Monday, 18 June 2018

Ascension by Victor Dixen

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 496
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 28th of June 2018 

Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world's craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.

Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones. 
She has signed up for glory.
She has signed up for love.
She has signed up for a one-way ticket.
Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets.

What I Have to Say 

I was intrigued by the idea of this book, but nothing prepared me for how good it really was. It's a cute idea,  but nothing is cute about the book itself. Everyone on board the ship (and many of the people left behind on earth) has a secret and as the secrets are slowly revealed and kept hidden, things get dramatic, ending in a cliff-hanger that will make you count down the days until the next book is released. 

We see most of the ship-board action through Leonor's eyes and I loved her as a character. She was so determined to find a new life on Mars, despite the reasons she felt would hold her back. I loved seeing her meet the different boys and discover the secrets about the Genesis programme. Her no-nonsense approach to trying to decide which boy to marry was a good way to view the book through unromantic eyes and even better when she started to feel things along the way. 

Whatever you expect from this book, I can guarantee it will surprise you in some way. It's so compelling with so many secrets that it's just impossible to put down. This is definitely going to book I'll remember for a long time.

My thanks go to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 8th of March 2018

It's a food diary. I have to tell the truth. That's the point.

Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Big Bones - is a sixteen-year-old girl encouraged to tackle her weight even though she's perfectly happy, thank you, and getting on with her life and in love with food. 

Then a tragedy in the family forces BB to find a new relationship with her body and herself. . .

Tuck in for best mates, belly laughs, boys and the best Bakewell tart.

What I Have to Do

This book was brilliant. It was essentially a young girl exploring her relationship with food. It wasn't about comfort eating or junk food or any of the other things that a lot of people associate with fat girls. It was about a true foodie who wasn't ashamed of enjoying eating. The way she described food was beautiful and perfect and really summed up her character for me more than anything. As a bit of a foodie myself, I loved reading her thoughts on food. 

And while this book is unashamedly pro-food, it also didn't shy away from the fact that being overweight is unhealthy. Although BB took a while to be convinced that her weight was a bad thing, it managed to balance the issues of weight and liking your body without glorifying the problem. There were no fad diets or extremes either way, it truly was just an exploration of how much we eat and exercise and finding a healthy balance. It makes a very good point that our culture makes it seem like exercise is uncool, while secretly most people are doing it behind closed doors. 

This book truly touched me. BB is such a likeable character and it was fun to explore the issues through her eyes. The book devastated me with the downs and made me laugh and smile with it's ups as well as leaving me with just so much to think about. 

My thanks go to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 320
Publisher: Orchard Books 
Released: 27th of March 2018 

Dear Logan,
Someday I'm going to write a book: How Not to Die in Alaska - A Girl's Guide to Fashionable Survival.

I bet you don't know that a hair pin can make an excellent fishing hook. You may think you can use just any kind of mud for mud masks, but trust me, you CAN'T! In a pinch, nothing starts a fire like nail polish remover. Alaska is tough. You might know this, if you ever replied to my letters.

After Maddie's Secret Service dad takes a bullet for the president, he takes Maddie somewhere he thinks they'll be safe - far away from the White House and the president's son, Logan.

But when Logan comes to Alaska, so does the danger.

If there's one thing Alaska has taught Maddie, it's how to survive. And now her best friend's life depends on it ... 

What I Have to Say 

This was exactly what I always expect from Ally Carter, but also something completely new and different. It had the same strong female characters and believable romance. It had the same spotlight on teenagers who are in different situations, from spy school to children (and grandchildren) of ambassadors and now to the president's son and the daughter of a former head of the security detail. 

But it also had a stronger emphasis on survival. Not just of survival against the bad guys who wanted them kidnapped (which of course there was plenty) but survival against the very environment, the empty forests of Alaska, in which everything from the bears to the berries to the abundance of snow and not a lot of food and warmth wants to kill you. 

It was a perfectly combination of the things that always draw me to Ally Carter's book and this whole new story of survival.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Orchard Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 11 June 2018

Hope is Our Only Wing by Rutendo Tavengerwei

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 3rd of May 2018 

For fifteen-year-old Shamiso, struggling with grief and bewilderment following her father's death, hope is nothing but a leap into darkness. 

For Tanyaradzwa, whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis, hope is the only reason to keep fighting. 

As the two of them form an unlikely friendship, Shamiso begins to confront her terrible fear of loss. In getting close to another person, particularly someone who's ill, isn't she just opening herself up to more pain? And underpinning it all - what did happen to her father, the night of that strange and implausible car crash? 

What I Have to Say 

This book was so sad! Right from the start it dealt with issues that are familiar, Cancer, grief, in a country that is very different, one that's struggling with it's economy. Zimbabwe is not a country I know that well, so it was really interesting to see it and to feel the issues on a personal level, with the characters caught up in it all. 

The characters were easy to relate to. Shamiso was having to get used to living in Zimbabwe, having to leave all of her friends behind. Her friendship with Tanyaradzwa was interesting, seeing her push her away so much even though Tanyaradzwa had just as much reason not to pursue a relationship. 

The mystery was good, but I didn't really get into it that much. I don't know why but I just didn't really care that much about how it turned out. I don't often get that way about mysteries. 

It was still a good book though. I enjoyed reading it. If anything, it was a bit short and it maybe would have grabbed my attention more if it was longer and the story was more complex. 

My thanks go to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Life of a Banana by PP Wong

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 270
Publisher: Legend Press 
Released: 1st of September 2018 

Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venomous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend is Jay - a mixed raced Jamaican boy with a passion for classical music.

Then Xing Li's life takes an even harsher turn: the school bullying escalates and her uncle requests she assist him in an unthinkable favour. Her happy childhood becomes a distant memory as her new life is infiltrated with the harsh reality of being an ethnic minority.

Consumed by secrets, violence and confusing family relations, Xing Li tries to find hope wherever she can. In order to find her own identity, she must first discover what it means to be both Chinese and British.

What I Have to Say 

I didn't like this book much. For one thing, I think Xing Li was written a bit too young for me. Perhaps a younger reader would like the way the books written better, but a lot of things just annoyed me. I would have thought a twelve year old would know what tablets look like and not have to put them in her mouth to find out they're not sweets. Also she lives in London so I don't see why she wouldn't know how to spell Trafalgar. But even if she does't know how to spell Trafalgar or Wagner, or any of the other words the author deliberately misspelled in this book,  I don't think they need to be written out like that. The voice was fine without misspellings and I still can't work out who she was meaning by "Bart". 

I also didn't really like the way that Uncle Ho was written. I can understand why the family would treat him like that, not knowing what to do about him and not wanting to seek advice, but the author didn't use a lot of tact when writing about him. He was constantly referred to as strange and there was rarely any sympathy for him from the narrator. I feel that authors have a responsibility to show that people shouldn't be seen in that way, regardless of how the characters act towards him. 

In short, this just wasn't the book for me at all. I think younger readers could enjoy it, but the treatment of mental health (or whatever it was that Uncle Ho suffered from) was really awful. 

My thanks go to Legend Press and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 432
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: 5th of June 2018

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice - to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor's ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.

What I Have to Say 

I am so upset that this is only a duology! I am so far from ready to leave these characters and this world that Ahdieh has created. I want a whole series, not just two books. I love the powerful female characters, Mariko and Yumi at the forefront and the two mothers of the emperor's sons, pulling the strings from behind the screen. 

I loved how so much of Mariko's role in this book was based around her playing the harmless girl, allowing herself to be Raiden's bride, finding out what she can and then sneaking around in the night. Not enough books show this sort of strength and intelligence but it's as much the role of a ninja as jumping over rooftops and whirling around nunchunks. It was so great to see not one but two strong kunoichi showing their skills. 

I loved the male characters as well, though I felt that they were not written as well as the female characters. I liked to see Kenshin and Raiden and how our view of them was changed as the book went. 

I've been meaning to read Ahdieh's other books for a while and now I can't wait to get into them. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 240
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 14th of June 2018 

Bennett's Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It's a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money.

But, like so many bookshops, Bennett's has become a 'casualty of the high street' - it's strapped for cash and going to be torn down. Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat.

Time is ticking - but that's not the only problem Paige has. How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

What I Have to Say 

This was really, really not the book for me. I'm just not a fan of the cringy teenage girls embarrassing themselves in front of their crush at every turn type of book. I just don't like the second hand embarrassment. It's okay in some books, but I think there is a balance that needs to be achieved. This was way too much. It was like Paige was doing something completely ridiculous and cringe-worthy on every single page. 

The plot wasn't that great either. I found it predictable in so many ways, from the total tool that Paige decided to be totally in love with, and embarrass herself in front of every single time that he turns up to the random subplots that had absolutely nothing to do with anything. I mean did we really need the bit with the bath bomb or the dead cat? What even was that? 

In short, this was just not my sort of book. I didn't enjoy this sort of thing when I was a teenager and I don't now. It might be better for someone who's more into that kind of thing, but I'm honestly not sure. 

My thanks go to Hot Key Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review.