Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 384
Publisher: Amulet Books
Released: 4th of April 2017

Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?

What I Have to Say

I adored this book so much. I wasn't sure at first how it would go, but I was happily surprised by how much of a discussion it was about believe and religion. It was really interesting to see Quinn and her friend consulting a priest and hearing about the different interpretations of the bible. It was also interesting seeing a character who was not at all Christian being the subject of the book. 

It showed every side of the issue. The people who called Quinn names and accused her of lying; the people assuming that she has some psychological issue and endeavor to help her find out what happened; the family, desperate to find out who the father is so they can find a solution to the issue; and of course the true believers who caused so much trouble. 

I also loved how much it was left open to the reader to believe what they wanted. It became such a beautiful book of magic realism and the ending was a nice satisfying ending while still leaving it up to the reader to decide what to believe. 

Quinn was such a great character and I'm so happy I got the opportunity to read this book. 

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

Monday, 27 March 2017

Stargazing For Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing 
Released: 6th of April 2017 

Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. 

And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions …

What I Have to Say 

This is a sweet, geeky and very touching tale. It shows how hard it can be when parents don't take care of their children as they should and the way that elder children have to pick up the pieces. Meg does a really good job of keeping her life together when she has every right to fall apart. And she even has time to learn a thing or two about the importance of friends along the way. 

The characters that McLachlan creates are so vivid. Meg and Elsa are very well defined and unique (especially considering Elsa is only a baby), but so is Meg's grandfather, Ed and the whole of Biscuit club. It's the characters I think that make McLachlan's books so fun to read. You really get to know characters who feel real. 

The friendships that Meg found felt really real as well. Even though there was some teacherly intervention at times, none of them felt force. It felt so real and believable to see them fall into friendship with each other. 

Though sad, this is also a very comforting book to read. I think I could read Jenny McLachlan's books forever. 

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

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Journey Across the Hidden Islands by Sarah Beth Durst

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Clarion 
Released: 4th of April 2017

The traditional Emperor’s Journey is meant to be uneventful. But as the princesses Seika and Ji-Lin—twin sisters—travel to pay respects to their kingdom’s dragon guardian, unexpected monsters appear and tremors shake the earth. The Hidden Islands face unprecedented threats, and the old rituals are failing. With only their strength, ingenuity, and flying lion to rely on, can the sisters find a new way to keep their people safe?

What I Have to Say 

This was a really sweet coming of age story. It was a beautiful story of the bond between sisters as they fought to save their world. It had important messages at it's core about how people have to do things before they're ready to but how things will usually turn out okay. 

As an adult, I connected so much with this book. The messages are so important because I feel like you can never truly be ready for the things life throws at you. And maybe the idea that things might just turn out all right is a good thing to hear. 

The characters were really cool. I loved getting to know them and their distinct characters. It was good to see their strength and weaknesses complimenting each other. It shows how the ability to fight or a knowledge of history is not enough alone, but together they can do things that they can't do alone. 

This is a great book for all ages. 

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

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Miss Mary's Book of Dreams by Sophie Nicholls

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Zaffre
Released: 23rd of March 2017 

In historic York, Ella seems to have the perfect life. She's a published author, her bookshop is thriving, she's married to the man of her dreams and they've started a family of their own. 

But Ella is struggling. Motherhood isn't quite everything she imagined it to be, and she's worried that there may be cracks in her marriage. 

On the other side of the Atlantic, despite endless blue skies and a stream of eager customers in her vintage dress shop, Ella's mother Fabia finds that life in San Diego is not enough for her. She misses York, and can sense that Ella needs her, so she flies home. 

And this is when they meet Bryony. With a complicated life and secrets of her own, Bryony may have some of the answers they're looking for. 

Can Ella and Fabia help her find her way, whilst also working out how to find their own happily ever after?

What I Have to Say 

This book was magical. I didn't realize it was a sequel until I was quite a way through the book, so I haven't read the Dress, but I don't think I needed to. It seems as though it's set some time after the Dress and gave a good introduction to the characters, so it worked really well as a standalone. 

I loved way magic was woven into the book in much the same way as it was woven into the lives of Ella and Fabia. It was there, it was very present, but at the same time it was an ordinary story. A story of the hardship of motherhood and depression; a story of abuse and getting free from it and above all the story of family and friendship. Of the family connections between Fabia and Ella and of the community that Ella has built around her. 

I want to visit Ella's bookshop so badly. It seems like such a lovely place and the way it was conjured make it seem so beautiful and lively. I'd love to sit down and have a nice coffee and a read while the sun filters through the windows and Ella types away on her laptop and Grace plays in the dressing up corner. It just sounds so beautiful and peaceful. 

A lot of the books I read are sad, so it's not that often that I find a book I really want to just curl up and live inside, but this was definitely one of those. 

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

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 112
Publisher: The Bucket List 
Released: 2nd of March 2017 

Jim and his family have halted by Dundray and the education people have been round mouthing the law. In school the Traveller kids suffer at the hands of teachers and other pupils alike, called 'tinker-stinkers', 'dirty gyps' and worse. Then the punches start. The only friendly face is Kit, a settled girl who takes Jim under her wing and teaches him to read in the great cathedral chamber of the cave below the town. With Kit and the reading, Jim seems to have found a way to exist in Dundray, but everyday prejudice and a shocking act of violence see his life uprooted

What I Have to Say 

This is a very important story about the treatment of travelers and way that friendship and romance can make just one boys life just a tiny bit better, even if only for a short while. 

The story was simple. Though the changes between scenes were sometimes a bit a sudden, so it was a little abrupt, I found it interesting. There was a lot of slurs and violence against the travelers, which was to be expected, but did make me feel a bit uncomfortable. The fact that they're treated so badly is something we don't think about. I don't know how it is these days, I hope it's at least a bit better, but I feel it's probably only a little improved. 

The illustrations by Emma Shoard were well done and very effective. They sorted the story really well, but they're not the sort of artwork I particularly like. She really captured the scenes well though, so they were good to see. 

This story is well worth reading, though it is quite hard hitting. 

My thanks go to Nina Douglas and The Bucket List for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 480
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 1st of April 2017 

Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up - they know that Earth's settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's. 

What I Have to Say 

I've really liked Claudia Gray's writing before, but this book just fell short for me. I haven't really been in the mood to read Sci-fi lately, so that could account for some what I found boring about this book, but I don't think that's all. I found the romance to be basically non-existent to be honest. Or at least one sided. I could kind of see it happening with Abel, in his own way of not knowing why he does the things he does, but I just didn't see anything on Noemi's side until the very end. 

The look at immigration was something that was interesting about this book Noemi comes from Genesis, a world that is fighting for it's independence from Earth in order to keep their planet from being destroyed and used up in the same way that Earth and the planets under it's control are being. But as Noemi sees more of the universe and what is happening in and around the other planets, she has to rethink her opinions. 

It was a really good look at the ramifications of immigration as well as the reasons why we should be sensitive to the plight of refuges. 

Even though I didn't get on well with this book, for those reasons, I do think this is a good one to read. 

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

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Where the Wild Cherries Go by Laura Madeleine

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher:  Transworld 
Released: 23nd of March 2017 

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before.It was love and it could not be hidden.

It is 1919 and the end of the war has not brought peace for Emeline Vane. Lost in grief, she is suddenly alone at the heart of a depleted family. She can no longer cope. And just as everything seems to be slipping beyond her control, in a moment of desperation, she boards a train and runs away.

Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline’s diary. Bill Perch is eager to prove himself but what he finds in the tattered pages of neat script goes against everything he has been told. He begins to trace a story of love and betrayal that will send him on a journey to discover the truth. What really happened to Emeline all those years ago?

What I Have to Say 

This book is many things. At it's heart is a mystery. It's about what happened to Emeline and how Bill will go about tracking her down. It's about whether Bill will choose to do what is right and search for a long missing woman, or file the correct paperwork and move on with his life. But at it's heart, it's about identity. It's about Bill and Emeline finding who they are meant to be. 

Emeline's life has been completely shattered by the war and by the influenza that came after it. She has nothing left to hold on to. This story more than anything is about whether she'll ever be able to get away from the past and that was the mystery that kept me reading until the very last page. It wasn't about anything other than will Emeline ever find peace. 

The description is the best part of the book. The passages of wreckage and abandonment of the house where Emeline once lived and the ones of beauty and culture that form her new life. The food and people that she finds at the edge of France are so vividly described. 

This book is not for the hungry as there are many very detailed descriptions of food and cooking. I found it amazing that I was able to identify spices such as paprika from just a description of the tastes. 

A beautiful book that evokes every sense and falling deep into the narrative. 

My thanks go to Penguin Random House for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 13 March 2017

The Ship Beyond Time by Heidi Heilig

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 23rd of March 2017

Nix has spent her whole life journeying to places both real and imagined aboard her time-traveling father’s ship. And now it’s finally time for her to take the helm. Her father has given up his obsession to save her mother—and possibly erase Nix’s existence—and Nix’s future lies bright before her. Until she learns that she is destined to lose the one she loves. But her relationship with Kash—best friend, thief, charmer extraordinaire—is only just beginning. How can she bear to lose him? How can she bear to become as adrift and alone as her father?

Desperate to change her fate, Nix takes her crew to a mythical utopia to meet another Navigator who promises to teach her how to manipulate time. But everything in this utopia is constantly changing, and nothing is what it seems—not even her relationship with Kash. Nix must grapple with whether anyone can escape her destiny, her history, her choices.

What I Have to Say 

The perfect sequel to the wonderful The Girl From Everywhere. When I finished The Girl From Everywhere, I couldn't wait to explore more of the world, or should I say worlds, that Heilig has created and more of the mechanics of navigating. It's rare for a book to give you exactly what you want, but The Ship Beyond Time most definitely gave me everything I wanted and so much more. 

I enjoyed the philosophical questions that were raised throughout the book. The questions about whether or not the navigators should use their ability to change things, whether in the worlds of myth or history were so fascinating. And Kashmir's doubts about whether he was truly a real person if he had been created by Nix turning up in his home were just heartbreaking. 

I have just adored both these books. I'm not ready to leave the world of navigators behind yet, so I'm hoping  that Heilig will write more books about Navigating, if not about Nix and Kashmir. 

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

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The Chilbury Ladies Choir by Jennifer Ryan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: The Borough Press 
Released: 23rd of February 2017 

Summer, 1940. In the Kentish village of Chilbury some are unimpressed at the vicar's decision to close the church choir, since all the men have gone off to fight. But a new arrival prompts the creation of an all-female singing group and, as the women come together in song, they find the strength and initiative to confront their own dramatic affairs. 

Filled with intrigue, humour and touching warmth, and set against the devastating backdrop of WWII, this is a wonderfully spirited and big-hearted novel told through the voices of four marvellous and marvellously different females, who will win you over as much with their mischief as with their charm.

What I Have to Say 

This is a beautiful story of bravery, sisterhood and working hard to support the war effort. I wasn't sure how good it would be. I love stories about women stepping up and showing what they're capable of, but I wasn't sure how much more to it there would be. Church choirs in a small village? But it really showed a lot more depth to it than it first seemed. 

The book covered a lot of angles, from suspicious people who could be German spies, to homosexuality, to women supporting each other in a time of grief and turmoil. It really seemed to capture the essence of what it must have been like to be a women during the Second World War. 

The book is told through various different perspectives, each showing the life of a different woman in the choir and what it's like for them, setting up the new choir, coping with the bombs falling on their village and training to fight in case England gets invaded. 

This truly is a story about the power of women and what can be achieved. 

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

Thursday, 9 March 2017

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 507
Publisher: Orion Publishing 
Released: 9th of February 2017 

Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

What I Have to Say 

This series gets better with each book. This book is where the war between red and silver really begins. It was interesting to see the different perspectives in the book, to see the fight from three different sides, the things that Mare could find out from her place as Maven's captive, the red guard's actions from the point of view of Cameron and the political breakdown of Maven's rule from the point of view of Evangeline, who I'm starting to adore. 

What I liked most though was the way that Maven and Mare's relationship was treated. Obviously the love triangle between Mare, Cal and Maven has been evident from book one and I was worried that they would make him one of those character who is evil but still has the character's heart. But with Maven, the love is all one way. Mare despises him and reacts to his attempts at affection with revulsion and fear, in the way that she should after everything he's done. It's refreshing to see that even though there's some explanation for why he is the way he is, it's not a way to dismiss everything he's done and make him a viable love interest again. 

But of course Mare still has feelings for him. Not for Maven the king, but for the boy she thought she knew. The boy who was being controlled by his mother. The confusion in Mare was really interesting to see, the way she wanted to see the boy she remembered while still reminding herself constantly that he isn't that boy, that he's done a lot of harm even without his mother to force him to. 

This series is doing some really interesting things and I can't wait for the next book! 

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

Monday, 6 March 2017

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky  
Released: 7th of March 2017 

"My name is Liv (Not Olivia)... I'm not technically a girl.

I'm Transgender. Which is a bit like being a transformer. Only not quite as cool as cool because I probably won't get to save the world one day."

A Transformer is a robot in disguise. Liv is a boy in disguise. It's that simple. Liv knows he was always meant to be a boy, but with his new school's terrible dress code, he can't even wear pants. Only skirts.

Operation: Pants Project begins! The only way for Liv to get what he wants is to go after it himself. But to Liv, this isn't just a mission to change the policy- it's a mission to change his life. And that's a pretty big deal.

What I Have to Say 

This is a book that highlights how badly school dress code can be damaging to transgender teens. I grew up having skirts as the school uniform policy. Even while being cis, I hated it but even as I began to understand transgender and the issues surrounding it, it was never something that crossed my mind that would be a problem. This book opened my eyes to the small ways in which transgender kids can be hurt every day. 

I loved Liv as a character.  I love his love of comics and zombies and the way he builds up a good group of friends around him. Friends who don't care that acts differently to the girls in his class. The only problem is the bullies. And the skirt he has to wear every day. 

This is a story about activism and friendship. About finding who your friends really are. The only problem I had with it was the way they dealt with the bullying. It's the same way as bullying is dealt with in every other book. It's showing the textbook way of dealing with bullies and as most schoolchildren know, it just doesn't work. It felt a bit too moralistic of a story in that way. 

Really though, this is a story to inspire. It's a story of how you can change the world or at least your little bit of it. 

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

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 9th of February 2017 

Two teen theatre-fanatics. One dream. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP.

All-round theatre-enthusiast, Sarah - better known by her showbiz name, Sayde - is a girl with ambitions too big for the small and conventional town she lives in. Her life doesn't have the razzle-dazzle she craves. For once she wants to feel special, noticed and be the centre of attention.

This summer Sadye has her talents set on Wildewood's prestigious theatre summer camp. And with her best friend Demi - a flamboyant falsetto, who is equally thrilled to be leaving their small town of Brenton - they will both experience a season of hormones, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love and unitards! But despite all the glitz and glam, there comes rivalry and competition, and Sadye will have to prove her talents more than she has ever had to before. 

Summer at Wildewood will not only determine Sadye's future - but will also test her friendships.

What I Have to Say 

There were a lot of things I liked about this book and some things that I didn't. It was a good book. It was well written and had a really interesting way of telling the story by turning to the micro-recorder transcripts at time. I liked the characters and the whole atmosphere of the drama camp. 

But it got really intense with all the emotions that Sadye was struggling. Even though the signs that she was struggling were there from fairly early on, it still felt a bit like the carpet was pulled out from under me half way through. Like the fun story of drama camp that I'd signed up for was suddenly not the story that I ended up reading. Though I did like the ending. It was fitting and I felt it suited Sadye really well. 

I liked Demi. A lot. He was fun and dramatic and a really great personality. And I know that gay men have a huge history in finding a place to exist in musical theatre. I don't want to deny that by what I say next. But I just feel that it would have been much cooler with a gay girl and a straight guy. It would have changed the expectations and shaken things up a bit. 

Overall though, it was a really good book. It had a lot of very intense emotions and important things to say. 

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

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Dreadnought by April Daniels

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 276
Publisher: Diversion Publishing
Released: 24th of January 2017 

Danny Tozer has a problem: she just inherited the powers of Dreadnought, the world’s greatest superhero.

Until Dreadnought fell out of the sky and died right in front of her, Danny was trying to keep people from finding out she’s transgender. But before he expired, Dreadnought passed his mantle to her, and those secondhand superpowers transformed Danny’s body into what she’s always thought it should be. Now there’s no hiding that she’s a girl. 

It should be the happiest time of her life, but Danny’s first weeks finally living in a body that fits her are more difficult and complicated than she could have imagined. Between her father’s dangerous obsession with “curing” her girlhood, her best friend suddenly acting like he’s entitled to date her, and her fellow superheroes arguing over her place in their ranks, Danny feels like she’s in over her head.

She doesn’t have much time to adjust. Dreadnought’s murderer—a cyborg named Utopia—still haunts the streets of New Port City, threatening destruction. If Danny can’t sort through the confusion of coming out, master her powers, and stop Utopia in time, humanity faces extinction. 

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Transphobia, horrific transphobic slurs, language

What I Have to Say 

I don't know how to even start expressing the love I have for this book. It's a such a touching tale of a young girl fighting transphobia and her abusive father. Oh and she's also a superhero. 

This book is filled with scenes that are heartbreaking and show the true extent of the hate that some trans people experience. I was shocked and disgusted by some of the things show. To have Danny's parents and friends turn on her so badly just because she's actually a girl, let alone all the comments and actions of Graywytch and other members of the Legion who were against having a trans superhero on her team. It  overwhelmed me almost in tears to see the kind of language and insults that were being throw at a character who I loved from the first page of the book.

It's just so wonderful to see a book where it's not all about the issues involving transgender. Because guess what, trans people are more than just trans. They have other problems that don't relate to their gender. Problems like having to fight a supervillion intent on taking over the world. There's so many books that are condensed down to one issue that it's just so refreshing to see the message that these characters can do so much more than just fight to be seen. I hope to see this trend continue both in books about transgender and other diverse characters. 

It's clear from the way the book ended that Danny's fight both to save the world and to defend her status as the first transgender superhero. 

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