Review: The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross

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The Queen’s Rising by Rebecca Ross
Release Date: February 19th 2018
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
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4-5

When I think of some of my all time favourite books, they either have: a) beautiful, albeit kind of flowery writing b) a slow burn plot/romance/pace or c) both.
The Queen’s Rising is one of the books that fell into the “both” category and I while I don’t know what I expected from this book, I didn’t expect this to become one of my new favourite fantasies!

The main character, Brienna is taken to Magnolia House (a boarding school with specialised learning for one of the five ‘passions’: art, music, knowledge, dramatics, wit) when she is 10 years old and while most people who become passions have a natural gift or talent, Brienna was accepted without due to the Headmistress feeling sorry about her parentage (which at this point, is still unknown to Brienna). Brienna tries out a few different passions eventually settling on knowledge, and despite not having a “natural gift” for it, Brienna’s hardwork, determination and dedication becomes obvious in the text. Not only did I adore Brienna for all of these qualities, but I also loved how she was kind, loyal, driven and smart!

There is a huge cast of characters in The Queen’s Rising, but not once did it feel confusing or overwhelming for me personally. I grew to like most of the characters and in particular, I loved the other five passion girls who I really hope we get to see more of in the next installment! Brienna’s passion master (tutor), Cartier, was ONE OF MY FAVOURITES EVER. I honestly haven’t liked a side male character this much in a very, very long time!

As I stated earlier, the plot is what I would consider to be slowish. There’s not necessarily a lot of action and there is a mystery kind of element to it with lots of questions to be answered. A lot of the plot twists and questions were to do with Brienna’s heritage and secret identities and there happens to be an arguably spoilery family tree at the beginning of the book. So I HIGHLY recommend skipping that altogether or just don’t look at it too closely (like I did) so that way, a lot of the twists aren’t spoiled before you actually start the book. There were a few plot twists I found a little predictable and some that completely took me off guard but I found the whole plot really enjoyable regardless!

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The romance in this book is my FAVOURITE KIND OF ROMANCE. It’s SUPERRRRRRRR slow burning but it was so exciting and swoonworthy (and I barely use the word swoonworthy). I’m not going to go into detail about who the romance is between and it’s not even a major part of the book, but I can’t express to you how much I loved it. I haven’t felt so attached to a ship or pairing in a very long time. The romance was caring, careful, angsty and very sweet. I loved every second and I really, really need more omg

Rebecca Ross’s writing is simply lovely. Her prose is flowery but still simple and her descriptions of Valenia, Maevana and the people in both lands, were exquisite. Ross’s writing is the perfect blend of everything I love in a novel and I’m very disappointed this is her debut because that means I can’t immediately read more of her beautiful words.

While I gave this 4.5 stars, I did knock off half a star simply because I felt like some things were a bit too neat. The ending in particular was in itself, an excellent ending, but it also felt things were resolved a little too easily? This definitely could have been a standalone but I am NOT complaining about there being more to come because ohmygodineedmorenow.

All in all, The Queen’s Rising was a beautifully written, slow burn, immersive novel. It had excellent world building, a huge (but great) cast of characters and featured one of my favourite romances in a very long time. I seriously can not wait for the next installment (why did this JUST have to come out) and I’m kind of kicking myself for reading this so soon because now I have to wait longer.

(Again, to reiterate, there is a potentially very spoilery family tree at the beginning of the book so either don’t look at it too closely or skip looked at it until after twists are revealed)

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Goodbye, Perfect Blog Tour

Hello!!

Today I have the honour of participating in the blog tour for Goodbye, Perfect! Sara Barnard is a new-to-me author and I LOVED this book! I’ll definitely be reading her other work in the future!

Thankyou so much to Pan Macmillan for sending me an ARC for review and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

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Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
Release Date: January 25th 2018
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
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Buy from the publisher
5star

Goodbye, Perfect is the story of what happens when Bonnie, a straight A highschool student and prefect, runs away with her music teacher. Except for one thing. This story is REALLY about Eden; Bonnie’s best friend and the one who gets left behind in the aftermath.

Sara Barnard’s writing is incredible and so easy to read! Once I finally found time to read, I whizzed through almost 200 pages in a single sitting and by 2am, thought “Okay, I suppose I really *should* get to bed”. Despite not having been a teenager myself for awhile now, the dialogue felt SO authentic and the way Eden spoke to other teenagers, adults and authority figures was so incredibly realistic and I could picture it perfectly!

Going into this, I admit I was a tiny bit worried due to the content matter, however I think it was explored in a really brilliant way and despite Eden keeping Bonnie’s secret and how absolutely loyal she was to her. Yes, I suppose this IS one of those stories where things could be solved with one conversation, however, seeing Eden’s turmoil between wanting to protect Bonnie and wanting to keep her secret was SO REALISTIC. Reading about how fiercely loyal Eden was to Bonnie reminded me so much of my friend group in high school and I understood her thought processes. It took me back to 15 year old me and despite now being an adult, I could still relate to the reasons behind Eden’s actions.

The relationships in Goodbye, Perfect were WONDERFUL. We see snippets of Eden and Bonnie’s friendship throughout the novel and Eden’s relationship with her boyfriend, Connor was such a comfort to see and was one of the healthiest I’ve seen in YA. Eden’s adopted family is a huge joy to read about too! I adored their dynamic and while I didn’t even think it would be touched upon, seeing her and Valerie’s relationship development was one of my favourite parts of the entire book!

Initially, I wasn’t too sure how the topic of a student-teacher relationship would be delved into (especially from an “outsider” perspective), but the way grooming, control and manipulation is explored was fantastic to see and I really loved the contrast between a healthy relationship (Eden and Connor) versus an unhealthy one (Bonnie and Mr. Cohn).

Goodbye, Perfect was the first of Sara Barnard’s books I’ve read, but I’ll definitely be reading her other works! The characters were compelling and well developed, the relationships were realistic and absolutely wonderful to read about, and despite largely being character driven, the little twists in the plot were so much fun and I honestly didn’t want to put this book down.

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I Am Thunder Blog Tour

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Hello everybody!

Today I am pleased to FINALLY be able to talk about this book to the world and I am so honoured to be a part of the blog tour! I Am Thunder is an #ownvoices novel for Muslim and Pakistani representation and Muhammad Khan has a very personal reason for writing this which made me extremely sad upon reading the author’s note!

Below is my review and there is also a giveaway as well! I’ll be hosting a giveaway open to Australians with a finished copy of I Am Thunder kindly provided by Pan Macmillan! Simple check out my Twitter @TaneikaReads and see the pinned tweet for details 🙂

Pinned tweet can be found here

You must be aged 18 or older to enter OR have parental/guardian permission as I will need your mailing address to send your prize!

Thankyou so much to Pan Macmillan for sending me an ARC for review and for inviting me to be a part of this blog tour!

 

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I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
Release Date: January 25th 2018
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
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Buy from the publisher

4star

I received this book for free from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

I Am Thunder is an own voices story about a Pakistani and Muslim girl named Muzna who is just trying to fit in and deal with her controlling, overprotective parents. Muzna just wants to try and fit into her new high school while also dealing with her controlling, overprotective parents, boys, Islamophobia and figuring out what it means to her to be of both Pakistani AND British backgrounds.

Muzna dreams of being a novelist one day and wants to write stories that represent girls like her, however her parents have different plans for Muzna and want her to be a doctor instead. After her best friend is involved in a scandal, Muzna’s parents move her to a new school which is where the story really starts to unfold. Muzna soon finds herself being led down the dark path of extremism from the other Muslim boy at school (who also happens to be really hot) and she must decide whether to stay quiet or speak out.

This novel had incredible impact and I loved how it delved into so many hard topics like HOW a young girl might be lured into becoming an extremist in the first place, it explores Islamophobia, how culture and religion can be separated and how there isn’t just “one type” of Muslim.

I loved Muzna as a character and while I wished she didn’t beat herself up so much about things like her appearance or body shape (there is a LOT of self loathing when it comes to her weight), I found her to be so likeable and I really wanted the best for her. I felt SO SORRY for her in many circumstances and seeing her feel so torn between so many different things really tugged at my heartstrings. She’s so incredibly smart despite failing to see that for herself, and her passion coupled with her vulnerability were some of my favourite things.

This book was SO FAST PACED and took me no time at all to finish! I love how easy it was to read along and the last 100 or so pages alone were a RIDE (the ending had me on the edge of my seat). However in saying that, the first few years we see of Muzna go by SO QUICKLY and I feel like there are a lot of super significant life events that felt shoved aside a little too fast and I would’ve loved to be able to explore more of those to get some more character development (it was a bit tell rather than show). The writing itself really improved as the story progresses, however I found some of the similes/metaphors to be a little bit… jarring for me personally.

(These quotes are from an advanced reader copy and are subject to change in the final book!)

P. 106 “He flashed his metallic smile, bouncing a red and black basketball like a yo-yo”

P. 209 “Suddenly my throat felt studded with drawing pins”

P. 213 “Stomach lurching like a sack of wet oats, I knocked on her door and entered”

They weren’t necessarily super bad per se, but I found whenever a sentence like this cropped up, it drew me out of the story.

As for the actual dialogue, it is extremely packed with British slang (presumably school slang as the author is a teacher!) and while a lot of it is different to Australian slang, it feels super authentic and not forced teenager speak which is something I really appreciated!

One of my favourite things about this book was how it tackles Islamophobia. It explores extremism and how people are groomed to join extremist groups and it also tackles every day prejudice. There was one particular scene that takes place on a bus shortly after Muzna decides to start wearing a hijab which I could sadly picture perfectly because you see or hear of this kind of shit happening ALL THE TIME. It’s the everyday kind of abuse that white people typically inflict on others who are demonised in the media (you know, like Muslims!) and it made me so sad to read and I almost cried.

Overall while I had a few issues with the writing and the fast pace at the very beginning of the book (the rest of the pacing was great!), I loved I Am Thunder and can see this being an incredibly thought provoking book. I really hope this book helps bring forth positive discussions and it personally made me laugh as well as cry and I had such a good time reading it!

 

What are some of your favourite #ownvoices novels? Do you have any favourites with Muslim protagonists or are there any on your TBR?

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

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Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Release Date: September 21st 2017
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Add it to Goodreads
4-5

I want to make it clear that I LOVED THIS BOOK SO SO MUCH.

Moxie is about Vivian, who is sick of the sexist shit that goes down at her high school and feeling inspired by her mum’s 90’s Riot Grrrl feminist zines, decides to make her own feminist zine to fight against the patriarchy and stand up for girls.

As a character, Viv is a bit shy, quiet and is scared of speaking out and getting caught making these zines in the first place. While she is quiet and a bit scared at first, she is also passionate and super realistic! In her journey of creating these zines and accidentally starting a movement, she comes across many people, including those who are close to her, who aren’t necessarily on board with what she’s doing (or what the “creator of Moxie” is doing). Viv doesn’t want to be labelled as somebody who is different or as somebody who stands out, but she still fights for what she believes in which is something I absolutely adored.
Viv’s relationship with her mum was SO-FREAKING-CUTE-I-LOVED-IT. It was SUCH a relief to see a protagonist who has a close relationship with their mother, and seeing their relationship throughout the novel was definitely one of my favourite aspects.

There is a tiny bit of romance in this book and Viv’s boyfriend Seth is understanding, willing to learn and learning to work through things he doesn’t quite understand as he doesn’t know what it’s like to be a girl. Whenever Seth slips up, Viv is quick to talk things out with him and he ACTUALLY LISTENS. He’s such a good ally to the girls, and it was a joy to read about. My only gripe (and it’s not even really a gripe), is that I also thought their relationship was a little unnecessary. While it didn’t take away from the story or the themes, I felt like Seth was almost entirely used as a plot device to explain certain things about feminism. I think Seth as a boyfriend, could have easily been replaced with Seth as a best friend or Seth as a friend, and it would’ve had the same effect.

Naturally, my favourite part of this book was ALL THE FEMINISM. I found myself cheering Viv and the others on, I found myself getting angry (SO ANGRY) but overall I felt so empowered. Moxie honestly bought me back to when I first started learning what it means to be a feminist and I almost want to cry just thinking about how this might teach young people in school what it means to be a feminist and that it might encourage them to branch out and research more.
Moxie addresses things like dress code (which thankfully, isn’t a HUGE thing in Australian public schools as most schools have a uniform), the “not all men” attitude and rape culture which was SO INCREDIBLY EXECUTED OMG.

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While Moxie does have a few diverse characters (there is one black girl, a latina girl and we very briefly learn there are two closeted girls who like girls), I kind of wish there was a bit more intersectionationality. While the author talks about this in the Author Note and while the text does touch on intersectional feminism:

“The night we watched that documentary about Kathleen Hanna, my mom talked about how Riot Grrrl was mostly white girls, and she was sorry they weren’t as welcoming to other girls as they could’ve been. That it was one of the few regrets she had about the whole thing. But that was as far as she’d gone. East Rockport High isn’t just white girls, for sure. I glance over where Kiera and Amaya are sitting. I think about how in this one way, maybe Moxie could be even better than the Riot Grrrls. Even stronger”

I think the author did a good job of discussing it, but I think it just needed to be more present throughout the book to really push the important message across.

Despite having a few minor issues with side character development/depth and showing intersectionality in the text, I absolutely adored Moxie. The feminist issues it addressed were tackled brilliantly, Viv is an amazing and realistic protagonist, I loved the relationships and most of all I love the girl power. There was NO girl hate in this, even with different cliques in highschool, and I was living for it.

Definitely a must-read for girls, guys and non binary pals. Even if you learn nothing new about feminism after reading Moxie, at the very least, it’ll make you happy, angry and feel empowered all at once.

Thankyou Hachette Australia for sending me this book to review, this in no way affected my review or rating

Welcome to #ShatteringStigmas! (and a personal update)

Hello all!

Welcome to the third year of Shattering Stigmas! Incase you don’t know, Shattering Stigmas is an event discussing all things mental health and mental health in literature, and aims to quite literally, help shatter the stigmas surrounding mental health.

This event is the brainchild of Shannon from It Starts At Midnight and in 2015, she was joined by Inge from Of Wonderland, as well as Kayla who is no longer blogging. When I came across this event on Twitter in 2015, I was ecstatic and I literally started crying at my computer because I was so full of joy that something like this was created by fellow book bloggers. So imagine my joy this year when I’m invited to be a part of it! I’m SO INCREDIBLY ecstatic to be a co-host and if you haven’t seen it yet, my introduction video will be below as I’m doing all of my posts (excluding this one) on YouTube!

Please don’t forget to check out all of my other wonderful co-host’s posts as there will be guest posts from authors, bloggers, reviews and so much more.

Where to find more from #ShatteringStigmas:
– Shannon from It Starts at Midnight
– Inge from Of Wonderland
– Holly from The Fox’s Hideaway
– Vlora from Reviews and Cake
– Taylor from Stay on the Page

The first time I posted about this event was when it started in 2015 and I revealed a little bit about my own personal journey with mental health (you can check that out here if you like!) and today, I’ve decided to share a bit of an update! I’m writing this down in a blog post as while I like to consider myself confident in front of a camera, I find some things a little bit difficult to talk about without crying so here we are instead!

THE BEGINNING (condensed version):
If you haven’t read my previous post linked above, or are just not aware, I’ll give you a brief rundown: I was in an abusive relationship for almost 3 years in which I was emotionally and physically abused and worked through a lot of issues in the years following after I left the relationship. Over the years that followed, I dealt with a lot of grief as well as not treating myself very well. In hindsight, I was extremely self destructive and I’ve come to realise that a huge part of my struggle was trying to love myself as a person again.

AN EPIPHANY:
At the beginning of this year, I had an epiphany of sorts.
Before that relationship, I was lucky enough as a teen that for the most part, I really loved myself. I don’t mean that in a self-absorbed way. I loved myself in a way that I looked after myself, I liked that I was friendly and got on with people, I loved how outgoing I was, I was pretty confident with my appearance in general. Basically, I just knew what self-love was and for the most part, was happy with myself. That relationship changed me. For so long, I literally felt like an empty husk of who I was. I had lost my family and friends (or at least felt like I had thanks to isolation), felt like I wasn’t worthy of them and afterward, I wanted SO BADLY to be who I used to be. The fact is, the “me” now is so fundamentally different to the “me” then, and a huge part of my struggle was learning that while the “new me” may have been different, that didn’t mean I was any less deserving of love, happiness or friendship. I want to make it clear that that isn’t necessarily the “reason” I was so depressed (you don’t even need a “reason” to be depressed or mentally ill), but having that epiphany earlier this year felt like a huge step, even if I had come to accept “now-me” again a few years ago in 2014.

THIS YEAR:
In 2014, I hit my absolute lowest point ever, and then soon after, found myself climbing back up. Since late-April 2014, I hadn’t had a depressive episode until March this year. I was so proud I almost managed THREE WHOLE YEARS without a depressive episode, but in March, I unfortunately hit a low point again. Albeit, it wasn’t my lowest, but it sucked all the same. Since then, I’ve been taking steps to ensure I look after my mental health more, but with various personal circumstances throughout the year, it’s been a little difficult and I’ve had lots of ups and downs. Recently, I’ve also come to realise there are some other things troubling me. I’ve been looking at seeing a psychologist for the first time to potentially get diagnosed for said things. I have an idea of what these things might be, but I also might be way off so I’m hesitant to mention it. I hope to see a psychologist soon, but WOW they are expensive!

Thankfully, my boyfriend is so incredibly supportive of all that I do and anything that I feel. Whether I’m having recurring intrusive thoughts or anything else I currently do, he is always there to reassure me that it’s okay and that just because I am experiencing certain things, does not mean there is something inherently wrong with me.

OVERALL:
I want to get better. Earlier this year, I felt angry at myself for not staying better after almost three years of being well, but while I am for the most part happy and Not Depressed, I’m learning more and more every day about myself and am looking forward to actively getting better in other areas.

Having not ever gone to therapy before, this is all new to me, but I’m ready to take this step toward working things out for myself.

I want to end this on a more positive note, but am honestly struggling a little to put some thoughts into words. I just want whoever is reading this to know, that your experience, no matter how it might differ to other people’s, or even if it’s a “stereotypical” experience, is VALID. YOU are valid and any time you do something better for you, even if it’s getting out of bed when it’s a struggle, any time you eat food, drink water or have a shower, I am so incredibly proud of you and I believe in you.

ENTER OUR GIVEAWAY!

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(Late!) July Book Haul

Hello everybody!

Yes, I am aware it is now SEPTEMBER and that is a very long while after July to be posting my July book haul, however better late than never (arguably???).

While I would usually combine my July and August book hauls in a single video like I have done in the past, it would’ve been SO EXTREMELY LONG and who honestly wants to watch me talk about books for half an hour straight? SO I thought I would do a quick little post with Goodreads links etc included so you can check out whatever books you like to your heart’s content 🙂

I was very lucky this month as I got a teeny bit spoiled by publishers, it was my birthday month AND I got some books from friends as well!

For Review:

Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy (Thankyou Bloomsbury Australia) – Add it to Goodreads
No Filter by Orlagh Collins (Thankyou Bloomsbury Australia) – Add it to Goodreads
I Have No Secrets by Penny Joelson (Thankyou Hardie Grant Egmont) – Add it to Goodreads
In The Dark Spaces by Cally Black (Thankyou Hardie Grant Egmont) – Add it to Goodreads

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As July was my birthday month, I was spoiled rotten by my stepmum and dad and got the Huda Beauty eyeshadow palette (not pictured but IT’S BEAUTIFUL) AS WELL AS the Slytherin and Ravenclaw editions of Harry Potter! LOOK AT THE PRETTIES (Thankyou to my stepmum, Kelly for enabling my obsession)

Earlier in the year, I had purchased The Summer of Chasing Mermaids from my friend, Rebekah who was unhauling which I am VERY excited to finally have, and she also gave me an ARC copy of The Eternity Cure as I am an obsessive Julie Kagawa fan and needed it for my collection! THANKYOUUUUU!

From friends and family:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Slytherin edition) by JK Rowling – Add it to Goodreads
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Ravenclaw edition) by JK Rowling – Add it to Goodreads
The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler – Add it to Goodreads
The Eternity Cure (ARC!) by Julie Kagawa – Add it to Goodreads

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I PERSONALLY think I was quite well behaved in July with purchasing books and only got two! After weeks of looking in my local bookstores for When Dimple Met Rishi, I FINALLY got my hands on it in July, and I decided to also pick up The Handmaid’s Tale!

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon – Add it to Goodreads
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood –  Add it to Goodreads

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Sooo there we have it! All the lovely, lovely books I got my hands on in July!
If you haven’t already, make sure you check out my August book haul here as well!

Have you read any of these books yet? Are you eager to? What did you think?!
Let me know in the comments!!

 

Take Three Girls Blog Tour

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood
Published by Pan Macmillan Australia
Published on 29th August 2017
Add to Goodreads
Buy from the Publisher

4-5

I received this book for free from Pan Macmillan Australia in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

When I first heard about this, I was so incredibly excited to get my hands on it as not only is it written by three incredible #LoveOzYA authors, but it tackles feminism, identity, bullying and friendship!

Take Three Girls follows three girls (funnily enough) named Ady, Clem and Kate as they go through Year 10 at an all girls school in Melbourne. Ady is a day student who is part of the popular crowd, but we see her questioning popularity and her relationships. She also has a shitty home life that she keeps utmost secret. Clem is one of the boarders and a member of the school swim team, until she ends up taking time off for an injury and realises that swimming is not all of who she is as a person while getting involved with the wrong boy. Another one of the boarders, Kate, is not only incredibly intelligent, but incredibly in love with music. She plays the cello and starts to discover that your dreams can change. Ady, Clem and Kate all end up bonding after each becoming victim to vicious rumours spread by a student run gossip site and we get to see their friendship with eachother develop while learning more about each of them as people.

(Can I just say that the above descriptors of each of the girls are SUPER BASIC and there is so much more to each of them, but I really want to push you to read this book so I’m leaving it at that, soz)

Basically, each of the characters were incredibly different and had unique voices and I found it so hard to choose a favourite! (So I’m not going to, you can’t make me!)

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Despite romance not actually being a huge deal in the book (friendship took precedence which I LOVED SO MUCH), each of the girls face new romantic relationships and all of them are unique and done brilliantly. There is also bisexual representation in Ady which I LOVED to see and while I don’t have a say in how the rep was handled, I feel like it was done beautifully and it felt authentic! Clem’s love broke my heart, but I found myself relating the most to her. The guy she’s unfortunately fallen for is a B A D E G G, but as Clem is head over heels, she doesn’t realise that she can do SO MUCH BETTER than him. Kate on the other hand, ohhhh I won’t go into much detail, but for those who have read this book, I am SO glad where things ended up going and the growth she experiences in her relationships is so beautiful.

While the plot doesn’t actually have much going on as this is such a character driven novel, the actions that did take place were so intriguing and felt true to the characters and their development. Seeing their friendship grow and seeing each of them learn more about feminism were HUGE highlights for me, and I absolutely adore how the topics were explored!

In conclusion, Take Three Girls was a wonderful read with feminism and friendship as the heart of the novel, I highly recommend this to anybody looking for a contemporary read. I read this in only a few sittings and it has easily become one of my favourite #LoveOzYA novels of the year!

Make sure you check out the other tour stops too 🙂

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