REVIEW: Discern by Andrea Pearson

Discern Book Cover Discern
Katon University
Andrea Pearson
Young Adult
294

Nicole Williams is an Arete—a fourth child with magical abilities—yet no matter how hard she tries, she can’t Channel her power. In fact, she seems to be the only student at Katon University who fails at magic.

That doesn’t stop magic from finding her. It starts with possessed books and cursed spiders before moving quickly to freaky shadows and magical currents. Nicole turns to her best friend for help, along with fellow student Austin Young, who is considered by all a magical rarity. He also happens to be the hottest guy on campus and just might be interested in her.

Nicole soon finds herself competing to be included on a university-led expedition to Arches National Park. She is determined to show everyone, but mostly herself, that she does belong. Yet, to qualify for the trip, she must produce at least a speck of Wind magic, and that appears to be impossible.

As the competition progresses, Nicole wonders if she’s making the right choice—especially when she learns that the strange fossils they’ll be studying in Arches might not be as dead as everyone thinks.

I received a copy of Discern by Andrea Pearson in exchange for a review and my honest opinion. 

Discern was set in a universe just like ours, except that the fourth child born to a family is born an Arete – born with magical powers. It was a fascinating concept, and immediately intrigued me. Arete’s begin to show their power at around age sixteen, and can choose to attend magical universities where they can hone their focus. Their hair will change colour, to mark which power they possess.

Nicole is an Arete, and in Discern begins her studies at Katon University. Newly blonde, and with wind power, Nicole struggles to focus her magic at all, but that doesn’t stop her from being drawn into danger as magical objects keep appearing in her bag, and her professor leads an expedition to investigate a series of disappearances at an ancient site. Instead of a study trip, the expedition turns into a fight for survival.

I loved the premise of this book, and the characters. The idea was fascinating, and I was keen to learn more about the history of Aretes, and how they fit into the world. I also wanted to know more about the mythology surrounding the creatures that Nicole and her friends battle on their expedition. However, Pearson stopped short of providing that information. I’m not sure whether more will become clear as the series progresses, but I sure hope so! Without those details, the story felt a little forced – Nicole was thrown headlong into a whirlwind series of events, but as the reader, I didn’t really feel like everything fit together.

This book played on my mind for days after I finished reading it. Despite the holes in the world building, I’m excited to read the next instalment, with the hope that Pearson settles in and the sequel is more meaty.

Amazon

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REVIEW: My Own Mr. Darcy by Karey White

My Own Mr Darcy Book Cover My Own Mr Darcy
Karey White
Chick Lit, Young Adult
289

After being dragged to the 2005 movie Pride and Prejudice by her mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth's life changes when Matthew Macfadyen's Mr. Darcy appears on the screen. Lizzie falls hard and makes a promise to herself that she will settle for nothing less than her own Mr. Darcy. This ill-advised pledge threatens to ruin any chance of finding true love.

During the six intervening years, she has refused to give any interested suitors a chance. They weren't Mr. Darcy enough. Coerced by her roommate, Elizabeth agrees to give the next interested guy ten dates before she dumps him. That guy is Chad, a kind and thoughtful science teacher and swim coach. While she's dating Chad, her dream comes true in the form of a wealthy bookstore owner named Matt Dawson, who looks and acts like her Mr. Darcy. Of course she has to follow her dream. But as Elizabeth simultaneously dates a regular guy and the dazzling Mr. Dawson, she's forced to re-evaluate what it was she loved about Mr. Darcy in the first place.

I received a copy of My Own Mr Darcy by Karey White in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

I’ll be honest, I initially had mixed feelings about this book. It’s premise was that protagonist Elizabeth fell for Matthew Macfadyen’s Mr. Darcy on the big screen – and then refused to settle for anything less than a carbon copy in real life. I know that everyone loves the dashing Darcy (I prefer the Colin Firth version myself), but there’s a difference between wanting someone who ardently admires you, and refusing to entertain the idea of anyone who isn’t tall, dark, and brooding.

If the intention of the book was to illustrate that what you think you want isn’t aways when you need, then I can understand it a little better… I grew up thinking I’d end up with a certain type of man, based on what my parents expected, what the movies showed me, and the men I’d been raised with. In reality, the guy I’ve ended up with is nothing like I expected, in great ways, but it still took some adjusting to! So, I guess I could emphasise with Elizabeth after all.

I was frustrated that Elizabeth would fall for a man based solely on the fact that he was tall, dark, and aloof. His physical and superficial similarities to Darcy seemed to blind her to the fact that he was actually snobby, condescending and, frankly, a bit of a douche! Meanwhile, even though her roommate forced her to go on ten dates with a guy, she dismissed him immediately because of his sandy-coloured hair and easy-going disposition – crazy!

As the book went on, and Elizabeth started to realise that maybe she had taken her Darcy-obsession to ridiculous heights, the story became much more enjoyable. As her design career and supportive relationship with Chad progressed, I started to root for her! I also enjoyed the role the secondary characters played; I was appropriately appalled by the bitchy ex, fell in love with the kind-hearted couple who gave Elizabeth her first job, and felt the energy of the indie bookstore (even if it was owned by the not-so Darcy love interest).

In the end, I did find myself enjoying the story, it just took awhile for Elizabeth to get me onside. For Pride and Prejudice lovers out there, particularly those who have an unhealthy obsession with finding their own Darcy/Macfadyen, this book could definitely be worth checking out!

Amazon | Book Depository

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REVIEW: American Honey by Nancy Scrofano

American Honey Book Cover American Honey
Nancy Scrofano
Young Adult
235

After graduating high school, Olivia “Ollie” McKenna leaves her small town roots in Summerville, Georgia, to pursue her dream of becoming a professional singer. With her best friend and older sister in tow, wholesome Ollie travels to the big city to compete in singing contest Atlanta Idol. There she meets nineteen-year-old Jack Bradley, a fellow country singer who quickly becomes a close friend. The connection between them is magnetic and an opportunity to sing together could change their lives forever. But what about Ollie's mama's fear of the music business? She's been burned by the lures of the bright lights before and doesn't want Ollie anywhere near that world. And Ollie's growing feelings for Jack as more than just a pal could ruin everything. Despite her own doubts, Ollie is determined to win. Can she make her dream come true or will she return to her hometown empty-handed and brokenhearted?

I received a copy of American Honey by Nancy Scrofano in exchange for a review and my honest opinion.

I prefer to jump into books without much idea of what to expect, so that (hopefully) I can be pleasantly surprised! This book was definitely unexpected.

The main character, eighteen year old Ollie, has big dreams of becoming a music star. The book follows her as she attempts to break into the music business and make it to the country music mecca that is Nashville, Tennessee.

I liked the plot; it wasn’t particularly unexpected, drawing on shows like American Idol for inspiration, but I always enjoy these kind of journey-stories, and particularly liked the music aspect. The addition of some cute boys helped, too.

What was surprising, however, was the overall tone of the book. Scrofano chose to write a young, naive character who was extremely religious; throughout the book she (and other characters) regularly pray and consider the morality of their actions. Combined with the extremely Southern mannerisms of the characters – there were lots of ‘ma’am”s, and ‘mama”s – this did at times make the story saccharine sweet. That said, from what I know, this is a pretty realistic representation of the South, so while unfamiliar to me, it didn’t feel fake.

Scrofano’s aim was to write a book for young adults that was more age-appropriate than many of the other, far more explicit, books in the same genre. Personally, I think this was an admirable aim, and fairly well executed. It’s extremely difficult to write a relatively sex-free book aimed at Young Adults, and keep young readers interested. As far as Christian Fiction is concerned, I’d consider this one of the better examples. In a more general Young Adult category, I suspect that many readers might be startled by the restraint showed by Scrofano in holding off on throwing her main characters into bed. That said, the Ollie’s best friend and older sister were less reserved, so perhaps it all balances out.

My main issue with the book was with the relationship between the two main characters. In practically the first page, Ollie introduces herself to Jack (the boy who will take centre stage in her life for the rest of the book), and immediately decides that they  are connected – with scarcely a dozen words exchanged. This felt very unrealistic, and I wasn’t sure why Scrofano rushed the connection. Ollie goes on to flip between saying that she’s falling for him and that she just thinks of him as a friend, which got a little frustrating, as it was obvious that she’d fallen for him in that first conversation, regardless of what she later said… That aside, as the book progressed, their interactions became more authentic.

Personally, knowing that Scrofano plans for this to be the first book in a series of at least three, I wasn’t too upset that Ollie and Jack didn’t race into a physical relationship. I’m of the mind that young people these days grow up too quickly, and believe that it’s normal to be sexually active from a young age. I know, that makes me sound like a Grandma. But I think if you’re not mature enough to understand the consequences of something, then you shouldn’t be doing it! I liked that this book portrayed a different way of growing up; if there were more books for like this for maturing readers, then maybe they’d feel like there are more options than just sleeping around because it’s ‘what everyone does’.

So, you see, this relatively simple book raised a whole set of issues about society, that really set me thinking. I definitely recommend giving it a try, and seeing what you think. It’s available from Amazon here. I’d be interested in knowing what you think!

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Mental Health Awareness Month: You’re Never Alone with a Book

Mental Health Awareness Month

Have you ever read a book that just stays with you for years, no matter how many good books you read in between? Today, I’m going to share one of those books with you, that’s stuck with me for nine years now (gosh, it’s scary to think that I discovered it in Year 10!). Why am I sharing it with you now? Well, it’s Mental Health Awareness Month, and Uncorked Thoughts and Blog of Erised are hosting a blogger event, where we share our experiences and thoughts about Mental Health.

Earlier this month, I shared about an interview I saw with a successful lawyer who battles depression. It inspired me, in that it helped me to see that success and mental illness aren’t mutually exclusive. Sure, it might make success a little more difficult, but not impossible!

Now, I’m going to tell you about one of my favourite books – and it just so happens that it revolves around depression.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta is the story of Francesca, as she navigates the treacherous waters of Year 11 in a school that only recently opened it’s super-traditional doors to girls. For most girls, leaving your best friends to go to a school your outspoken mother has chosen, and being surrounded by arrogant and/or smelly boys, would be enough to make high school difficult. However, when her beautiful, loving, loud mother suddenly stops getting out of bed in the morning, the usual high school woes pale in comparison to Francesca’s sudden new life.

This book is perfectly depicts how a vibrant, loving woman can turn into a shell of herself overnight – and how she won’t just snap out of it one day. But this book isn’t about Francesca’s mother. Really, it’s about how people’s loved ones cope, when the person they know suddenly isn’t there anymore.

As Francesca battles her way through the school year, she finds friendship in strange places. Sometimes she barely makes it through the school day, and other times she forgets for awhile what is happening at home. In many ways, the way that Francesca feels is also familiar to depression sufferers; sometimes getting through the day seems impossible, and other times you can forget the sadness for awhile.

The friendships that she makes are heartwarming, they literally make my heart ache with the desire to find such connections myself. None of the characters Marchetta writes are perfect; in fact, it’s their imperfections that make you love them all the more. Marchetta really has a talent for writing characters that leap of the page; her other books are equally fantastic and the characters just as riveting. Even better, she has written a sequel to Saving Francesca, called The Piper’s Son – set several years after the first book, and being just as enrapturing.

Not only is this book fantastic, but it’s meaningful on a deeper level – at least to me (and hopefully to other people who have experienced mental health in some way). I’ve never forgotten how it affected me; I’ve read it repeatedly, and each time I pick it up, it pulls me right back in. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Has anyone else read this book? Did it affect you in the same way? I’d love to know!

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