Saturday, 29 April 2017

An Italian Summer by Keris Stainton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 288
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 4th of May 2017 

It's been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie's dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer's here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy - but what's it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms - the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was ... 

With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again - gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with - or so she thinks. What's going to happen this time? What's more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky - Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn't know how she fits in any more. 

Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had? 

What I Have to Say 

This was a good story but there just wasn't much to grip me and make me want to read on. I liked the way it addressed grief and mourning and the effects it can have on people, but that's all it was. A journey of characters and how they recover. And for me, those books just aren't really enough. 

The three sisters were really interesting and I liked the way that they were different from each other. I also liked the descriptions of Rome. It made me really want to go on holiday, so I think the best time to read this is when you're on holiday. It would make a really great beach read. 

This is all I really have to say on it. Like I said, it's a good story, but it just wasn't for me. 

It would make a great beach read though. 

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

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 416 
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books 
Released: 4th of May 2017 

When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation.

Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

What I Have to Say 

Mostly, this book made me want to read Code Name Verity again. I'd forgotten how awesome Julie was as a character. This book was amazing and I loved it, but not as amazing as Code Name Verity was. I think it would take a lot to beat Code Name Verity though. 

The story was so good though. It really showed prejudice but also in a way that showed the privalidge that Julie had. I think it was especially interesting because it showed the Traveller's feeling annoyed when Julie did things for them, even when there really no choice for her in certain cases. I think it really helps show that even though we have the best of intentions, we still have so much privilege and we have to acknowledge it. It's definitely one of those cases where having a book about prejudice written from the point of view of a privileged white girl can actually address the issues in a good way. 

The mystery was really good too. I love how Wein makes you think that you know what happened, at least to a certain extent and then throws in a new piece of evidence that completely changes everything. It wasn't as big a reveal as with Code Name Verity, but it was still pretty awesome. 

I definitely need to read Code Name Verity again now. 

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

Monday, 24 April 2017

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 320 
Publisher: Pan Macmillan 
Released: 4th of May 2017 

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. 

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. 

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

What I Have to Say 

This is a great book about the ups and downs of life. Teddy and Alice haven't had the best of fortune in their lives, but when Teddy wins the lottery, it seems like their luck is going to turn, but it's not quite as easy as it seems. This book really looks into the expectations and media coverage that lottery winners get after their win. 

It wasn't as cute and relaxing to read as I've found Jennifer E. Smith's books before. It's not that the other books weren't deep, but I feel that because through most of the book Alice love for Teddy seems unrequited, it didn't have the romantic feel that the other books. I liked it a lot in other ways, but it wasn't what I'd been expecting. 

Alice's struggle was really interesting to read. I've read a lot of books about identity and trying to find out what you actually like rather than what you've felt pushed into and the fact that she honestly thought that she was happy until it was time to actually decide on a University felt quite realistic. Freezing when it comes to big decisions and putting it off because I don't want to face it, is something that I do a lot, so it felt very familiar to me. 

I'm not completely overwhelmed by this book but it was a good read. 

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

Saturday, 22 April 2017

My Life as a Bench by Jaq Hazell

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 234
Publisher: Nowness Books
Released: 2nd of May 2017

'There are so many benches lining the riverside, each and every one tragic in its own way.'

Ren Miller has died aged seventeen and yet her consciousness lives on, inhabiting her memorial bench by the River Thames in London.

Ren longs to be reunited with her boyfriend Gabe, but soon discovers why he has failed to visit. Devastated, she must learn to break through and talk to the living so she can reveal the truth about her tragic end.

What I Have to Say 

This book was so good! I think I would have read it in one sitting if it wasn't an eBook. Ren was such an interesting character, though maybe the fact that she was stuck as a bench had something to do with her. Still it was interesting to hear how she had run away from Devon to find her father and how she coped with living in London.

But the most important part was the bench. It's just such an interesting take on the afterlife, bringing the idea of ghosts and memorials together to have a person inhabit the object with their plaque on, leaving them to observe the world and relive their memories until they find release from the limbo they're stuck in.

The book would have been dull however, but for the mystery surrounding who had killed Ren and how exactly she had died. I liked the way Hazell teased the reader, throwing out several different hints about how she might die. The way he threw out the idea of gangs and knives and guns which could easily be foreshadowing or just a red herring.

This is definitely a book that I would recommend. It's just such an interesting premise and it was so well executed.

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

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Girl from the Tyne by Melody Sachs

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Zaffre
Released: 20th of April 2017 

Ballroom dancer Alice Rooney seduces Jack Wood, a local boy from a good Tyneside family. With a little one on the way, Jack is forced in to a shotgun marriage. He vows to protect his baby daughter but his marriage is volatile from the start.

Damaged by her own dysfunctional childhood Alice shows not a scrap of affection towards little Lizzie. As Alice feels more trapped and unhappy, Lizzie becomes the focus of her frustration and anger. Lizzie's saving grace is her loving grandmother, Mrs Wood, who does her best to improve life for her whenever she can.

When Jack is drafted in to the Air Force at the start of WWII, Lizzie is left alone with her unstable mother and life becomes almost unbearable. 

It's only when Mrs Wood steps in and introduce Lizzie to the Madame Bella's Academy for the theatrical arts, that Lizzie blossoms. Though still very young and innocent, will Lizzie fulfil her dream to escape her mother's clutches and leave Newcastle behind to pursue a glittering theatrical future? And will she be safe, if she does?

What I Have to Say 

I think I just prefer books with a more defined plot arc. Books like this where there isn't one are all well and good, but I spent most of the book waiting for the story to really start, not realising that it actually already had. I mean it wasn't a bad story. It was interesting to see Lizzie grow up and the way that the abuse of her mother had an effect on her. 

I do think that Lizzie grew up into a surprisingly good kid considering the lack of affection and the critical way her mother was towards her. I mean the amount of times Lizzie skipped meals to avoid conflict or was sent to bed without, I feel she probably should have been severely undernourished. Either way, I think that it was probably inaccurate that she would be such a put together person having grown up with a mother like that. 

It was interesting to see how the family all banded together to try and look after Lizzie as much as they could though. I've never thought about how things were before child services and how kids could just suffer all on their own like that, so it was nice that they showed that, but also showed the father and his family doing what they could to support Lizzie and give her time away from her mother. 

I would have enjoyed it better if it had been a more focused plot but it was a fairly good book overall. 

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

Monday, 17 April 2017

The Cows by Dawn O'Porter

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 464
Publisher: Harper Collins 
Released: 6th of April 2017 

COW [n.]

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

THE COWS is a powerful novel about three women. In all the noise of modern life, each needs to find their own voice.

It’s about friendship and being female.
It’s bold and brilliant.
It’s searingly perceptive.
It's about never following the herd.

And everyone is going to be talking about it.

What I Have to Say 

This book really wasn't my thing. I just don't like too much sex in books. I get that the book was all about encouraging women to speak up about sex and everything, but for me, male or female, I'm just not interested in that much sex. I prefer different kind of stories. 

I also don't think the whole video going viral subplot was that realistic. I think that a video of that kind of content would get flagged as sensitive pretty quickly and removed. Even if people kept reposting it, I just don't think that a video of that nature would get the kind of traction needed to become a viral sensation like that. A thing that I think would have made this part of the plot better would be if more had been made about the fact that she'd been filmed without her consent. I would have been far more interested had Tara tried to get legal action taken against the boy who filmed her. 

Another thing I did like was the question of whether the father has the right to know about a pregnancy. It was interesting the way both sides were shown and it honestly has me questioning my opinion on the subject. The whole controversy over Annie's father and the way that Tara found out what he thought on the matter really has me thinking that sometimes keeping a child's father from knowing is the kinder thing to do. 

I'm sad because I really like Dawn O'Porter's writing, but like I said, this book just really wasn't my kind of think. 

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

Saturday, 15 April 2017

The House of Mountfathom by Nigel McDowell

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 9th of March 2017 

Luke Mountfathom knows he is special and odd. He is told so by everyone he knows. His parents are special and odd too - they are the keepers of the House of Mountfathom, a magnificent stately home where the wrong door could take you to a far away land, and strange animals appear to stalk the grounds at midnight. The house is his home - but it is also the headquarters of the Driochta, a magic-weaving group of poets, artists, politicians and activists charged with keeping the peace in Ireland. They have many powers - have mastered Mirror-Predicting and Smoke-Summoning and Storm-Breaching - and a final ability: that of Mogrifying; taking on a unique animal form.

But Luke's idyllic existence at Mountfathom cannot last. Word reaches the House of protests across Ireland. There is a wish for independence, a rising discontent and scenes of violence that even the Driochta cannot control. In Dublin, death and disease is running rife in the tenements; a darkness is clogging the air, and is intent on staying. And when things quickly spin out of control for the Driochta, it is up to Luke, his cat Morrigan and his best friend Killian to worm out the heart of the evil in their land.

What I Have to Say 

This was another book that I just couldn't get into. I liked the opening, with the magic of the house and the way it was written, but after that, not much seemed to happen for most of the book. It was just Luke growing up and learning magic with a couple of adventures scattered in. I have to admit that I was completely bored. 

It's a real shame because I really liked the way that the magic system worked. I love the house and the way that it was all blended in with Irish history. 

It was a story that I could have really enjoyed if more had just happened in it. But as it was all the action was left until the last bit of the book and by that time I just wanted to finish with it and move onto something else. 

I really wish I could have liked this book, but I just didn't. 

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

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Out of Heart by Irfan Master

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 272
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 20th of April 2017 

Donating your heart is the most precious gift of all.

Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and younger sister. His dad has left them although lives close by. His sister no longer speaks. His mum works two jobs. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift - his heart. 

William is the recipient of Adam's grandfather's heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam's family. 

William has received much, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too.

What I Have to Say 

This was a good story, but the way it was written didn't click with me. It was too arty, with all the words suddenly appearing in the text. I think that's a big reason as to why I didn't get on with it. It was easier as I got on through the story and as I began to engage with the characters, but it didn't make that much of a difference. 

I liked Adam as a character. I liked his drawing and the way he is with his sister. I also liked the graffiti and the way that Adam wanted to leave his mark on the world. How he wanted to show what was in his head to more people. 

I still think it's a bit weird how the family treated William. I mean what kind of people just accept someone who shows up on their doorstep into their home like that? But I understood it more as it went on. 

It would have been nice to connect more with this book, I think I would have really enjoyed it if I hadn't been so put off by the style. 

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

Monday, 10 April 2017

And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 352
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Released: 6th of April 2017

A road-trip story about following your dreams and embracing the unexpected.

Megan knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents say.

Elliott has given up on all his plans for the future – but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever.

Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead…

What I Have to Say 

I wasn't sure about this book. It was a good enough story and there were moments that I really liked, but it didn't leave much of an impression on me. The character's were cool. I liked Megan and her wild ideas. I liked the way that Elliott knew how Megan was with her crazy ideas and how willing he was to go along with her idea. 

I liked the way it ended too. It was such a desperate scheme that I knew it probably all work out the way they planned it to. So I'd guessed pretty much how it would end, at least for Megan. But I like the way it came together quite neatly, even if I was rooting for them to pull it all off. 

I wasn't sure about the treatment of grief in the book. I guess that most of the grief really takes place before the book starts. Megan has reach a point where she's ready to move on and become her own person, even if her parents still weren't. 

So basically, I enjoyed reading this book, but it wasn't one that is especially good or especially bad. It was interesting but not anything special. 

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

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Girls Can't Hit by T.S Easton

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 267
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 20th of April 2017 

Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously - until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She's the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction.

So she goes back the next week, determined to improve. Fleur's overprotective mum can't abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won't she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don't get it either and even her boyfriend, 'Prince' George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite - but it's Fleur's body, Fleur's life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training.

What I Have to Say 

This is the sort of book that even if you have no prior interest in boxing will make you want to start. T. S Easton is great at humour and feminism. I enjoyed Boys Don't Knit immensely, so I knew I would feel the same about Girls Can't hit, but I feel that sometimes his characters are a bit dumb. I know it's meant to be funny when someone confuses Celine Dion with Joan of Arc, and I'm sure that people exist who do, but for me it just makes me feel secondhand embarrassment. I much preferred her mixing up the dates. 

Other than that, Fleur was a great character. She and her friends felt really real and easy to relate to. Her journey to discover boxing and how to stand up for what she wants rather than just go with the flow was a great one and I think every young girl should read it. 

I also wish I could be a fit as she came to be. Easton's description of the way her body and health was refined by the exercise was truly inspiring. As I said, it'll make anyone want to pick up the boxing gloves and get as fit and healthy as she did. 

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

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 480
Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books 
Released: 6th of April 2017 

In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose - to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge. 

Trigger Warning: Rape, Abuse, Suicide, Depression, Miscarriage 

What I Have to Say 

The first of these books was okay. It was a bit slow, but it had a fairly good story. I liked it enough to want to read more, especially since Naondel is more of a prequel, showing the women who founded the Red Abbey. I was looking forward to seeing their journey and how they voyaged across to find the island. But what I got was just a lot of rape. 

I don't mind reading about rape any more than I mind reading about murder or abuse. If it's important to the story and written in a way that doesn't glorify it, I'm okay with it. But this book just had so much of it. There were about three girls in the whole novel who weren't raped. It was awful and I didn't really want to read on. This is a book about the oppression of women. I knew that going in. But there are other ways to oppress women. I expected a bit of abuse. I thought there probably would be some sort of rape or forced marriage, but this was just too much. Turtshaninoff didn't bother thinking of any other ways of oppressing women. I expected a feminist book about women fighting against oppression, but I honestly don't think this was very feminist at all. 

I'd also been looking forward to seeing the women sailing across the sea, maybe a bit of them setting up the island and working out the rules. I got about a paragraph summarizing their journey. I'd have rather this paragraph have been extended and made up the bulk of the book. 

There are so many ways they could have shown this book without so much detail about the rapes. It didn't have to be the way it was. They could have glossed over it, faded to black. Anything so I didn't have to read it all. But they didn't and so I hated this book. 

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

Monday, 3 April 2017

Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Stripes Publishing 
Released: 9th of March 2017 

When Mary Adams sees Millais’ depiction of the tragic Ophelia, a whole new world opens up for her. Determined to find out more about the beautiful girl in the painting, she hears the story of Lizzie Siddal – a girl from a modest background, not unlike her own, who has found fame and fortune against the odds. Mary sets out to become a Pre-Raphaelite muse, too, and reinvents herself as Persephone Lavelle. But as she fights her way to become the new face of London’s glittering art scene, ‘Persephone’ ends up mingling with some of the city’s more nefarious types and is forced to make some impossible choices.

Will Persephone be forced to betray those she loves, and even the person she once was, if she is to achieve her dreams?

What I Have to Say 

I feel this book really captured the feel of the Pre-Raphaelite spirit for me. Having had a small interest in the paintings and general history of the Pre-Raphaelites, I'm far from an expert, but I know a bit about them and I just felt that this was a good introduction to the artistic movement. 

Though I did feel that the whole scandal of it was a little tamed down. Obviously for younger readers, a lot of the things the brotherhood got up to would have been too much, but Mary was engaging in her own scandal as if it was nothing. For any girl to become and artist's model was a hugely massive scandal.Yet Mary was more worried about getting found out and losing her job. Her reputation was a small worry in her mind, but she didn't seem to think about the fact that even if she didn't do anything, people would assume she had. 

Aside from this one thing, the book was brilliant. I loved the story, I loved Mary's character and I loved the adventures of Persephone Lavelle. It was well told and had the right balance of the history, historical figures and pure fiction. 

This is definitely a great introduction to the world of the Pre-Raphaelites. 

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

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Mirror Magic by Linda Chapman (illustrated by Lucy Fleming)

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 160
Publisher: Stripes Publishing 
Released: 6th of April 2017 

Do you believe in magic?

Maia and her friends do! And when they meet the Star Animals, a whole world of magical adventure unfolds.

When Maia meets Bracken, a fox with indigo eyes, she is amazed at how beautiful and unusual it is. Then she realizes that she can hear the fox speaking to her! Maia and her friends are Star Friends – girls who can use magic to keep the world in harmony.

Maia’s older sister has started acting strangely and the Star Animals sense dark magic at work. Can the girls use their newfound Star Magic to help them put a stop to it?

What I Have to Say 

This is a cute series with such a good message at the heart of it. The Star Friends fight of bad magic and create a better world. In the case of this book, it's a mirror which puts feelings of jealousy and inadequacy into the mind of Maia's older sister. 

The animals are cute and the girls are diverse. Their magic is interesting as it takes on a different form for each other the girls. Whether it's healing, athletic skill or the ability to see into the future, each girl gets a power suitable for their personalities. 

I think that this is a great book of empowerment  and magic for any younger reader. 

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