Saturday, 24 December 2016

Lost Stars or What Lou Reed Taught Me About Love by Lisa Selin Davis

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 6th of October 2016 

I'll be your mirror, reflect what you are, in case you don't know ...

In the aftermath of her older sister's death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister's friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie - a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet - is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn't even like, even though she's desperate for a boyfriend.

Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat - boy poison.

Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister's death, about her own family's past, and about well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet - and no small help from Lou Reed - Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.

What I Have to Say 

This is a very touching picture of a family torn apart by grief. It took me a while to get into, as it does a lot with depressed characters as it's hard to connect with a character who is in a numb state of mind. But, as always with such characters, as I began to understand her and why she was the way she was, I connected with her a lot more. 

The really interesting bits happened when the family started to face their problems.While Carrie was just doing drugs and getting in trouble with her dad, it bored me a little, but after she met Dean and started to open up and confront things more it got much more interesting. 

I think there were some very intense emotions in this book and it looks at grief from multiple angles. It looks at relationships between family members both the anger and pain on the surface and the much deeper emotions that aren't expressed so easily. 

I wasn't blown away by this book, but by the end of it, I felt it was definitely worth reading. 

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

Thursday, 22 December 2016

A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 224
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Released: 8th September 2016 

Magical machines, wizards, witches, mysterious underworlds, a race against time - and two most magical girls.

Annabel Grey has been brought up to be a very proper Victorian young lady. But being 'proper' isn't always easy - especially when you can sometimes see marvellous (as well as terrifying) things in puddles. But parlour tricks such as these are nothing compared to the world that Annabel is about to enter... 

After the rather sudden departure of her mother, Annabel is sent to live with her aunts. They claim to be Shoreditch witches, and from a very old family line of them too. They're keen to introduce Annabel to their world of transformation, potions and flying broomsticks (which seem to have strong personalities of their own) but are horrified when Annabel announces not only does she not know any magic, young ladies shouldn't believe in such things. But before Annabel has time to decide whether she does or not, she is swept into an urgent quest. 

The trees of Highgate have been whispering to Kitty - an extraordinary urchin of a girl, who Annabel's aunts seem very fond of - and so have the fairies. They talk of a terrible, dark magic that wants to devour all of London. And of a most magical girl who might be able to stop it . . . 

What I Have to Say 

This book was the epitome of British quaintness in the most wonderful way. It takes the reader deep into the rules of society in Victorian London and introduces them to the stiff-upper-lip, while also showing a world that is set completely apart from that. It combines this beautiful world with magic and adventure with a useful technique of clearing one's mind and coping with grief and misery. It was beautiful both as a story and an imparting of useful coping strategies to the reader. 

But as wonderful as the setting and way of life was, it felt too rushed. There wasn't enough time to be introduced to the house of the Shoreditch witches before Annabel had to rush off with her broomstick to save the world. It felt like it should have been more than one book. I would have wanted a much more relaxed introduction to the magical world that Annabel is discovering before she had to go off to save the world, perhaps a duology with a cliff-hanger, just something longer 

Besides that, the characters were lively and interesting and I really enjoyed the way it all played out. This was a fantastic read.

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

Monday, 19 December 2016

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Penguin
Released: 12th of January 2016 

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora's brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend's boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora's fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. 

With little more than the words "be brave" inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must "be brave" if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

What I Have to Say 

This book was not as good as I was hoping it would be. I'm not sure if it was because my expectations were too high going in, as often is the case with books that are given a lot of hype before their release, but I think it also was the way the story was told. 

It wasn't that I didn't like the character, because even though she was quite child-like, as to be expected from someone with her condition, but I guess I feel that her entire story was centered around a boy, when the reveals later into the book showed a deeper story that I was far more interested in. I almost feel like the ending of the book should have been stretched out and made to be more of the bulk of the book, rather than her chasing a boy to the arctic. 

I hope there's a sequel because I feel that there's a story in there that was barely told and I would much prefer to read /that/ story than this one. 

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

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Doubleday Childrens
Released: 6th of October 2016 

Clover Moon’s imagination is her best escape from a life of hardship in poverty-stricken Victorian London. When tragedy plunges her into a world of grief, Clover realizes that everything she loved about the place she called home is gone. Clover hears of a place she could run to, but where will she find the courage – and the chance – to break free? And could leaving her family be just what she needs to find a place that really feels like home?

What I Have to Say 

Ever since I was a little girl, Jacqueline Wilson's books have been a great comfort to me. I great up adoring The Lottie Project and Secrets, being taught about boys by the Girls in Love series. Saying that these books were a big part of my childhood is an understatement. So going back to them now brings me a lot of comfort. 

While I do find the stories a little more similar than I did when I was young (Wilson loves her stories of children going through hardship, running away to find a better life, often with writers), they are still great stories, stories that capture the imagination and make you feel for the characters through their struggles. 

While I've only recently been reading Wilson's stories of Victorian children, I feel that I can say with out a doubt that these are a good choice. Whether you're gifting them to a child, or looking for your next read, they are a great choice. 

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

Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Principle's Daughter by Russ Katz

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing 
Released: 12th of September 2016 

At just ten years old, playing in the lush trees, and starting mischief with the boys, Kim loved her family and friends, the sounds of the market, the tastes of the foods in Vietnam. She enjoyed life, and wished it would never change. What she didn't know was all that she loved was about to be torn from her happy life. "Wake up, wake up..." her sister yelled, shaking her. Looking out the window behind their bed, Viet Cong marched just a hundred meters from her home just outside Saigon. Pop pop pop pop gunshots from the AK-47s jolted their muscles as a full-scale attack on the nearby American Army base began. Their small home caught in the cross re, Kim's family spent the night of Tet, the 1968 New Year, in the safety of a small, dark makeshift cellar.

What I Have to Say 

This book was a really interesting look into the Vietnamese culture and how it was changed Vietnam and the lives of the Vietnamese people. The story was told in vivid detail that gave the reader a strong sense of Kim's personality and character.

I just didn't understand why the author felt the need to document her meeting with her at the start of the book. It felt unnecessary and awkward, the sort of thing that would have been much better in a forward or an author's note, though I did like the detail that was added at the end about what happened to everyone else Kim knew at the end of the book. 

In short, this is a beautiful way to find out more about the Vietnam war and how it affected the lives of the people of Vietnam. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Dog Ear Publishing for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 12 December 2016

Trouble Makes a Comeback by Stephanie Tromly

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 1st of December 2016 

After a fall semester of fiascos: getting arrested, then kidnapped, then blown up in an explosion (all thanks to the weird but brilliant Philip Digby), Zoe Webster is looking forward to a quiet spring. Now that Digby has left town, she's finally built a regular high school life for herself. She's dating Miles, the alternate QB; she knows girls she considers friends; she's learning to enjoy being normal and semi-popular. Which of course is when Digby comes back: He's got a new lead on his missing sister and he needs Zoe's help.

Suddenly Zoe is tussling with a billionaire arch-villain, locking horns with armed goons, and digging into what makes the Digby family tick, even as she tries to navigate the confusing and emotionally fraught world of high school politics and locker-room drama. After all, it's hard to explain Digby to a boy like Miles, especially when Zoe isn't sure how she feels about Digby herself—or how he feels about her.

What I Have to Say 

This was a weird experience for me, because even though I remember loving the first book a lot, I just cannot remember what happened in it. This happens fairly often, let's be honest it's one of the hazards when reading as much as I do, but usually this isn't a problem when I read sequels and have forgotten the first book, because there's enough in the sequel to prompt my memory. But with this one, I just could not remember it at all. All I could remember was really liking it. 

But! That didn't effect my enjoyment of the book at all. I quickly got to know the characters again and remembered how much I liked them in the first book, because let's be honest, they have a fantastic dynamic. I loved the book so much despite not remembering anything. It had the same comfort and fun that I remember from the first book, with dramatic situations that only Digby could get them into. 

The thing I took most from this experience is that I like these books, despite how much I'd forgotten. It's possible that these books would be great ones to reread over and over because they're comfortable to sink into! There are definitely perks to having forgotten the first book. 

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

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Synopsis (Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Corgi Childrens 
Released: 3rd of Novermber 2016 

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true? 

What I Have to Say 

I wouldn't class myself as a romance fan as such, but I think I really like this sub genre of two people meeting each other and spending an intense period of time together, in this case a single day, and them coming out of it completely changed, both by each other and the things that have happened to them over the course of the day. I loved it in You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nina Lacour, I loved it in The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith and again I've loved it in The Sun is Also a Star. 

I think to pull of this genre, you have to have a pair of good strong main characters. Daniel and Natasha were both great characters. They both had interesting things in their lives that they are wanting to run away from. Natasha, I found especially interesting because she was facing deportment, which is not something I've read much about. They were also both from backgrounds which weren't my own, Natasha being Jamaican and Daniel being Korean, both of which makes them more interesting in my view. 

They just were such great characters with such great stories and also such  different opinions on things, which they're willing to discuss at length, cutely and over coffee with experiements into falling in love. 

It has a wonderful pair of characters, great conflict and science experiments involving staring into each other's eyes for four minutes. What more could you ask for? 

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

Thursday, 8 December 2016

No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 192
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 3rd of November 2016 

My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey's story.

What I Have to Say 

This was one of those books that is very hard to read because of the subject matter, while also being so compelling that you don't want to put it down. It showed Stacey's innocence and naivety as her story unfolds but it also shows how much she is overlooked in her life. It interested me a lot how mistreated she was by her sister and how much her talents were undervalued by those around her. 

In a lot of ways it was the simple story of a girl running away and getting into trouble. But it was the background of the story that fascinated me the most. It was the way Stacey was treated by her family and why she ran away that I liked reading about the most. 

This is a very sad story, but it was also very beautifully told with a lot to read into the background. I would love to read more about Stacey and what happens to her after she wrote her story down. 

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