Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Library of Lemons byJo Cotterill

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256 
Publisher: Piccadilly Press 
Released: 5th of May 2016 

Calypso's mum died a few years ago and her emotionally incompetent Dad can't, or won't, talk about Mum at all. Instead he throws himself into writing his book A History of the Lemon. Meanwhile the house is dusty, there's never any food in the fridge, and Calypso retreats into her own world of books and fiction. When a new girl, Mae, arrives at school, the girls' shared love of reading and writing stories draws them together. Mae's friendship and her lively and chaotic home - where people argue and hug each other - make Calypso feel more normal than she has for a long time. 

But when Calypso finally plucks up the courage to invite Mae over to her own house, the girls discover the truth about her dad and his magnum opus - and Calypso's happiness starts to unravel.

What I Have to Say 

A touching tale about a girl living with neglect and responsibility to look after her father while he struggles with depression, A Library of Lemons was beautifully written to show an accurate and very touching view into the world of a young girl. 

I enjoyed the way that throughout the start of the book Calypso goes about her own business, making friends and enjoying stories before the carpet is pulled out from under both her and her father and the truth is revealed about just how bad things are. It shows how many young people can just see these things as normal and everyday because they don't know any differently. 

I loved Mae and Calypso friendship as well. It started out seeming like a story about a girl making friends for the first time and seeing how much better it can be to have someone in her life to share things with, but as it turns out Mae and her family provide a vital amount of support for her as the plot unfolds.

Overall this was just a beautiful book that tackled some very tough issues in a sensitive and informative way, while also making it an enjoyable story.

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

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Crown by Kiera Cass

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 279
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books 
Released: 3rd of May 2016 

In The Heir, a new era dawned in the world of The Selection. Twenty years have passed since America Singer and Prince Maxon fell in love, and their daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own.

Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

What I Have to Say 

The Selection series is one that I loved from start to finish, so reading The Heir and the Crown was wonderful. Not many series give you the opportunity to see things a few years later, to see how things really change and develop after the end of the series, but it's something that I think more series should do. 

I liked Eadlyn quite a lot in the Heir. She was so different from America and it was obvious from the start that this series would be more about her growing up and taking the responsibilities that come from the power that she has to inherit. 

I think what I liked about The Crown was the politics of it all. How Eadlyn has to fight to keep her life her own while also ensuring that the public like her and respect her as their queen so that they won't rebel against her. 

It's the fact that this series, despite being centered around romance, has so much more to it than just a love story. 

I am so, so sad to say goodbye to these beautiful books. 

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

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Released: 7th of July 2016 

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …


What I Have to Say 

This book was a very accurate portrayal of OCD and agoraphobia. It dealt very well with the way that people with OCD get stuck on a certain thought and can't get away from it. Even though a lot of Norah's OCD symptoms were very different, I could relate to it so much. So much that it was really hard for me to read without getting really anxious because my mind was picking up on the fast thought pattern that was shown in the book. 

I found this a little bit with Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne, but not nearly so much, because Norah is so much in the heart of her illness and everything is very intense for her. I wouldn't say this is a bad thing at all, because it shows a really accurate account of exactly how people with anxiety and OCD think, but I would warn those who suffer with anxiety to be careful and step away from the book when they need to. 

I was worried for quite a lot of the book that it would be one of those stories where a boy gets together with a girl suffering from anxiety and his love manages to fix her. Luckily it wasn't. While Luke does have an influence on Norah, her progress during the book is only affected by Luke in the way that he gives her an extra reason to face her disability and push to improve. 

This is definitely a really accurate portrayal of mental illness, that really gets to the heart off the issue and shows how hard and debilitating it can be. 

My thanks go to Chicken House and Nina Douglas for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

The Apprentice Witch by James Nicol

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 349
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Released: 7th of July 2016

Arianwyn has fluffed her witch’s evaluation test.

Awarded the dull bronze disc and continuing as an apprentice – to the glee of her arch-rival, mean girl Gimma – she’s sent to protect the remote, dreary town of Lull. 

But her new life is far from boring. Turns out Gimma is the pompous mayor’s favourite niece – and worse, she opens a magical rift in the nearby Great Wood. As Arianwyn struggles with her spells, a mysterious darkness begins to haunt her – and it’s soon clear there’s much more than her pride at stake …

What I Have to Say 

This book took me back to my childhood in the most wonderful way. Growing up, I adored the Worst Witch books and the Apprentice Witch has got a very similar quality to it. It's written for slightly older readers and has a beautiful world built up where witches live and work to keep each village safe. 

I'm not sure exactly what time period this story was supposed to be set in. It had an almost timeless quality while having motorcars giving it a sense of the 1920s about it. In a lot of ways it didn't matter, because it's a different world with spirits and demons commonly acknowledged. But this slightly old fashioned setting gave it the most wonderful feel to it. I definitely want to explore this world more. 

I think there's something about Arianwyn as a character that appeals to me a lot. Drawing back to the comparison with the Worst Witch, she and Mildred are the sort of people who always set out to do good. They just want to help and get things right, but everything just goes wrong for them along the way. I think it was that which made the Worst Witch books so relatable to me as a child. You feel more for a character who wants to get things right and so their failures make you feel so much more sorry for them. 

I think that everyone should read this book. It's one that I quickly came to adore and I hope that everyone else loves it as much as I do. 

Monday, 20 June 2016

Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 346 
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 1st of May 2016 

After fourteen years of Day comes fourteen years of Night. Be sure not to get left in the dark.

On Marin's island, sunrise doesn't come every twenty-four hours - it comes every twenty-eight years. Now the sun is just a sliver of light on the horizon. The weather is turning cold. The shadows are growing long. The dark is rising. And soon it will be Night.

The eerie Evening sunset is causing the tide to begin its slow roll out hundreds of miles, and so Marin, along with her twin brother Kana and the rest of the islanders, must frantically begin preparations to sail south, where they will wait out the long Night. But first the house must be made ready for their departure. Locks must be taken off doors. Furniture must be arranged just so. Tables must be set as if for dinner. The rituals are bizzare - unnerving, even - but none of the adults will discuss why things must be this way. And then just as the ships are about to sail, the twins' friend Line goes missing. Marin and Kana know where he has gone, and that the only way to rescue him is to do it themselves. And surely the ships will wait?

Because Night is falling. Their island is changing. And something is stirring in the dark.

What I Have to Say 

Nightfall was the kind of book I looked forward to going back to. Every time I got a chance to read it was a massive pleasure to sink back between it's pages. Most of it was because of the idea behind the story. The idea of a world where night happens every fourteen years was so intriguing. I wanted to know everything about it and although, naturally it would take a much longer book to answer every question I had, the book gave away enough information to satisfy me. 

Throughout the start of Nightfall, one of the main characters, Marin, brings up another question to be answered. Every fourteen years when the people leave their homes, fleeing the night, they do rituals to ensure their homes are just right. Homes that the first settlers of the island found already their, perfect for their needs. The mystery of who built these houses and why things have to be left in a certain condition made me even more desperate to read on and enjoy the thrilling answers. 

The whole of Nightfall is constructed around these mysteries, the questions that the reader has right from reading the description. It makes it an interesting and well thought out read and brings the reader on an adventure that I think most people will enjoy. 

I hope there is  a sequel as there's so much of this world that I still want to find out about. 

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

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Outliers by Kimberly McCreight

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 480
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books 
Released: 3rd of May 2016 

They’ll get inside your head…

Imagine if you could see inside the minds of everyone around you – your best friend, your boyfriend, your enemies…?

Imagine how valuable you’d be…

Imagine how much danger you’d be in…

Imagine being an Outlier.

It all starts with a text:
Please Wylie, I need your help.

Wylie hasn't heard from her one time best friend, Cassie, in over a week. Not since their last fight. But that doesn't matter. Cassie's in trouble, and it’s up to Wylie to do what she does best, save her best friend from herself.

This time it's different though – Cassie's texts are increasingly cryptic and scary. And instead of having Wylie come by herself, Jasper shows up saying Cassie asked him to help. Trusting the super-hot boy who sent Cassie off the rails doesn't feel right, but Wylie has no choice.

But as Wylie and Jasper follow Cassie’s bizarre trail, Wylie has a growing sense that something is REALLY wrong. What isn’t Cassie telling them? Who is she with and what do they want from her? And could finding her be just the beginning…?

What I Have to Say 

Although this book was okay, it didn't catch me. I think part of it was the same reason that a lot of books like this don't catch me, it's because they seem the same as a lot of other things that I've read recently. Of course, if I'd read this first then maybe I would like it better, but in the end, this is how it is. 

The other reason I didn't really get into this was that pretty much everything could have been solved if they'd just stopped lying to each other. Cassie lied to her dad and her dad lied to Cassie and if they'd just stopped then everything would have gone smoother for everyone. 

I might continue reading these if I have the opportunity. I was interested in the powers that they showed and would like to see how that is developed, but if not for that, I probably wouldn't bother. 

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

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Electric Monkey 
Released: 30th of June 2016

June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net. 

But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . But at what price?

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Child Abuse, Racism

What I Have to Say 

This book was grim! I like sad books, but this was depressing levels of sad. Obviously it is a pretty dark subject matter, so I was expecting it to be a pretty dark read, but what I wasn't expecting was the second half. The child abuse in the first half was interesting and a good view into what many children are suffering through, but the second half, I just didn't need. 

The main reason I didn't like the second half is that I kept thinking of people who are going through child abuse reading it. Children and young adults who are suffering like June does might pick up the book in order to feel less alone or seek advice of how to escape the situation. And what they will find reading this book is a very grim picture. 

I'm not saying that it's a bad story to tell. I think that any story whether it is a positive or a negative one deserves the right to be told, but I feel that, in YA especially, there is more responsibility to the readers who might be suffering and until there is a suitable number of positive books out there on a particular subject, I feel that writing negatively about such a subject might only cause pain. 

That's not to say that it's a bad story. It may have been a bit too dark for me, but there are many aspects that a reader could enjoy and the story-telling was perfectly done. The characters were well written and easy to engage with  and the feeling of sympathy for June was very quickly established. 

If you like dark books then this will be a very good read, I just worry about the message it sends to people like June. 

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

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Accidental Secret Agent by Tom McLaughlin

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 240 
Publisher: Oxford University Press 
Released: 2nd of June 2016 

Schoolboy turns secret agent in this hilarious spy spoof! Before you read this, I want you to carefully check that no-one is reading over your shoulder - go ahead, do it now. First off, that was terrible - really obvious. If I'm going to tell you top secret government information, you're going to have to be a bit more stealthy. Try again. Was anyone looking? No? Right, then I'll begin. This year the secret service made a major mix up, they mistook a 13-year-old boy called Kevin for a secret agent (I know, so much for an 'intelligence' agency). This was the sort of kid that would try and zip wire across a building and end up falling head first into a fountain with his bum on show, so can you imagine what happened when he was allowed access to the amazing sort of spy gadgets that James Bond would use? Despite this, it was up to Kevin to save us all from an evil supervillain. It was the most dangerous, daring mission in the history of the secret service, and also its biggest blunder.

What I Have to Say 

There's something really enjoyable in reading books like this. Books that from the very start are made up of completely wild concepts that make it clear that this isn't something to take more seriously, because the joke is in the very title. It's a hilarious concept to set up the jokes to come. 

I think I liked the sister best. It may be because I'm a girl, but I found it really amusing how she swept in and did a lot of the actual spy work with more competence. Although I enjoyed Kevin stumbling along trying to do these things, I just gained a lot of enjoyment in how good at the spywork his sister actually was. 

This book is definitely a great one for any boy or girl who daydreams about being a spy. The humour is very good and will lead to a very entertaining read. 

My thanks go to Oxford University Press for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Love and Other Man-Made Disasters by Nicola Doherty

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 240
Publisher: Orion Children's Books 
Released: 2nd of June 2016

Juno is scared of a lot of things. Climate change, urban foxes, zombies - the usual. So when she goes on a skiing holiday with her mum's adrenaline-mad new husband and his tearaway twins, she doesn't hold much hope of surviving. Then she meets Boy. Gruff, hairy and thrill-seeking, he's everything Juno doesn't like. Or is he? Juno's about to discover there's nothing more scary than falling in love.

What I Have to Say 

From first glance this could be a book about a girl with anxiety who meets a boy and falls in love and ends up being cured, but it isn't. Yes, Juno meets a boy and yes while being with him she learns how to quiet down some of the worries in her mind. But what I took from it was more than that. This isn't a story of girl meets boy, this is the story of a girl learning to take risks and do things despite the way that they could turn out. It's more than anything the story of a girl learning to be brave. 

I feel that there was too much emphasis put on the love though. It was an important part of the book, but I feel that the events later were more important. I don't know how they could have shortened the romance, but I feel if they'd condensed it down and made it less of the whole story it would have put more importance on Juno's coming-of-age story line. 

Despite this, it was a good book. Funny and lighthearted as well as covering some very important points. This would be a good read for the summer. 

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

Monday, 6 June 2016

Sing by Vivi Green

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Harper Collins Children's Books 
Released: 2nd of June 2016 

America’s most famous pop star flees the spotlight to recover from her latest break-up in Maine – only to fall for a local boy and be faced with an impossible choice at the end of the summer: her new guy, or her music.

Multiplatinum pop icon Lily Ross’s biggest hits and biggest heartbreaks (because they are one and the same):

1. AGONY. (That feeling when her ex ripped her heart out of her chest and she never saw it coming.)
2. GHOSTS. (Because even famous people are ghosted by guys sometimes. And it sucks just as much.)
3. ONCE BITTEN. (As in: twice shy. Also, she’s never dating an actor or a musician ever again.)

But this summer’s going to be different. After getting her heart shattered, Lily is taking herself out of the spotlight and heading to a small island in middle-of-nowhere Maine with her closest friends. She has three months to focus on herself, her music, her new album. Anything but guys.

That is… until Lily meets sweet, down-to-earth local Noel Bradley, who is so different from anyone she’s ever dated. Suddenly, Lily’s “summer of me” takes an unexpected turn, and she finds herself falling deeper and harder than ever before. But Noel isn’t interested in the limelight. She loves Noel-but she loves her fans, too. And come August, she may be forced to choose.

What I Have to Say 

I feel there was too much romance in this book. It's not that I'm against romance, though I do think a lot of YA books insert romance in when it's not necessary to the plot far too often. And it's not that I think that Noel and Lily's relationship shouldn't have been part of the book. I just think that it should have happened differently, that the emphasis shouldn't have been on whether or not they end up together. 

I just feel that the whole point of the book, of Lily leaving the city and her schedule behind, was to learn how to live and write music on her own, without a man in her life. While part of the story was concluded, I feel that it wasn't quite as strong as it should have been. I feel that Lily didn't really stand up for herself and say "No, I need to be alone for a while" like I would have liked. 

Though it fell flat to me on that one issue, the rest of the book was enjoyable and interesting. I liked the viewpoint of a big name celebrity and how nice a person Lily was. Often in books, celebrities can come off as jerks, so it was a really cool concept. 

This is perhaps not one that I'd go out of my way to recommend, but if you think it sounds interesting then I'd definitely say to read it! 

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

Saturday, 4 June 2016

London Belongs to Us by Sarra Manning

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher; Hot Key Books 
Released: 2nd of June 2016 

Seventeen-year-old Sunny's always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she's sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she's got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London - starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can't even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she'd have anything in common with - least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French 'twins' (they're really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it's the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone - from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers - is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

What I Have to Say 

I've loved Sarra Manning for quite a while, despite not having to get around to reading quite all of her books yet and I have to say, this book could only have been written by her. Who else could write about a young black girl travelling around various parts of London at all hours of the night, joined by, among other things, two french guys and a broom. 

There were motorbikes, rickshaws, stolon bikes and of course the good old tube involved in this mad dash as Sunny tried to track down her boyfriend so that she can dump him. It shows her journey from a quiet people-pleaser, to a badass bike thief and every stop along the way. 

I think you can tell why I love this books. It's an adventure from start to finish that you can get absorbed in, There's nothing really more to say, it's just an awesome wild romp set in London. 

And the broom is the best part. 

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

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Loose Ends List by Carrie Firestone

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400 
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books 

Seventeen-year-old Maddie O'Neill Levine's grandmother is a young-at-heart socialite who has always been Maddie's go-to confidante. Although Maddie and the rest of her family have learned to expect the unexpected from their matriarch, Gram still manages to shock them all when she announces that she has booked the O'Neill clan on a secret death-with-dignity ship called the Wishwell; Gram has terminal cancer and is determined to leave the world in her own way--and give her family an unforgettable summer of dreams-come-true in the process.

Soon, Maddie is on the trip of a lifetime with her wacky family. Aboard the ship, Maddie bonds with other Wishwellians and falls for Enzo, the son of the ship's owner, as they travel the globe. But despite the copious laugher, headiness of first love, and wonder of the glamorous destinations, Maddie knows she is on the brink of losing Gram, and she struggles to find the strength to let go in a whirlwind summer shaped by love, grief, and the power of forgiveness.

What I Have to Say 

I think the thing I like most about this book is that, while being a book that is generally pro-euthanasia, it didn't get into the debate. There were some characters who didn't agree at all, who stayed behind and didn't go on the cruise and others who didn't agree with certain cases, but other than the odd comment here and there, they didn't voice their opinions. I felt it left the reader with the freedom to make up their own mind because there weren't passionate arguments trying to convince them either way. All that they saw was the pain and suffering of some of the guests and the choices that each of them made. 

It's pretty obvious that this is a sad book. I mean, any book with death and euthanasia as the main theme was always going to be, but it was written in a way that kept it light-hearted. The aim of cruise was to have fun and celebrate the lives of those about to die and the crazy adventures kept it very upbeat and lighthearted. It's the kind of book that you don't look back on and think of how it stomped your heart out and drove you to tears, even though in the end, of course it did. 

Truly, I think that this is a beautiful book. It was well crafted to deal with a sad and very hotly debated issue in a way that masks the heavy topic behind lightheartedness and levity without losing the real point of the book. I'm so glad I got the chance to read it. 

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