Monday, 7 December 2015

The Winter Place by Alexander

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 448
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Released: 22nd of October 2015

When a mysterious stranger and his brown bear show up on the same day that Axel and Tess's father dies in an accident, Axel fears he might be going crazy, especially as only he can see them. However, the strange duo are quickly forgotten when Axel and Tess are shipped off to Finland to stay with grandparents that they've never met. But when they arrive in Finland, Axel is stunned when the stranger and his bear reappear. More incredibly, the stranger tells him that his parents are lost and need help. 

Desperate to see his father again, and actually meet his mother, Axel follows the man and his bear, disappearing deep into the frozen wilds of northern Finland. When Tess realises that her brother has vanished she's distraught. And so begins the frantic search across snow and ice into the dark forest. But as the hours creep by and with no sign of Axel, Tess begins to wonder if her brother has ventured onto a path that she cannot follow. 

What I Have to Say 

This book got better and better as it went on. It's not the kind of book that I was in love with from the start, but by the end of it I was sad to finish it. It was a very urbanized fairy tale, with the enemy for the most of it being a wheelchair. Which really worked when you found out what it actually was and how the mythology worked.  

The Finland setting was really interesting as it's a country that I don't know Learning about the mythology of other places is one of my favourite things about books like this, so I was glad there was so much of it. 

The reader is kept in suspense for most of the book and I did feel it was drawn out a bit, especially towards the start. But on a whole, I enjoyed it a lot. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Boy 23 by Jim Carrington

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: 19th of November 2015 

Boy 23 isn't in My Place any more. He can't see The Screen, he can't hear The Voice. Boy 23 is alone.

One dark night, Boy 23 is thrown in the back of the van and driven out of My Place - the only home he has ever known. He is abandoned in a forest with a rucksack containing the bare essentials for survival. Before the van drives away, a voice tells him he must run as far as he can. His life depends on it. Boy 23 has never known another human. Boy 23 has never even been outside. So who is he? Why do people want to kill him? And more to the point, who is the voice that wants to save him?

What I Have to Say 

I really enjoyed this book. There was such a lot of great mystery in it. From the start, we have no clue who Jesper is or who the Voice is and what their connection to Marsh Flu is. Jesper's voice really draws you in. He sounds perfect for the boy he is, having grown up in seclusion with no contact with another person, his only knowledge coming from videos. 

The replacement of words in Jesper's vocabulary didn't bother me. Though they weren't really needed, since why would he know some words and not others, but there weren't too many of them so it just fell naturally into the way he spoke. Comparing it with Sophie Someone, which I really hated because of the replacement of words, I think it is because Boy 23 just replaces a couple of words whereas Sophie Someone replaced so many. 

If you're looking for a good post apocalypse book, this is a really good one to pick. There's people who've taken advantage of the break down of the society and others who have tried to help. There's so many things that get revealed later in the book too. 

This was a really good read. 

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Iron Warrior by Julie Kagawa

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Released: 27th of October 2015

The Iron Prince betrayed us all.

He killed me. Then, I woke up.

Waking after a month on the brink of death, Ethan Chase is stunned that the Veil that conceals the fey from human sight was torn away.

The human world has been cast into chaos and the Forgotten Queen is leading an uprising; a reckoning that will have cataclysmic effects on the Nevernever.

Leading the Lady's Forgotten Army is Keirran, Ethan’s nephew and the traitor son of the Iron Queen. To stop Keirran, Ethan must disobey his sister once again as he searchs for answers.

In the face of unprecedented evil and unfathomable power, Ethan's enemies must become his allies, and the world of the fey will be changed forevermore…

What I Have To Say 

So my last review of this series was a little down on it. I still think my views regarding Kenzie and Annwyl were valid, but this book changed them completely. Kenzie and Annwyl were a couple of badass ladies who were clearly only hiding behind the boys so they didn't steal their thunder! 

Let's talk about Kenzie, because Annwyl holds a lot of spoilers. Kenzie, in the previous books, was a bit of a love interest, letting Ethan and the others protect her because she doesn't have the fighting skills to defend herself. This is still true in The Iron Warrior, but what she does have is her mind. Between the books, she's been preparing herself to go back into Nevernever and she's done it so well. 

I really loved the dynamic between Kenzie and Ethan, with Kenzie being the brains; the negotiator; helping Ethan navigate the faery deals and bargains with her smarts and knowledge, while Ethan is just the brawn; running forward to fight the battles. Looking back at it, it was obviously coming from the start. I just wish we could have seen more of this beautiful partnership before the end! 

This book really reminded me strong women aren't just women who are good at fighting. I think there should be more characters around like Kenzie because it was a reminder that I needed to get. 

This review has been rather focused on Kenzie, but I wanted to do a bit of an update on the feelings from the previous books. There were other things that I really loved about Iron Warrior too. This book as a whole has really renewed my love of Julie Kagawa. 

Monday, 2 November 2015

The Rise and Rise of Tabitha Baird by Arabella Weir

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 213
Publisher: Picadilly Press Ltd
Released: 2nd of October 2015 

When 13-year-old Tab Baird starts at a new school, she's determined to be the coolest, most popular girl there - whatever it takes. She adjusts her school skirt so it's just the right length. She has enough attitude to make it into the in-crowd. She even gets the attention of the hottest guys. But it's not easy being uber-cool. No one must find out that her mum, brother and her have moved into her gran's house, so she tries to persuade Gran to pose as a house-keeper. And if anyone discovers her mum's blog - about her teenage daughter - it'll be the ultimate in social death. 

What I Have to Say

I really hated this book. I don't like saying that, but it's true. The character was the most annoying type of teenager that exists, which is realistic but just not something I want to read about. You know the type, the sort that overuses words like "Mankenstein" and thinks they're so clever for finding ways to mess with teachers.

I found some of the stuff about her mother and the dog funny, but a lot of it was repetitive and overused. The issues looked at in the book were good though. I feel it was a realistic portrayal of how someone would feel having her family go to live with her gran after her parents split up. I did feel sorry for Tabitha in parts.

Some people might find this book enjoyable, but I just didn't.

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Winter Place Blog Tour: Five Writing Tips From Alexander Yates

As part of The Winter Place blog tour, I am pleased to have Alexander Yates sharing his tips for writing. 

I’ve been a creative writing teacher for about five years now, and a published author for nearly as long. In that time I’ve run courses in multiple countries, teaching both children and adults (currently I’m finishing up a class for Vietnamese university students, here in Hanoi). And in that time, I’ve realized something important: I’m not sure I know what I’m talking about. Every piece of advice I’ve ever given, I’ve also ignored. So please take the following tips with a grain of salt. Here are five things that I try, and sometimes fail, to do as a writer.

1) Just get to the end! 
When writing a longer project (like a novel, or even a novella) you’re always better off setting revision aside in the early stages so that you can focus on completing a full draft. After all, it’s only when you have a complete manuscript that you’ll truly understand what this project is meant to be. Also, doing this will keep you from falling into the trap of endlessly writing and re-writing a chapter that’s destined to wind up on the cutting room floor.
Or… at least that’s how it works in theory. I’m currently on my 4th full rewrite of the opening chapters of my next novel. So I see this as similar to advice about eating right—just because I believe it to be important, doesn’t mean I always do it.

2) “Inspiration” is not a thing you wait for.
Waiting for your muse to strike? Well, why not help your muse out a bit by opening up that story you’ve been working on? The unexpected flash of inspiration that arrives unbidden while you’re chopping onions, or going for a jog, happens more often in bad movies than it does in real life. There is no substitute for time at the keys.
(Note: This is not to say you shouldn’t jog. Jogging is also important.)

3) Don’t beat yourself up for slow days.
Even when you diligently make time for your writing, that doesn’t always mean you’ll actually feel productive. Sometimes you’ll feel slow, or foggy. Sometimes you’ll do nothing but re-work the same lousy paragraph for hours on end. It’s important to realize that slow days like this aren’t only inevitable, they’re also part of the bargain.
Here is my bare-bones definition of an acceptable writing day: I opened up the document. I didn’t escape to facebook, or anywhere else online. That’s it.

4) When in doubt, a description!
When I don’t know what should happen in a given scene, I jump into a detailed description. Whether it’s about an object, a vista, or an article of clothing one of my characters is wearing; description always gives me a way to move forward. But this particular piece of advice could just as well read: “When in doubt, some witty repartee!” or, “When in doubt, go to your strengths!” Description happens to be mine. Find the thing you do best (this is generally also the thing you most enjoy doing) in your writing, and you can use it to get out of almost any problem.
5) There is nothing you love that isn’t worthy of being written about.
Even if what you love seems silly to other people. Even if what you love sometimes seems silly to you. The fact that you love it is all that counts. After all, you’re going to need that love to get you through all the slow days.

For more information on Alexander Yates, you can visit his website or follow @TheOtherYates on twitter. The Winter Place is his first novel for younger readers and is published in October 2015

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sophia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 439
Publisher: Twenty7 
Released: 3rd of September 2015

"Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?'

Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.

As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?

What I Have to Say 

This book captured my heart in the way that very few romance books do. Sophia was just such a great character. She was strong and well written, with a voice that felt more like she was just chatting to you than that you were reading a book. She was hopeless at recognizing when guys liked her and even more hopeless in recognizing when she liked them back. She faced racists on the tube and potential in-laws down with a witty sense of humour and complete faith in herself and what she wants. 

The story was good enough for a romance book. with quirky characters and strange happenings bringing it up in places. I think I didn't like the main plotline so much because I'm not really into romance that much rather than the story itself. But the book had plenty ways to make up for this. 

I picked this book to request from Netgalley simply because it had a Muslim character. I'm a big fan of diversity and always find a book about ten times more interesting if it has a person of another culture or just a different perspective in it. I don't know enough about Islam so I can't say how realistic Sophia is as a Muslim, but I can say that she was wonderfully British in her opinions on biscuits so they got that bit right. It was great to see how she was so religious while not having that define her entire personality. Sometimes authors portray religious people as having nothing to them but their faith, so I'm glad that this one didn't. 

This is definitely a book for fans of diversity and feminism. I would be really interested to hear a muslim's opinion on this book and Sophia. 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Monster by C.J. Skuse

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 384
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Released: 24th of September 2015

At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits. As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild. Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

What I Have to Say 

This was really good. Sometimes CJ Skuse's characters can be a little annoying. In both Dead Romantic and Rockaholic, the characters were very unobservant and didn't have much common sense. So it's nice to see a smart character in Monster, especially as she looks after the other characters. 

I really liked the way that elements of the boarding school life contributed to the plot to make the characters more isolated. The fact that Matron had the girl's mobile phones and had shut off the internet really added to the plot in a convenient way which added to the general atmosphere of the book.

The elements of this book really added up to form a perfect whole. The boarding school setting, the intelligent and resourceful main character and the mysterious Beast of Bathory really made a book worth reading. If I had to pick a negative, it's that the battle between the two girls to become Head Girl was such a small part of the book, when at the start it seemed like it would be a bigger thing. 

All in all, this is a great book. 

Monday, 5 October 2015

Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 3rd of September 2015

'Some stories are hard to tell.
Even to your very best friend.
And some words are hard to get out of your mouth. Because they spell out secrets that are too huge to be spoken out loud.
But if you bottle them up, you might burst.
So here's my story. Told the only way I dare tell it.'

Sophie Nieuwenleven is sort of English and sort of Belgian. Sophie and her family came to live in Belgium when she was only four or five years old, but she's fourteen now and has never been quite sure why they left England in the first place. Then, one day, Sophie makes a startling discovery. Finally Sophie can unlock the mystery of who she really is. This is a story about identity and confusion - and feeling so utterly freaked out that you just can't put it into words. But it's also about hope. And the belief that, somehow, everything will work out OK.

What I Have To Say 

This book didn't work for me. It was a really good story, but the style it was written in put me off. I get what the author was trying to do, but I don't see how replacing certain words makes something easier to tell. If it was just the words that were traumatic for her that were replaced, I think it would have been easier to understand. It's just that I don't see how replacing words like "fingers" and "head" makes it easier to tell a story. 

It was a very interesting book about language and bi-lingual children. It looks a lot at language and how things can be hard to talk about. It goes a lot into identity. When Sophie finds out what her parents have been hiding from her, she loses her entire identity. I liked how the different parts of the story were named to show how Sophie lost and then found her identity.

I did enjoy this story, it really only was the style of writing that put me off. It's a shame because I think without that it could have been a book I really would have loved.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

All of the Above by James Dawson

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 316
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 3rd of September 2015

When sixteen-year-old Toria Bland arrives at her new school she needs to work out who her friends are in a crazy whirl of worry, exam pressure and anxiety over fitting in. Things start looking up when Toria meets the funny and foul-mouthed Polly, who's the coolest girl that Toria has ever seen. Polly and the rest of the 'alternative' kids take Toria under their wing. And that's when she meets the irresistible Nico Mancini, lead singer of a local band - and it's instalove at first sight! Toria likes Nico, Nico likes Toria, but then there's and friendship have a funny way of going round in circles.

What I Have to Say 

This is definitely my favourite James Dawson book. I'm not so keen on horror, so I read the books mostly for the fantastic, usually very quirky characters he writes. This book was perfect for me, because it had a plot driven by the characters rather than the other way around. 

The characters were wonderful, though a couple of the background characters were easy to mix up and slipped the mind a lot. The ones that were in the spotlight, however were the kind that are easy to fall in love with. Quirky sixth formers who I found very realistic. 

The issues that Dawson looks at during the book are ones that I think are very important. He looks a lot into sexuality and gender, but also touches on self harm and eating disorders. It's the sort of book that really can have an impact on you. 

This book is fantastic for diversity. 

Monday, 28 September 2015

True Power by Gary Meehan

Synopsis (from Netgalley

Pages: 448
Publisher: Quercus
Released: 1st of October 2015
Other Books in the Series: True Fire
                                           True Dark

The battle for Werlavia rages on. Don't miss the thrilling conclusion to the True Trilogy.

The War

After battling their way across Werlavia, Megan and her friends have found safety in the mountain city of Hil. But the army of the True are waiting.

The Threat

Megan knows they can't ignore the witch menace for long. Empowered by their guns and their allies, they are coming for her, for her daughter, for their world. 

The Power

Megan is no longer an ordinary mill girl. Mother, Apostate, Countess: it is up to Megan to protect the people of the Realm. But she will have to risk everything she loves to do so.

What I Have to Say 

I'm so sad that this series has come to an end. I love the humour in it so much. It makes it a much lighter read than most other fantasy series despite having such dark and emotional themes. There's a lot of ways to release tension through comedy and Gary Meehan does it fantastically through a witty one-liner or a double entendre. 

Though I felt that this book was lacking a little. There were still plenty of sarcastic comments, but the lack of Eleanor and Damon's bickering really effected the tone of the book. Though the tone change was probably right for this final book, it just wasn't the same. 

The conclusion was very well thought out and very in keeping with Megan's character. Strong characters is another thing that this series has going for it and Megan is probably one of the most interesting Fantasy heroines I've ever seen. She's not the typical, self-sacrificing for the sake of the kingdom heroine, she's just Megan. She does what she has to. 

I'm a little sad that I haven't been able to fit in a blog post for this series before now, but it's definitely one of my top Fantasy series. 


Saturday, 26 September 2015

Being Me by Adele Vialli by Pete Kalu

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 229
Publisher: Hope Road
Released: 15th of October 2015

The teenage years! A time when you didn’t have all these responsibilities, when your future shone brightly before you, the world full of opportunity!

Who are we trying to kid? Being a teen is hard. Even when you’re a star on your school’s soccer team, are a good student, and have a boyfriend, there are plenty of ways that being a teen—to speak bluntly—sucks. 

What I Have to Say 

Although this book is a good impression of teenage life, anger and friendships, I have to say it made very little impression on me. The teen voice could well be very accurate for a younger teenager. But it just annoyed me. I'm used to reading books about teenagers who seem more intelligent than the girl in this is and so are most of the people reading Young Adult literature. I feel that if there's one thing to know about writing for young adults, it is that they hate feel they're being talked down to. 

The story was okay. The bits about shoplifting were especially interesting to me. I suppose I find the reasons that some teenagers feel the need to shoplift even if they can afford the items intriguing. I think it's important for society in general to be aware that often shoplifting can be a cry for help.

To be completely honest, football completely bores me. Because of this, I didn't enjoy the parts of this book that were about football. But I do think that this book should be applauded for showing girls playing football. I can't think of many other books for teenagers that have girls playing football. So though I didn't like those bits, I think that it was just my personal tastes and that they are definitely a point in favour of this book. 

As I always say in reviews of books I haven't really liked, it's not for me, but it might be for you. 

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 528
Publisher: Indigo
Released: 29th of September 2015 

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price - and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy, Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone.

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction - if they don't kill each other first.

What I Have to Say 

I had no idea how much this book was missing from my life. The world needed a heist book set in the Grisha universe so much. In fact, off the top of my head, I cannot think of a single fantasy heist book, though I'm sure they exist (and if anyone knows of one, leave a comment because I want to read them). This book had me enthralled from the beginning, though I took a while reading it because I really wanted to savour it. Despite being over five hundred pages, it ended far too quickly. I want more. 

I don't think there was a single main character that I didn't like. Obviously there were some I liked more than others (Inej, Nina, Kas, to name just a few), but there weren't any characters that I just didn't like. And those who I wasn't completely enamoured with by the first paragraph, I grew to love pretty quickly. 

I say this for a lot of series, but I cannot wait for the next book. The ending was the kind that had me very frustrated that I couldn't read on. Though even if it hadn't ended on such a cliffhanger, I feel I would have said the same. I want more of these characters in my life. I would reread this book a thousand times if I had time. I just want more. 

This is without a doubt one of the best books that I've read this year. Probably one of the best that I'm going to read this year. I want everyone in the world to read this book because I love it so much. 

Monday, 21 September 2015

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

 Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 238
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 7th of August 2014

Seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson is hardly your average teenager. She lives by herself in the city of Tampere, Finland, and has a firm rule to mind nobody's business but her own. But that rule is put to the test when she happens upon five hundred washed euro notes hanging up to dry in her school's darkroom, and it is shattered once Lumikki realises who owns them.

Caught in an increasingly tangled web of deception, corruption and danger, Lumikki finds herself navigating the Tampere's dark underbelly in the search to expose its shocking connection to the international drugs trade. Lumikki is smart, but is she smarter than a master criminal? Can she bring down the infamous 'Polar Bear' - or will she become another one of his victims?

What I Have to Say 

It took me a while to get into this book. I liked it a lot once I got into it, but there was a fair amount of time when I just wasn't engaged with it. The main character was interesting, though it was hard to get into her head. Towards the start it felt like she was just trying to be different. Though after a while, you begin to find out why she's the way she is and the reasons behind certain things she does. I found the understanding made her more interesting and not just someone trying to be different for the sake of it. 

The plot line also got a while to get started, but once it did, I really liked it. The suspense was good and I really liked the way they brought in Lumikki's name and the whole fairy tale/ snow white/ snow queen thing. 

I think it was good as thrillers go, but for me it just didn't feel like anything special. 

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Counting Stars by Keris Stainton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 3rd of September 2015

Big city, big dreams, no money, no problem...

Six 'friends', one flat, big dreams... what could go wrong? When eighteen-year-old Anna leaves school and moves to Liverpool, she feels like her life is finally beginning. She's landed her dream job at a theatre, and she's moving into an exciting (if not slightly run-down) flat on a buzzing street lined with shops, bars, and buskers. Best of all, her new flatmates are kind, welcoming and a lot of fun - what more could she ask for?

But although her new life is fun, it's also a little overwhelming. Anna's job quickly falls through, and then she realises that although her new friends are great, they're also a little mixed-up... and it's not long before Anna starts using her blog to talk about her experiences, from the hilarious to the ridiculous to the little-bit-scary. But when Anna spills a bigger secret than she can handle, suddenly the consequences are all too real. She'll have to prove she has the mettle to make it in the big city, or risk losing everything she thinks she wants.

What I Have to Say 

This book was a very realistic tale of a teenager moving away from home for the first time and one of the few books I've see that show a character choosing not to go to University, which is good because it shows the other path that people can choose. This will really help people who, like Anna, don't really want to go. 

Anna moves into a house with people who are honestly the dream housemates. They're fun, they're quirky and they don't argue about who's going to do the washing up (though I think that's just because Alfie does it). I really liked them as a group.

It shows various problems, living away from home for the first time, abuse, job hunting, parental pressure, sharing your life with the internet and many more. But it was a fairly gentle read. A lot of these problems bubbled away under the surface of the story for a lot of the book with the only real conflict coming in the last couple of chapters.

Though this book wasn't a "page-turner" or a "thrill a minute", it made a lot of valid points whilst being a gentle read. Let's be honest here, if all the books you read are "unputdownable" you'd never get anything done.

It probably won't be a book I think back on in six months time, but it was one that I enjoyed reading.

3.5 Stars

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Monsters by Emerald Fennell

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 3rd of September 2015

Set in the Cornish town of Fowey, all is not as idyllic as the beautiful seaside town might seem. The body of a young woman is discovered in the nets of a fishing boat. It is established that the woman was murdered. Most are shocked and horrified. But there is somebody who is not - a twelve-year-old girl. She is delighted; she loves murders. Soon she is questioning the inhabitants of the town in her own personal investigation. But it is a bit boring on her own. Then Miles Giffard, a similarly odd twelve-year-old boy, arrives in Fowey with his mother, and they start investigating together. Oh, and also playing games that re-enact the murders. Just for fun, you understand... 

What I Have to Say

This was a good story, but really wasn't my thing. I was put off by the level of description that the writer used in the gory parts of the book. It made up a lot of the personalities of the two characters, so I understand the reasons behind putting in so much detail. There are people out there that will love this book for precisely this reason. It just put me off completely. 

Often I find screwed up characters or characters who do bad things really interest me, but I just didn't like these too. It probably goes back to the gory side of things and how much they enjoyed it that made me dislike them, especially the bit with the cat. 

The ending was really good though. I wasn't really intrigued by the mystery, but I found the solution to be really satisfying, I can't say I noticed any foreshadowing to it, but it was surprising without seeming too out there. 

It was a good book, just really not my thing. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

Hacked by Tracy Alexander

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Piccadilly Press
Released: 6th of November 2014

Dan had been diagnosed as ADHD as a child. He quite liked the ritalin, but then he got into computers, and for his parents a geek was better than something feral. It was hard to remember when the genuine hacking started; but free phone credit was the first illicit, tangible "real-life" results of a hack, though not the last. 

By the time Dan is contacted online by "Angel," he is eager for the challenge laid before him - creating tricky bits of code. But Dan begins to suspect that something more nefarious may be planned for his code than he thought. He will have to decide what truly matters more - protecting his anonymity and freedom or preventing a deadly terror attack ... 

What I Have to Say 

This is such an interesting book. It really makes you think about how easy it is to be tricked and cross the line between mild law breaking and getting people hurt. I had a lot of sympathy for Dan as he faced the choice between trying to make things right and keeping himself from getting into trouble for what he'd done. 

It was really interesting to see how his friends and girlfriend reacted to his hacking, especially at school with the mobile phone hacking and with his little sister on club penguin. It shows how people are; how they encourage him and flock to him when he's getting them top ups for their phones but turn on him later when things get more serious. 

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on the next book because it looks like something equally as interesting. 

Saturday, 12 September 2015

The Secret Fire by C.J. Daugherty and Carina Rozenfeld

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 424
Publisher: Atom
Released: 3rd of September 2015

French teen Sacha Winters can't die. He can throw himself off a roof, be stabbed, even shot, and he will always survive. Until the day when history and ancient enmities dictate that he must die. Worse still, his death will trigger something awful. Something deadly. And that day is closing in.

Taylor Montclair is a normal English girl, hanging out with her friends and studying for exams, until she starts shorting out the lights with her brain. She’s also the only person on earth who can save Sacha.

There’s only one problem: the two of them have never met. They live hundreds of miles apart and powerful forces will stop at nothing to keep them apart.

They have eight weeks to find each other.

Will they survive long enough to save the world?

What I Have to Say 

I've been looking forward to this book since I first heard about it and it was so good! I loved it from the first page until the last. The characters were both perfect. I loved Taylor a lot. She was intelligent, driven and had a distinct personality that is sometimes lost in that type of character. Sacha was tough, dangerous, off the rails and wonderfully French. You could see the chemistry between the two from really early on. 

The writing styles of the two authors complimented each other really well. I adored the mysteries surrounding the two characters. Taylor, starting to find out that there's something unusual going on with her and Sacha having known for a while that he's going to die and given up on his life because of it. 

I'm looking forward to seeing how this series develops. I have a feeling it's going to become one of my favourites. 

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Synopsis (From Goodreads

Pages: 434
Publisher: Usbourne
Released: 1st of August 2015

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

What I Have to Say 

The representation in this book was phenomenal. The accuracy of the descriptions of OCD were, in my experience at least, bang on. The way that Holly Bourne portrayed the choppy, frantic way that people with anxiety tend to think was very impressive. And even with all that going on, she has managed to keep the voice of the character there underneath it all. 

The only negative thing I found in this book was when Evie made the point that people with mental illness don't tell people they have mental illness. While being quite clearly the characters opinion not the author's, I felt that could send the wrong message out, because some people who do talk about their illnesses may feel invalidated by this statement. But equally as important is that people should feel comfortable to talk about their illnesses if we want a world where mental illness is seen as a socially accepted illness to have. Although I really do agree with Evie's point that people should not be using terms like bipolar and OCD to describe everyday emotions. 

I just want to add a warning here for anyone thinking of reading the book, it could be mildly triggering for some OCD / anxiety suffers. I want to encourage people to read it, but if you are suffering from these things, keep yourself safe, monitor your moods and thoughts and if you're in doubt about whether it's triggering you; put it down. This book is fantastic and very helpful, but it's more important to stay safe. 

One of the best things I found about the book is how the different types of therapy that Evie is going through are real techniques used with OCD suffers. Not only does Evie talk about things like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and mindfulness, but she also goes through some of the techniques, which could be really useful for people with OCD or other anxiety disorders who aren't ready to face technical books or explanations but are all right facing it through fiction. 

A review of this book would not be complete without talking about feminism. I loved the spinster club and everything about them. Feminism is definitely something that should be talked about more in YA (and in general) and this was a really good way to spotlight it. I'm really glad that it's going to be a trilogy, 

Monday, 7 September 2015

A Thousand Nights by E.K Johnston

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 336
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Released: 22nd of October 2015

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. 

When Lo-Melkhiin - a formidable king - arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice - leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king ...if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

What I Have to Say 

I don't know much about the story that this is based on, but this didn't read like it was trying to fit into the footsteps of another story. It read as a fresh. beautifully lyrically written piece, showing the importance of love, family and faith. The main character sacrifices herself for her sister at the start and remains loyal to her throughout, while the sister in turn keeps her faith in her and does what she can to help. 

The setting of the story was beautifully written.  I enjoyed the rich descriptions of desert life, both in the desert Wadi and the King's Qasr. For me, it added to the fairy-tale quality of the reading, even though it was and in a lot of ways still is based on a real place. I don't know how much was fabricated and how much was based on research, but it sounded like a really vibrant and interesting culture. 

The magic was wonderful as well. Again, it had that same fairy-tale quality, the idea that stories become truth if enough people believe in them, how a person can be elevated to the level of a god simply by people putting their faith in them. But it did just feel a little contrived, but in the way that a lot of fairy-tales feel this way. 

This is a must read this year for any fairy-tale fans. 

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Silence is Goldfish by Annabel Pitcher

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Orion's Children's Books
Released: 1st of October 2015

My name is Tess Turner - at least, that's what I've always been told.

I have a voice but it isn't mine. It used to say things so I'd fit in, to please my parents, to please my teachers. It used to tell the universe I was something I wasn't. It lied.

It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren't the lies: it was six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.

I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible. Billions of miles away from everything I thought I knew.

What I Have To Say 

This is a beautifully told story about identity and how important it is to children and teenagers. Tess was a wonderful character who desperately wanted to find out who she was after having been lied to by her parents for years. She's a character who's identity has always been tied up in what other people want from her, partly due to her controlling father, so it was really interesting to see how she changes due to what she's found out. 

I was rooting for Tess a lot. It's not often that I find a character in a book that I really get behind and want to succeed. I don't know what it was about Tess, whether it was her situation or how hurt she got by everything that happened, but there was just something about her character that made me really want her to succeed. 

Annabel Pitcher is such an amazing author. I fell in love with her writing when I first read My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece and I've definitely fallen in love again with Silence is Goldfish. 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 400
Publisher: Indigo
Released: TBA

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.

Yael, who escaped from a death camp, has one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year's only female victor, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin's brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael's every move. But as Yael begins to get closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

What I Have to Say

A Shape-shifting heroine taking part in an intense bike race across several continents to assassinate Hitler?  What's not to like! Although it wasn't as good as the Walled City, which isn't surprising considering how much I loved the Walled City, I still really enjoyed Wolf by Wolf. 

Yael was a really interesting character, I loved the way her shifting affects her sense of identity especially as she can't remember her original way she looked. 

I'm surprised that the idea of super-powers developing from experimentation in Jewish concentration camps hasn't been used much before. It seems like an idea that is right there for people to use. It makes me happy that is right there for people to use. It makes me happy that it's been done so well. 

Monday, 31 August 2015

Ghosts of Shanghai by Julian Sedgwick

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 360
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Released: 2nd of July 2015

Obsessed with martial arts and ghost stories, Ruby is part of a gang of Chinese and ex-pat children who hide out in ruined White Cloud Temple. 

But the world of Shanghai in the late 1920s is driven with danger: disease, crime, espionage and revolution are sweeping the streets. And since the death of her younger brother Thomas, Ruby is stalked by another anxiety and fear. Faced with a series of local hauntings, and armed with a lucky bookshop find - The Almanac of Distant Realms - Ruby forms the Shanghai Ghost Club to hunt down restless spirits.

 When best friend Faye is kidnapped by the Green Hand, Ruby must trust a mysterious stranger - and face her worst fears - in order to save her friends, and her own life. And in the ensuing fight she will catch a glimpse of the one spirit she has longed to see

 ...The secrets that Ruby's father and friends have kept from her are coming back to haunt them all

What I Have to Say 

This book has so many different threads to the story. It has the wonderful group of ghost hunting children that makes the basic idea of the book, but it's quickly overturned by the start of Communism in China. Ruby and her friends have to face the disturbances in their city and it shows how hard it was during this time, not only for Faye, a Chinese girl, but Ruby, a foreigner trying to save her. 

There's also the fact of Ruby's brother, who has been killed previously to the start of the book. Ruby is facing trauma, guilt and sadness over her brother's death. This all gives her one more thing to cope with and another layer to the story. 

This is a middle grade ghost story, but shows so many more human threats that the group face, that to be honest, the ghosts are a little lost in the story. Though I liked this, others may not. Personally I loved looking at 1920s China through a young girls eyes. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Crow Mountain by Lucy Inglis

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Chicken House
Released: 3rd of September 2015

While on holiday in Montana, Hope meets local boy Cal Crow, a ranch hand. Caught in a freak accident, the two of them take shelter in a mountain cabin where Hope makes a strange discovery. More than a hundred years earlier, another English girl met a similar fate. Her rescuer: a horse-trader called Nate. 

In this wild place, both girls learn what it means to survive and to fall in love, neither knowing that their fates are intimately entwined.

What I Have to Say 

I loved this story. There’s something about the American West which makes everything feel more exciting, not just in frontier times, but with modern day ranches and wild horses. This book had both. The interlocking stories were woven together so nicely, the modern day parts and the frontier parts paralleling well, both telling similar stories.

Even though I loved both stories, it’s the frontier story-line that sticks in my mind the most. I loved Emily’s relationship with Nate. I don’t normally like guys being cruel to women that way, but he was so arrogant and cocky and as he points out, he was only refusing to take her back to the town, not keeping her prisoner. I don’t know, it’s still probably not a good way to start a relationship in real life but the way that Emily was being such a sheep following a path that was set out for her and the way she develops whilst living in the cabin just makes it work for me.

I loved the horses and the Native American characters as well. Especially as the Native American culture is such an interesting one. Also Rose; there was no way I wasn’t going to love Rose and the way she was accepted by the tribe despite acting like a man. It’s such a contrast to Emily’s tight, corsetted life with her family.

I want everyone to read and love this book as much as I did.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Demon Road by Derek Landy

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 512
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books
Released: 28th of August 2015

Killer cars, vampires, undead serial killers: they’re all here. And the demons? Well, that’s where Amber comes in...Sixteen years old, smart and spirited, she’s just a normal American teenager until the lies are torn away and the demons reveal themselves.

Forced to go on the run, she hurtles from one threat to another, revealing a tapestry of terror woven into the very fabric of her life. Her only chance rests with her fellow travellers, who are not at all what they appear to be…

What I Have to Say 

 I only started reading Derek Landy's books recently (so late, I know). Not only are  his inventiveness and humour the things that make him the amazing author that he is, they are also the thing that I think I like most about him.

Demon Road is a really good book to highlight the amount of creativity that he puts into his work. 

The style of this book is much more serious than that of Skullduggery Pleasant. Although both possess serious plots and stories (at times), Skullduggery Pleasant is written in a more lighthearted style whereas this one on the most part is on the serious side, whilst still managing  to maintain it's humorous moments.

I did feel however, that there were moments when the humour was written more in the style of Skullduggery Pleasant than Demon Road. It wasn't a big deal, but it jolted me out of the book a little. At other times the humour blended perfectly, so I'm certain that Landy will get used to the style by the next book. 

I think my favourite thing about this book was how much of a teenager Amber was. Even though she had to be very grown up and brave running from her parents, she still had times when she dug her heels in and showed the ultimate stubbornness that only teenagers possess.

Few books show teenagers as they really are and when they do, it's very easy for them to come across as annoying but this was perfect. 

I really like this series and can't wait for the next book. 

Monday, 24 August 2015

Trouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 314
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 6th of August 2015

After her parents get divorced, high school junior Zoe Webster moves with her mother from Brooklyn to upstate New York, determined to get back to the city and transfer to the elite private school her father insists on. But then she meets Philip Digby--the odd and brilliant and somehow attractive?--Digby, and soon finds herself in a series of hilarious and dangerous situations all centered on his search for the kidnapper of a local teenage girl who may know something about the tragic disappearance of his kid sister eight years ago. Before she knows it, Zoe has vandalized an office complex with fake snow, pretended to buy drugs alongside a handsome football star dressed like the Hulk, had a serious throw down with a possible religious cult, challenged her controlling father, and, oh yeah, saved her new hometown.

What I Have To Say 

If you want a really fun read with hi-jinks, crime and friendship then this is definitely the one you should choose. Digby was an excellent character. I loved the way he disregarded all of Zoe's protests that she didn't want any part of his schemes because he knew she would always come along anyway. 

I loved the way Stephanie Tromly wrote, setting up all the threads of the story from the cult across the road to Digby's missing sister to Zoe's plan to transfer to a private school. There was a lot going on in this book and it all worked really well together. I loved how easily the friendships formed between Zoe and Digby and Henry. Though the way that they became friends was unusual, it felt easy and natural that they did. 

Even the serious threads of missing persons and drug dealing running through the story, the lightness and levity that the author has managed to create in the story makes it a really fun and enjoyable book to read.