardedness and reminds you that underneath the bravado she is still a young woman who has been through great emotional trauma and let down repeatedly by those she loved. I love Andi. I want to be her friend and go on adventures with her.

The rest of the crew are also delightful. So often I find that one or more characters in a novel annoy me but here each character seemed to fit perfectly within their role, both on the ship and in the story. When reading you are 100% behind the dysfunctional family they have formed and that helps to immerse you within the story.

It has been a long time since I read a book in which I have been as immersed as I was when reading Zenith. There is a lot of world building initially, but miraculously this doesn’t slow down the pace at all. The descriptions and explanations only serve to move the story along or are complementary to the plot and do not take away from it. The chapters are short and switch between each characters different view point which I really like as a style because it allows you to get to know all of the characters better. It’s a glimpse directly into their minds instead of getting to know them through a narrator or another character.

As the book came towards the last 10% of action the plot blew up completely, and I mean that in the best way possible. At several points I exclaimed out loud in disbelief at what was going on because I hadn’t seen it coming. All the signs had been there along the way but the climax of the book felt like it popped up and slapped me in the face because it was so well written. I love it when books can surprise you like that and make you realise that actually, if you went back and read the book again you’d notice the clues and scream at yourself “Of course that’s what was happening!”

I highly recommend Zenith to readers who love a good Space adventure. Fans of the tv show “Firefly” and books like “A long way to a small angry planet” by Becky Chambers will love this.

Zenith is published 11th January 2018.

View all my reviews

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first introduction to the Grishaverse and perhaps my expectations were too high. I have seen a lot of hype online about Bardugo’s work and this book in particular because it is visually so stunning but unfortunately a lot of the stories either left me cold or confused.

A collection of stories inspired by myth, folklore and fairytale is usually so up my street, but in this instance I found some of the stories overly long for the plot they held, with too much flowery description and confusing conjecture. Perhaps this is because I haven’t yet read any of Bardugo’s other works but I just wasn’t captivated by the stories in the way I had hoped to be.

My favourite of the stories were “the too-clever fox” and “the witch of duva”. Both of these stories were concise and kept the pace they needed to make the climax of the stories impactful. I much preferred the stories which had some kind of surprising twist to their end, rather than the more fairy tale type stories which ended a bit weakly, or whose twists were obvious e.g. “Little Knife”.

Writing aside, the sheer beauty of this edition deserves a mention. Each story has a beautiful illustration bordering each page, and as the chapter continues more and more is added to the illustration until it completely surrounds the text on the page. Sara Kipin’s style is absolutley gorgeous and I spent a long time looking at the detail in all of the pictures, particularly the full page illustrations at the end of each story.

View all my reviews

History is all you left me by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

History is all you left me is an intense read. Beautifully written and completely absorbing, for just shy of 300 pages you are sucked into the grief of Griffin and the other characters and it is a painful but profoundly moving experience.

The grief is so visceral I actually found it hard to keep reading in places, as if I really were intruding on a deeply personal experience.

In spite of how much I feel this book is a very powerful and well written novel, I did have a big problem when reading it- I just can’t stand Griffin. Mental health problems and grief aside, I just think he’s a poor excuse for a person. He’s so self centred, egotistical and manipulative that I struggled with parts of the book which required you to be on his side. I was almost never on his side. Theo and Jackson? Yes, Wade? Yes. Griffin? Hell no. I have no time for people who have to make themselves the centre of every situation and Griffin was the worst example of this I’ve ever read.

I loved reading the “history” sections and adored Theo as a character which ended breaking my heart over and over again as I fell in love with him and then remembered his fate. The gentle unravelling of their history beautifully mirrored the stages of grief- at times it was confusing, then as you learn more its sad and then you feel anger. I really felt like I’d been emotionally through the wringer when I finished this book and any piece of writing that is so powerful it has that effect on you has to at least be given four stars. Unfortunately, my intense dislike of Griffin meant I couldn’t bring myself to award five stars. He just annoyed me so much and Theo, Jackson and Wade deserved so much better.

This review first appeared on Goodreads on 9th December 2017

View all my reviews

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book as an already die-hard fan of Sarah J Maas, having binge read the ACOTAR series earlier this year.

Personally, TOG has not overtaken my love for ACOTAR (okay, Rhysand) but all the same I can already tell that I will be speeding my way through this series as fast as possible.

High fantasy has always seemed like an intimidating genre to me. I like magic and the fae and mystical creatures but I’m not a great fan of the long drawn out battle scenes which can be prevalent in this genre. Sarah J Maas’ writing is perfect for me in this regard. It’s much more focused on the story and the characters and whilst battle/fight scenes obviously happen they aren’t self indulgent and they serve to move the story onwards instead of indulgently discussing every spar and parry for tens of pages.

Sarah J Maas is also the queen of writing love triangles and she’s an expert at writing flirty scenes between two people which basically leave you screaming at the book “but when are they getting together?!”. The romance in this novel set against the competition worked really well to lighten the mood and added an extra layer to the characters.

I can’t wait to pick up the next in the series and see where Celaena, Chaol and Dorian end up, especially because I’ve heard the second book is even better than the first.

This review was first published on Goodreads on 2nd December 2017.

View all my reviews

Some kind of wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this book which is possibly why I feel so disappointed that I only found it…ok. Let me start by saying I love Giovanna Fletcher, as a mum, a vlogger, and a writer. Her previous books have enchanted me. I love her warm writing style; her romantic, dreamy plots and friendly characters.

Sadly, I felt that what I love about her books usually was missing from this novel. I didn’t like any of the characters (in fact I found them quite crude and vapid for the most part) and I didn’t feel like there was particularly a plot to the story beyond following a sad woman who had been dumped.

There were moments of loveliness, mostly between Connie and Lizzy but I also really enjoyed the scene with Ian towards the end and that redeemed this book for me a bit and nudged it over to three stars rather than the two it had been sitting at whilst I’d forced myself to keep reading through the NYE chapter and the whole job business with boring Natalia.

I think I was hoping that this book would be more empowering than it was. Having Lizzy pine for her 18 year old self for 400 pages seemed like a waste of a potentially good plot.

For any other author of this genre I would consider a three star rating to be not bad at all but I have come to expect comfort, positivity and gorgeous stories from Giovanna’s writing and for me this book did not live up to her previous works.

This review was first published on Goodreads on November 24th 2017.

View all my reviews