4 stars

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Heretics Anonymous by Katie HenryHeretics Anonymous by Katie Henry
Release Date: 7th August 2018
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.

But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.

I was a bit hesitant to go into Heretics Anonymous because I don’t tend to read books about religion or religious characters, but this year I’m really trying to make my reading more diverse. I have to say, I’m really glad I did pick this up because I had a lot of fun reading it.

I liked the main cast a lot, and I could definitely relate to the main character, Michael. He reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger. It was a really diverse group of characters, and they all had something to say, which was great. I really enjoyed the inclusion of a character who – I think – could be autistic.

Heretics Anonymous is really light and entertaining, and I’m really glad I read it!

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh MafiA Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: 16th October 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

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.

This. Book. Was. Incredible. I am super impressed by A Very Large Expanse of Sea. I was very hesitant to read it at first because I hated Shatter Me and Adam and Warner were both awful, but I thought I would give it a go to see if Mafi’s writing has improved. And it really has!

This story was absolutely wonderful. The book follows Shirin as she deals with life and arsehole classmates and neighbours. I did wonder if Shirin was a bit of a self insert by the author, but to be honest I don’t really care if she is. Shirin was a lovely character to read. She’s just so good, and I can’t even explain why. I just really enjoyed reading about her and her life and her struggles. I liked how fierce she is.

Also, I have to mention the romance. The romance! I loved it! I can’t remember the last time I said this about a book but OH MY GOD it was so great. I ship it. Ocean, the love interest, was lovely.

One thing that I was wondering was why it was set one year after 9/11. I’m not sure how much it really added to the plot, since I’m sure Muslim girls go through all of this stuff nowadays in 2018. If anyone is able to enlighten me, please do! This isn’t a complaint, I’m just really not sure what the point was.

Sana loved it as well, and I think we should all trust her opinion.

I really hope Mafi writes more contemporary because I loved this and I will definitely read more from her. Unless it’s YA paranormal/dystopia because I’m not sure I can trust that.

Contagion by Erin Bowman

Contagion by Erin BowmanContagion by Erin Bowman
Series: Contagion #1
Genre: Science Fiction
Release Date: 24th July 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don't set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken.

Apologies for starting out this review on a negative note, but I just have to point out that I haaaaaated Bowman’s debut novel, Taken, and so I was very hesitant to read this book. But Taken came out years ago, so I decided to give the author another go in the hope that her writing had improved and that she had stopped writing abusive main characters. And she did! I ended up really enjoying Contagion, and I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel when it comes out (presumably) next year.

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All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth KlehfothAll These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: 12th July 2018
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Charlie Calloway has a life most people would kill for - a tight-knit family, a loyal set of friends, and top grades a privileged boarding school. But Charlie's never been interested in what most people want. Like all Calloways, she's been taught that she's different, special - better. So when her school's super-exclusive secret society extends a mysterious invitation, Charlie's determination to get in is matched only by her conviction that she belongs there.

But their secrets go deeper than she knows.

Charlie finds herself thrust into the centre of a decades-old mystery - one that implicates her family in not one terrible crime, but two. Uncovering their past may destroy everything she knows - or give her the answer she's always craved: Who or what was behind her mother's disappearance ten years ago? 

All These Beautiful Strangers was a lot more thrilling than I was expecting! For a YA thriller, it reads fairly mature, and I would say that there’s a good amount of crossover for the target audience. The story alternates between the present day (told from the teenage Charlie’s point of view) and the past (told from her parents’ points of view). This was a really good move from the author, because it gave us a lot of backstory which added to the mystery, rather than having Charlie discover everything and tell us about it herself.

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Hidden Pieces by Paula Stokes

Hidden Pieces by Paula StokesHidden Pieces by Paula Stokes
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: 28th August 2018
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Rating: four-stars

Embry Woods has secrets. Small ones about her past. Bigger ones about her relationship with town hero Luke and her feelings for someone new. But the biggest secret she carries with her is about what happened that night at the Sea Cliff Inn. The fire. The homeless guy. Everyone thinks Embry is a hero, too, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Embry thinks she’ll have to take the secret to her grave, until she receives an anonymous note—someone else knows the truth. Next comes a series of threatening messages, asking Embry to make impossible choices, forcing her to put her loved ones at risk. Someone is playing a high stakes game where no one in Embry’s life is safe. And their last move...is murder.

I always enjoy Paula Stokes’ thrillers, and Hidden Pieces is no exception. Stokes is very talented when it comes to drawing you in and keeping you guessing, especially as she throws little hints into the story every now and then that you may or may not pick up on.

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