Monday, 30 May 2016

The Problem With Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384 
Publisher: MIRA Ink 
Released: 1st of June 2016

TRIGGER WARNINGS: child abuse, neglect 

When Mallory was a kid, she was bounced from one horrible foster home to another. At thirteen, a terrible accident got her removed from the group home where she was living to a hospital where she met the parents who would adopt her. But when she starts a new school and encounters an old friend from the foster system sparks start to fly

What I Have to Say 

I couldn't get into this book at all. I don't think that's the books fault though. A lot of the issues that Mouse faces with anxiety were a little too close to home and it's not the right time for me to read books dealing with it at the moment. The fact that it affects me so much is, of course, a point in it's credit as it shows how realistic a portrayal it is. 

Even though I couldn't connect with the book as much as I would have liked, the book was still incredibly moving and beautifully told. It shows clearly how much damage child abuse can leave with a person, that finding a loving home doesn't stop the struggle that the child faces. Mouse's issues are very prominent throughout the book and dealt with in a sensitive, respectful but still very real way. 

If you plan to read this book, be sure to prepare yourself for the abuse it features. 

My thanks go to Mira Ink and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Lonely Life of Biddy Weir by Lesley Allen

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Twenty7
Released: 14th of April 2016 

Almost too terrified to grip the phone, Biddy Weir calls a daytime television show.

The subject is bullying, and Biddy has a story to tell.

Abandoned by her mother as a baby, Biddy lives in her own little world, happy to pass her time watching the birds - until Alison Fleming joins her school.

Popular and beautiful, but with a dangerous, malevolent streak, Alison quickly secures the admiration of her fellow students. All except one. And Alison doesn't take kindly to people who don't fit her mould . . .

What I Have to Say 

This is a touching story of the effects of bullying and how it can change a persons view of themselves. The way that this can last all the way into adulthood was a very big part of the story and highlighted quite how much of the issue that this is. 

It was written in such a way that doesn't so much make you empathize with Biddy, so much as care for her in a very protective way, much the same as the people who try and help her in the book. She is so isolated that you feel so sad that she lives her life that way. 

There's an innocence to Biddy, that I think is what makes this book special and not just another book about bullying. She goes about her life, believing what other people think of her. I've never seen a character quite like her. 

This is a truly beautiful book. 

My thanks go to Twenty7 and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 364
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Released: 5th of May 2016
Other Books in the Series: The Novice

On trial for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must face the Inquisition who will decide his future - the process is gruelling, lead by those who will do anything to see him suffer and haunted by ghosts from the past with clues to Fletcher's tragic origins.

But Fletcher has little time to dwell on these new revelations when the king announces a deadly challenge to the graduating students at Vocans. One that involves entering Orc territory to complete a risky mission. With loyal demons by their sides, commoners and nobles, dwarves and elves must overcome barriers of class and race and work together to triumph. The reward: a fortune in gold, the safety of an empire and PEACE.

With the entire empire watching, Fletcher has much to prove, but there are those out to get him and it soon becomes clear that there's a traitor in their midst, trying to thwart the mission and create unrest within the Empire.

With everything stacked against him, Fletcher must use everything in his power to fight his way to victory.

What I Have to Say 

I found this a lot more interesting than the first book. The first books was slow to start and even when it was interesting there wasn't much to set it apart from other books. But Inquisition changed the series for the better. It delved into the Orc's territory and showed an interesting take on the species. It went behind the brutish warlike race and showed not only how they get to be like it, but culture and rituals that tie into the behavior. 

I like Fletcher's character a lot and the cooperation of species that is the main story behind this series as a whole. It shows racism both in ways that we know and other ways that are unique to the settings and races involved. I loved the new Dwarven characters. I think they added a lot to the story and that there's room for even more development in the next book. 

After that ending, I can't wait for the next book, which really shows how much one book can change a whole series. If you didn't like the first book, I strongly urge you to give The Inquisition another chance. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder Children's Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 448
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 
Released: 2nd of June 2016 

Sixteen-year-old Marlon has promised his widowed mum that he'll be good, and nothing like his gang-leader brother Andre. It's easy when you keep yourself to yourself, listening to your dead dad's Earth, Wind and Fire albums and watching sci-fi. But everything changes when Marlon's first date with the beautiful Sonya ends in tragedy; he becomes a hunted man and he has no idea why. With his dad dead and his brother helpless, Marlon has little choice but to enter Andre's old world of guns, knives and drug runs in order to uncover the truth and protect those close to him. It's time to fight to be the last man standing. 

What I Have to Say 

This was an intense ride through a world of gangs, knives and drugs. For me, it highlighted the difference that black teenagers face, especially boys with older brothers who were gang leaders, because for me, as a white reader, the solution was obvious. I thought that Marlon should go to the police, tell them everything and let them sort it out. But the book led me to understand the fear that was going through Marlon's head. He didn't believe the police were on his side (and the statistics that  I've seen do suggest that he'd be right). It was definitely and eye opening book. 

It took a while for me to get into it. Books about gangs and drugs aren't my usual go to read, but I fell into it easier that I thought I would. I liked the pace of it and the dilemmas that Marlon went to. I found it interesting that he was being dragged into a world that he didn't want to be part of. 

If you like thrillers and enjoy exploring what it means to be part of another culture, the read this book. 

.My thanks goes to Hodder Children's Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Sunday, 22 May 2016

The Translation of Love by Lynne Katsukake

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 432
Publisher: Black Swan 
Released: 2nd of June 2016 

During the American occupation, the citizens of Japan were encouraged to apply directly to General MacArthur – “if you have a problem, write a letter, this is what democracy means” – and so write they did. MacArthur received over 500,000 letters, letters of entreaty, rage, gratitude, complaint, even adoration.

Twelve-year-old Fumi Tanaka has a problem – her beautiful and beloved older sister, Sumiko, has disappeared. Determined to find her, Fumi enlists the help of her new classmate Aya, forcibly repatriated with her father from Canada after the war. Together, they write to MacArthur and deliver their letter into the reluctant hands of Corporal Matt Matsumoto, a Japanese-American GI whose job it is to translate the endless letters.

When weeks pass and they hear nothing from Matt, the girls take matters into their own hands, venturing into the dark and dangerous world of the black market and dancehalls. They're unaware that their teacher, Kondo Sensei, moonlights as a translator of love letters, and that he holds the key to Sumiko's safe return.

What I Have to Say 

I really enjoyed this book. Not only is it a really interesting period of history, but the viewpoints used in the book gave a wide variety of the Japanese people at the time. The two young girls, Fumi who spent the war in Japan and Aya who had grown up in Canada were probably the most interesting to me. I always find it interesting to see the impact of war on the young and how much they know and don't know about what's happened.

The range of characters were not only perfect to give an oversight of what post-war Japan was like for the Japanese, but they also all added to the main story of Sumiko. Even though at first they are all separate, I really enjoyed seeing how they were brought together by Fumi in her search for her missing sister.

This is definitely a good book for anyone interested in Japanese history, especially around WW2 as it gives a very good view into how it effected the lives of the Japanese people.

My thanks go to Random House, Transworld and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Friday, 20 May 2016

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Released: 2nd of June 2016 

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other -- and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

What I Have to Say 

This is an amazing book about friendship, Pride and seeing people in a new way. It's about new experiences and crazy adventures. I loved it because it left me feeling warm and fuzzy, but without ignoring the numerous chances to make me sad alone the way. 

I loved most how the main focus was on the friendship forming between Mark and Kate. The relationships were there and often quite prominent to the plot, but it was mostly about Mark and Kate going from vague acquaintances to best friends overnight. It showed the most beautiful things about friendship alongside Kate's problems with her own friends and figuring out how to become her own person. It showed how friendship can be a truly wonderful thing. 

I won't say it's all inclusive, because let's be honest here, what is? What it did a better job of diversity than a lot of other books I've seen. Not only did it feature a transgender character (even if only as a background role) but that person was Gender-fluid and there was a mention of bisexuality. Both of these are part of the LGBT* community who tend to get ignored. 

So read for Pride, read for all the gayness and read for diversity, this book is one of the ones to look out for this summer.  

My thanks go to Macmillan children's Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Think Twice Sarah Mlynowski

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 275
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: 7th of April 2016
Other Books in the Series: Don't Even Think About It

What's worse than having telepathy in high school? Having telepathy in high school, and then losing it. When class 10B got their flu shots and developed the unexpected side effect of telepathy, it seemed like the worse thing ever. But two years later, they've got used to their powers. They've even come to like them. And as they prepare to leave school, they're all making exciting plans - plans that involve them being Espies. So when one by one they suddenly begin to lose their powers, they know they can't let it happen. Can they save their telepathy before it's too late? Or will they have to learn how to survive without them once again? 

What I Have to Say 

This was the perfect sequel to a truly fantastic book. I wasn't sure it would live up to the first one, or if having a sequel was even a good thing for this particular book, which worked so well as a stand alone, but this was a brilliant way to round off the story and add a little extra without detracting from the original story. 

I like the emotion that was in this book. You could really feel the fear that the espies had over loosing their powers as they fought to try and change them. 

Most of what I like about these books though is how real the characters feel. Even though a few of them are stereotypes, it gives a realistic view of how teenagers would adjust to getting telepathic powers. They don't go out fighting crime or defeating monsters, they use them to gossip with each other so people don't see or go on reality television. 

I love these two books so much. 

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

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The List by Siobhan Vivian

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Mira Ink 
Released: 7th of April 2015 

It happens every year. A list is posted, and one girl from each grade is chosen as the prettiest, and another is chosen as the ugliest. Nobody knows who makes the list. It almost doesn't matter. The damage is done the minute it goes up.

This is the story of eight girls, freshman to senior, "pretty" and "ugly." And it's also the story of how we see ourselves, and how other people see us, and the tangled connection of the two.

What I Have to Say 

This is a fantastic look into the superficial nature of high school, bullying and what other people's perceptions can do to people, good or bad. The List goes into the wide range of the actions that The List has on the people on it, showing that even if a girl gets called pretty, it's not always a good thing. 

It was really good to see the issues that the "pretty" girls face, the eating disorders, the sways in popularity and the way that having the eyes of the school on them changes how they feel themselves. It shows above all that popularity comes at a price, whether that's the easy way it's lost or the way it's gained. 

For anyone who likes stories of high school cliques, bullying and mean girls, this is a must read. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Mira Ink for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

Pax book cover, fox staring out over a landscape

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books 
Released: 25th of February 2016 

Pax was only a kit when his family was killed and he was rescued by ‘his boy’, Peter. Now the country is at war and when his father enlists, Peter has no choice but to move in with his grandfather. Far worse than leaving home is the fact that he has to leave Pax behind. But before Peter spends even one night under his grandfather’s roof he sneaks out into the night, determined to find his beloved friend. This is the story of Peter, Pax, and their journeys back to each other as war rampages throughout the country.

What I Have to Say 

While this is a beautiful tale about a friendship between a fox and his boy, I found it a little slow. It seemed to drag in places and be overly action filled in others. That's not to say I didn't like it though. I loved to see Pax with the other foxes and their reaction to approaching war and Peter's journey to find him, while slower, was also filled with interesting characters and adventures. 

But beyond that, I found it dragged a little too much. I was as impatient as Peter was to get him back on the road and going after his fox friend, even though the pause was obviously so important to his development as a character. 

I know that some of the scenes from this book will stay with me for a long time and I may even reread it one day, but I think a younger me who is happier to read slower paced books may have preferred it better. 

My thanks go to Harper Collins and Netgalley for providing me with this copy to review. 

Monday, 9 May 2016

Stormwalker by Mike Revell

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Quercus
Released: 7th of June 2016 

Ever since his mother died, 11-year-old Owen has felt lost. He's drifting apart from his dad, his grades are dropping, and the only thing keeping him sane are the soccer trials coming up.

Then, in the middle of school one day, he is sucked out of real life and thrown into a desolate alternative world, a largely deserted wasteland where a menacing storm of Darkness plagues the city, threatening his life and the lives of the people who dwell there.

Terrifying as this new world is, Owen recognizes it--his dad is an author, and this is the setting of his new novel. Fueled by his grief over the loss of his mom, Owen's dad has conjured a world so real and so fraught that Owen is transported to it every time his dad sets pen to paper. And he has to live out every word in the story.

But each jump devours chunks of his real life. Owen misses days of school, and even a key soccer game that threatens his chances of having a shot at appearing in the tryouts at all. Owen desperately wants these events to stop, but doesn't want to plunge his dad any further into the well of unhappiness that threatens to drown them both. 

With social services threatening to ship Owen off to his aunt's house and his school career spiraling out of control, what if finishing the story and battling the Darkness is the only way Owen can save himself . . . and his dad?

What I Have to Say 

This book was such a lovely surprise. It was such a complex and beautiful story about grief, suffering and the road to recovery all interspersed with an intriguing Dystopia written by his father. 

I really enjoyed the chapters with the story in. It was well constructed and the presence of Owen made it funny and a refreshing take on Dystopia. I was almost disappointed when Owen woke up back in the real world, but it was that backdrop of trying to help his father recover from the death of his mother that made it as special as it was. 

The thing that made this book so special was the uniqueness of the idea. I've read plenty of books about people going into stories, but none of them have had the same grief and desire to help his dad that made it more than just the basic story. 

This book is definitely something that I'll remember for a long time. 

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Mystery and Mayhem edited by Katherine Woodfine

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Egmont
Released: 5th of May 2016 

Twelve mysteries.

Twelve authors.

One challenge: can YOU solve the crimes before the heroes of the stories?

What I Have to Say 

As a massive mystery fan, this was obviously a title that I was eagerly anticipating, but I was kind of disappointed. There were some really great short stories, especially from Robin Stevens, Katherine Woodfine, Francis Hardinge and Helen Moss, but some of the earlier stories seemed a little lacking in tying things up at the end. A few left out the motive, which personally I think is pretty important in a mystery, or otherwise left things seeming a little unfinished, I think this was partly due to the shortness of each story, but I was left unsatisfied 

That said, on the whole, I enjoyed the book. I like the sections that everything was split into, meaning that you can flick through to the type of mystery you want to read, whether it's about poisons or dogs. 

Naturally, I enjoyed seeing authors I already liked, but this was also a good way to find new authors. There are some authors that I'd like to read more from, like Helen Moss and and Sally Nicholls. Also, some of the stories were connected to already established series that I hadn't heard of. This was a really good way to read a small piece as a taste of the series. 

Although I was disappointed, I would definitely recommend this to people. There were some fantastic stories from some really great authors so it's well worth reading just for those! 

3.5 stars 

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

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A Seven Letter Word by Kim Slater

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 305
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books 
Released: 24th of March 2016

'My name is Finlay McIntosh. I can see OK, can hear perfectly fine and I can write really, really well. But the thing is, I can't speak. I'm a st-st-st-stutterer. Hilarious, isn't it? It's like the word is there in my mouth, fully formed and then, just as it's ready to leave my lips . . . POP! It jumps and ricochets and bounces around my gob. Except it isn't funny at all, because there's not a thing I can do about it.'

Finlay's mother vanished two years ago. And ever since then his stutter has become almost unbearable. Bullied at school and ignored by his father, the only way to get out the words which are bouncing around in his head is by writing long letters to his ma which he knows she will never read, and by playing Scrabble online. But when Finlay is befriended by an online Scrabble player called Alex, everything changes. Could it be his mother secretly trying to contact him? Or is there something more sinister going on?

What  I Have to Say 

Often in books, I find that when there is dialogue to show stuttering, it just irritates me. But with A Seven Letter Word, I found it very easy to read those parts. It may be that it was well researched so the stutter was very realistic, or just that I felt more sympathy with the character, but it didn't seem to trip me up or slow down my reading or any of the other things that normally put me off. 

This book was the sort that you can fall into. The characters and the world are as easy to sympathize with and understand. Finlay'se attempts to find his mother and win the scrabble championships are ones that you can fully support and get behind.

I also really loved Maryam. I think that a fiery female former scrabble champion in a hijab was exactly what this book needed. Without her, it wouldn't have been the same book and she made a wonderful friend for Finlay while adding a bit of diversity to the book. 

With mystery, bullying and scrabble, you really can't go wrong with this A Seven Letter Word 

My thanks go to Macmillan for providing me with this copy to review. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Knights of the Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Puffin
Released: 7th of April 2016 

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan, and his life is, well, normal. Sure, in storybooks orphans are rescued from drudgery when they discover they are a wizard or a warrior or a prophesied king. But this is real life—orphans are just kids without parents. At least that’s what Denizen thought. . . 
            On a particularly dark night, the gates of Crosscaper Orphanage open to a car that almost growls with power. The car and the man in it retrieve Denizen with the promise of introducing him to a long-lost aunt. But on the ride into the city, they are attacked. Denizen soon learns that monsters can grow out of the shadows. And there is an ancient order of knights who keep them at bay. Denizen has a unique connection to these knights, but everything they tell him feels like a half-truth. If Denizen joins the order, is he fulfilling his destiny, or turning his back on everything his family did to keep him alive?

What I Have to Say 

I felt this was a good start to a series. With a series like this, the first book is always a similar story, so I find that it's best to look beyond the main story line and see what is there that sets it apart from the other books like it.

In Knights of the Borrowed Dark, the characters were the main thing that stuck out for me, there was a good range of characters with a variety of backgrounds that set them apart from each other and makes me want to know more about them. The other thing was the way that Rudden used words to evoke emotions in a way that few writers are capable. 

The only thing that really bothered me about the book was the orphanage, because orphanages don't really exist any more or at least not in the way that they were shown in the book. I can forgive it as a part of the world, but I would like to have had it explained. 

I think that this series could go either way, but that Dave Rudden has many great things in his future, I'm looking forward to seeing what he comes up with. 

3.5 stars