ARC REVIEW: Things To Do Before the End of the World by Emily Barr

Things to Do Before the End of the World follows Olivia, an introverted seventeen year old girl who, along with everyone else on the planet, has just discovered that she has less than a year to live. The world is ending and she realises quite suddenly that she has absolutely not been living life to the fullest.

When a long-lost cousin shows up and takes over the task of getting Olivia out of her shell by sweeping her through Europe and teaching her to perform street tricks, Olivia finds herself becoming an entirely new person. But the longer she spends with Natasha, the harder it is to figure her out.

What started as somewhat of a contemporary about a young girl changing her life for the better turned quickly into a page-turning thriller about revenge, mistrust and, as expected from the title, the impending end of the world. Olivia was a somewhat naïve girl who, in trying to become more outgoing, found herself completely wrapped up in a potentially-final summer that she absolutely didn’t sign up for, and it was fascinating to see her react to her situation in exactly the way a somewhat amenable but intelligent teenager might.

Natasha was a fascinating character, and my opinions about her changed back and forth so rapidly that I spent the majority of the book completely confused as to how I should feel about her. There was a side of this to most characters in this book, including Olivia’s mother even, so I was completely hooked and desperate to find out who to trust the entire way through.

It was hard to figure out where this book was going but the ending did not disappoint. Although I found some of the recapping and discussion towards the end slightly unnecessary, I was so shocked by some of the twists that the book didn’t lose its page-turning quality for a second, and I felt that the story was wrapped up and explained fairly tidily when everything was finally revealed.

This was a really fun, unputdownable story that combined the excitement of a coming-of-age contemporary with the suspense of a thriller. It was fast-paced and completely unpredictable and, if you’re looking for a book to devour in one go or a thriller to get hooked on, I would absolutely recommend it.

Rating: 4/5

*Thank you to Penguin Random House for gifting me an eARC of this book in exchange for a review*

BLOG TOUR REVIEW: THE LOOP AND THE BLOCK by Ben Oliver

Blog tour posts are my favourite posts, and I’m so excited to be part of this one! The Block by Ben Oliver came out on April 1st and I was lucky enough to have a read of this and its predecessor, The Loop, courtesy of Chicken House (thank you!). This is a super exciting dystopian series about an AI-run prison, a ravaging war and the potential end of humanity, and I’m so excited to share my thoughts on it!

So, to begin:

The Loop tells the story of Luka Kane, a sixteen-year-old inmate in a dystopian, AI-run prison, whose repetitive and torturous life is completely upended by the prospect of a war raging outside of his prison block. As the world outside descends into chaos, so too does the inside of the prison, and the question arises of whether now is his chance to escape and, more concerningly, whether it would be safer just to stay inside.

There is so much that I loved about this book that I don’t know where to start. The Fifth Wave was one of my favourite books when I was growing up, and this is the first book I’ve ever read that matches up when it comes to telling the story of teenagers acting as saviors in a ravaged, dystopian world. The storyline was painful to read at times – as can be expected from a book containing young people trapped in a prison – but the pace and action were so intense that I couldn’t bring myself to put it down.

Luka is a driven, independent character who knows what he needs to do and will let none of the obstacles life throws at him stop him from doing it. His fellow inmates (the ones that aren’t terrifying, murderous or completely out of control) share a similar drive, and I think I enjoyed reading about them just as much as I liked Luka. Even the warden, who definitely gave off completely unavoidable damsel-in-distress vibes at various points, was a developed and interesting character.

Basically, I loved this book. It was an incredibly fast-paced, unique combination of genres with a hero that you can root for and a cast of characters that immediately intrigue. If, like me, you’re slightly older and read The Maze Runner, The Fifth Wave and all those other mildly disturbing dystopias when they first became popular, this book is absolutely for you. And if this isn’t a genre that you’re familiar with yet, The Loop is definitely a wonderful place to start.

Rating: 4/5

The Block review

*Some spoilers for The Loop will definitely follow, so be warned…*

As expected from the sequel to The Loop, The Block is an action-packed, at times gruesome and wholeheartedly entertaining story of Luka’s continued mission to save the world. Once again, he has found himself imprisoned, but this time it’s far, far worse. Instead of the young offenders’ institution, Luka is struggling to cope with the long hours of torture, lack of interaction and psychological manipulation of The Block, and he knows that if he doesn’t break out soon, he’s going to lose his grip on reality and risk humanity altogether.

I found The Block as gripping and unique as its predecessor. It still definitely had elements of older YA (The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, The Fifth Wave) but it also felt completely unique with its newly added aspects of virtual reality. The addition of various new technologies to this story fascinated me and I found myself completely invested as the characters made their discoveries about the disturbing dystopian world that they found themselves in.

In terms of characters, there was a lot of growth for so many people in this story. Luka fully developed into his role as a leader and he did it so. well. Likewise, although they went through so much suffering in The Loop and could have made the decision to give up and hide, the whole troupe’s experiences seem to have only made Luka’s friends much stronger as they find themselves becoming the faces of a struggling rebellion and searching for ways to save the world. The new characters – there are lots that I could focus on but I need to shout out Apple-Moth, in particular (an adorable companion drone that joins them on their mission) – were so entertaining too, and I definitely felt like part of their squad as the story went on.

I loved The Loop, but this is definitely one of those rare occasions where I loved the sequel even more! It was fast-paced, action-packed and sometimes slightly horrifying, and I cannot wait to pick up book 3 as soon as it comes out.

Rating: 5/5

My Top 10 Books of 2020

It’s December! And, having finally met my Goodreads goal (52/45!), I’m feeling nostalgic about my year in books. The change in my reading since starting this blog in November 2019 has been insane, and I’m so lucky to have discovered so, so many incredible, diverse authors and novels over the course of the year.

Picking my top 10 books for 2020 was way too difficult, so I’ve narrowed it down to only books that released this year in an attempt to make it easier (spoiler: it didn’t) and, after a lot of internal debate, I finally think I’ve got it. So, without further ado… my top 10 books of 2020:

TEN. Again, Again by E. Lockhart – I LOVED this book, but I think my rating is at least partially biased. We Were Liars is my favourite stand-alone of all time, but I’ve never really clicked with a lot of E. Lockhart’s books, so finding one in the same style with a cute story line and a lot of trippy parallel timezones was really all it took for this book to make the list.

Check out my review here.

NINE. The Rules by Tracy Darnton – This book is one of those books where you read the ending and can’t get over it for at least a few days. It’s a gripping, twisty thriller in the exact style that I one day hope to write and I adored it.

Check out my review here.

EIGHT. The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg – I bought this entirely as a cover-buy but ended up reading the whole thing in one night (finishing at 2am when I had to get up at 7am, oops). It was a really fun thriller with androids, romance, mystery, suspense and way too many parallels between the setting and Disneyland to be accidental.

(I didn’t review this, oops, but more information can be found here.)

SEVEN. Shine by Jessica Jung – I have never been as excited to receive an ARC as I was to receive this one. Electric Monkey literally only publishes books that I know I’ll adore, and this one tied my loves of Kpop and YA together so well. It was realistic, exciting and really well written.

Check out my review here.

SIX. Foreshadow by Nova Ren Suma and Emily XR Pan – This is the only short-story anthology I’ve read this year because it isn’t really my go-to form, but I’m so, so glad I read this. The combination of stories, writing prompts and essays provided me with so much insight and motivation for my own writing that I couldn’t not include it.

Check out my review here.

FIVE. Skyhunter by Marie Lu – MARIE LU. DYSTOPIA. That is all.

Check out my review here.

FOUR. Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco – I was blessed to get this on Netgalley and I’m still mad about how long it took me to start it. It had a strong protagonist, an exciting romance and so much fantasy. It gave me major 2014/2015 YA vibes and I’m completely here for it.

Check out my review here.

THREE. The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant – THIS. I’m in love with Les Mis and have developed a newfound appreciation for Enjolras in the months since reading this book. It was so beautifully written that I swear I highlighted something on every other page and I’m beyond excited for the sequel.

Check out my review here.

TWO. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – I’ve since read Poet X as well and I can’t get over how beautiful Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing is. This book was a poetic masterpiece, and is another that I read in a single sitting.

Check out my review here.

ONE. The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu – oh look, more Marie Lu (how she managed to release two completely contrasting works-of-art in the space of a year, I will never know). I’m surprised that I enjoyed The Kingdom of Back more than Skyhunter but this book just feels so special to me. The order of my top 10 has shifted a lot in the last few minutes, but there is no doubt in my mind that this book deserves to be number 1.

Check out my review here.

And that’s it! Thank you so much to the publishers that gifted me books on this list (namely: Hot Key Books, HarperVoyager, James Patterson Presents, Electric Monkey, Algonquin and Little Tiger).

I would love to hear what your favourite books were this year, so comment below which books wowed you in 2020!

Book Review: Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I wasn’t sure whether or not to review this because I completely gave up on being impartial about Marie Lu’s books about 6 years ago- but in the end, I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. Surprise, surprise, this is not going to be a balanced review. It is instead going to be a short summary, followed by a post full of fangirling. You’ve been warned.

Skyhunter is the story of Talin, a specially-trained soldier, or Striker, for her struggling nation, Mara. Set far, far into the future, after the collapse of the world as we know it, Mara is the only land that remains un-colonised by the ever-growing Federation, and Talin is one of many, fighting on the front lines to defend from the oncoming attack, from humans, technological human experiments and ghosts, which are monstrous beings trained to obey the Federation’s every command.

When a presumed Federation soldier wanders into their territory, all but Talin are happy to watch him suffer for their actions, but Talin feels a strange connection that forces her to risk her own life for him. When he is later paired up as her partner, she discovers that there is more to him than meets the eye, and that he may become the key to their survival and a vital look into the Federation’s plans.

There are elements of Legend and Warcross in this book that were impossible for me to ignore. Marie Lu is incredible at writing dystopia, especially dystopia surrounding technology and world domination, and this book was really no different. The characters were as instantly fascinating as any of her books and I found myself loving and hating exactly who I was supposed to. Talin is a fierce, incredibly well-developed protagonist, suffering from a lot of internal struggle about her duties, her heart and her sense of belonging, and Red is an intriguing, unique and equally powerful character to read. Jeran as well, a close friend, a fierce soldier and a very useful translator for Red and Talin, was a particular favourite character of mine. I loved seeing him develop as the story went on, after finding myself particularly invested in him from the very beginning.

This story is fast-paced, exciting and completely immersive. I got sucked in so quickly to the world of Mara and the Federation that I completely forgot the outside world, caring only about their story and their survival. The technology Marie Lu invents is believable, the world is so detailed that it’s impossible not to find yourself in the story with them, and the characters are the kind that you want to keep in your mind forever.

Rather than recommending this book, I urge you to read it. Or read Warcross, or The Young Elites, or Legend, or The Kingdom of Back (which I also *cough* reviewed, here). Marie Lu’s books are incomparable: inclusive, diverse, thrilling, immersive and incredibly original. This book has further solidified her status as my favourite author of all time, and I can only hope that, if you take my advice and read it, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Rating: 5/5 (obviously…)