Saturday, 30 June 2018

The Electrical Venus by Julie Mayhew

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Released: 19th of April 2018 

Can this shocking new feeling be love, or is it electrickery?

In a lowly side-show fair in eighteenth-century England, teenager Mim is struggling to find her worth as an act. Not white, but not black enough to be truly exotic, her pet parrot who speaks four languages is a bigger draw than her. But Alex, the one-armed boxer boy, sees her differently. And she, too, feels newly interested in him.

But then Dr Fox arrives with his scientific kit for producing 'electrickery' - feats of electrical magic these bawdy audiences have never seen before. To complete his act, Fox chooses Mim to play the 'Electrical Venus'. Her popularity - and the electric-shocking kisses she can provide for a penny - mean takings are up, slop is off the menu and this spark between her and Fox must surely be love. 

But is this starring role her true worth, or is love worth more than a penny for an electrifying kiss?

What I Have to Say 

In general, I liked this book. I liked the characters and the way they spoke. I felt that the way that it was written as them talking to various animals was very interesting and made it feel quite different from a lot of the books I've read recently. 

My main hang up was the amount of racism in the book. Obviously it's a topic that should be discussed, but when reading historical books such I this, I do wonder if it shouldn't be discussed more sensitively. There's showing racism as an every day occurrence and there's writing it as though it doesn't matter when words and insults are thrown at these characters. With just a few tweaks to show the damage and upset that it's causing the characters, I feel like it wouldn't have seemed like the racism was just being dismissed as normal. 

Other than that, I really have no complaints. I liked the story and it was the gripping, suspenseful kind of writing that I've come to expect from Julie Mayhew. A good book in general. 

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

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Tradition by Brendan Kiely

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Penguin
Released: 3rd of May 2018 

Powerful. Privileged. Popular.

The students at Fullbrook Academy are the elite of the elite, famous for their glamour and excess. Their traditions are sacred. But they can hide dark and dangerous secrets.

Jules is in her senior year with one goal: to get out and start her life at college.

Jamie is a sports star on a scholarship; Fullbrook is his chance to escape his past.

After a school party ends in disaster, the two of them discover a terrible truth. Can the two of them stand together against Fulbrook's most toxic traditions?

What I Have to Say 

This is an important book about privilege and tradition and how that can translate into rape culture at an elite boarding school. It's about standing up and changing things. 

Jules is a feminist. Right from the start of the book, she's standing up and trying to make the school a better place by handing out leaflets about women's health to the incoming freshmen students. Jamie is a little different. He's very much the big burly football player, coming into Fullbrook for a clean slate after bad things happened in his home town. It's hard at first to work out what his role in the story is, but I liked the way he changed over time and grew closer to Jules and the others. 

The way that the school handles things. The way that Jules is shut down and silent at every time that she tries to stand up for what's right, shows how important it is to stand up for what's right in every way you can. 

It's definitely a book that will stay with me for a long time, the iconic scenes that I'll remember long after I've forgotten many of the other books I've read this year. A must read for anyone who cares about feminist issues and activism. 

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

Monday, 25 June 2018

Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 353
Publisher: Simon Pulse 
Released: 26th of September 2017 

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

What I Have to Say 

This book touched me so much. It went beyond a question of identity and showed how it feels to be a girl who is pretty much completely ignored by her mother. A girl who's entire life has been living in a household where half of her identity is completely ignored. Having divorced Kiko's father, her mother refuses to engage in anything Japanese. The idea of living like that touched me so much. 

So of course, it was good to see Kiko exploring her Japanese side. I loved watching her come out of herself. Seeing for the first time that someone who looked like her could exist in the world and was just as worthwhile as her white mother and the faces she sees in magazines. It was also interesting to see how her and her brothers coped with their mother's neglect so differently. 

I also loved the art theme of the book. The way that art was really essential to everything. The pictures that Kiko saw leading her to an artist who can help her explore her identity and change her life forever. 

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

Saturday, 23 June 2018

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Synopsis (From Goodreads

Pages: 358
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 6th of March 2018 

Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

What I Have to Say 

This is the retelling of The Little Mermaid that we needed. I loved it from the start. Lira was the best siren that I've ever seen. I loved how much of a monster she was. It made sure that you knew how different it would be from the original story right from the very beginning. 

I also liked watching Lira change. The way she became more human the more time she spent with the crew. For someone that is so feral to begin with, I found it fascinating to watch. I loved Elian and his crew as well. They were exactly what I always want from books of this kind. I loved their humour. I loved their camaraderie. 

Though maybe a tiny bit predictable in regards to the romance, it really was a lovely fresh take on The Little Mermaid and a story that I have been needing in my life for so long. 

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

Thursday, 21 June 2018

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
Released: 14th of June 2018 

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts.

But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence.

This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking.

What I Have to Say 

I think Dee Montgomery is one of my new favourite characters. Though Reagan is the protagonist and she was great as well, Dee was just a beautifully layered character, with her showbiz persona of Lilah and her true self Dee, she brought a fantastic insight into how a showbiz persona can be both honest and different. Because Lilah was Dee in the end. The girl she showed to the public may have been a bit more polished and presented, but she was still completely recognisable as Reagan's best friend Dee. 

I love a good friendship story and Dee and Reagan's friendship made a really good one. It was good to see a friendship surviving the pressures of stardom and a boy coming in who wasn't in any way for the girls to fight over, which I thought might happen when he was first introduced. 

Dee and Reagan have such different stories as well. Their former relationships are full of heartbreak and upset, but they still face the same dilemma in the end. The question of whether it's worth it to put your heart out there. 

A good book for anyone who's a fan of strong friendships and a little bit of romance. 

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

Monday, 18 June 2018

Ascension by Victor Dixen

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 496
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 28th of June 2018 

Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world's craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.

Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones. 
She has signed up for glory.
She has signed up for love.
She has signed up for a one-way ticket.
Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets.

What I Have to Say 

I was intrigued by the idea of this book, but nothing prepared me for how good it really was. It's a cute idea,  but nothing is cute about the book itself. Everyone on board the ship (and many of the people left behind on earth) has a secret and as the secrets are slowly revealed and kept hidden, things get dramatic, ending in a cliff-hanger that will make you count down the days until the next book is released. 

We see most of the ship-board action through Leonor's eyes and I loved her as a character. She was so determined to find a new life on Mars, despite the reasons she felt would hold her back. I loved seeing her meet the different boys and discover the secrets about the Genesis programme. Her no-nonsense approach to trying to decide which boy to marry was a good way to view the book through unromantic eyes and even better when she started to feel things along the way. 

Whatever you expect from this book, I can guarantee it will surprise you in some way. It's so compelling with so many secrets that it's just impossible to put down. This is definitely going to book I'll remember for a long time.

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

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 8th of March 2018

It's a food diary. I have to tell the truth. That's the point.

Bluebelle, aka BB, aka Big Bones - is a sixteen-year-old girl encouraged to tackle her weight even though she's perfectly happy, thank you, and getting on with her life and in love with food. 

Then a tragedy in the family forces BB to find a new relationship with her body and herself. . .

Tuck in for best mates, belly laughs, boys and the best Bakewell tart.

What I Have to Do

This book was brilliant. It was essentially a young girl exploring her relationship with food. It wasn't about comfort eating or junk food or any of the other things that a lot of people associate with fat girls. It was about a true foodie who wasn't ashamed of enjoying eating. The way she described food was beautiful and perfect and really summed up her character for me more than anything. As a bit of a foodie myself, I loved reading her thoughts on food. 

And while this book is unashamedly pro-food, it also didn't shy away from the fact that being overweight is unhealthy. Although BB took a while to be convinced that her weight was a bad thing, it managed to balance the issues of weight and liking your body without glorifying the problem. There were no fad diets or extremes either way, it truly was just an exploration of how much we eat and exercise and finding a healthy balance. It makes a very good point that our culture makes it seem like exercise is uncool, while secretly most people are doing it behind closed doors. 

This book truly touched me. BB is such a likeable character and it was fun to explore the issues through her eyes. The book devastated me with the downs and made me laugh and smile with it's ups as well as leaving me with just so much to think about. 

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

Thursday, 14 June 2018

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 320
Publisher: Orchard Books 
Released: 27th of March 2018 

Dear Logan,
Someday I'm going to write a book: How Not to Die in Alaska - A Girl's Guide to Fashionable Survival.

I bet you don't know that a hair pin can make an excellent fishing hook. You may think you can use just any kind of mud for mud masks, but trust me, you CAN'T! In a pinch, nothing starts a fire like nail polish remover. Alaska is tough. You might know this, if you ever replied to my letters.

After Maddie's Secret Service dad takes a bullet for the president, he takes Maddie somewhere he thinks they'll be safe - far away from the White House and the president's son, Logan.

But when Logan comes to Alaska, so does the danger.

If there's one thing Alaska has taught Maddie, it's how to survive. And now her best friend's life depends on it ... 

What I Have to Say 

This was exactly what I always expect from Ally Carter, but also something completely new and different. It had the same strong female characters and believable romance. It had the same spotlight on teenagers who are in different situations, from spy school to children (and grandchildren) of ambassadors and now to the president's son and the daughter of a former head of the security detail. 

But it also had a stronger emphasis on survival. Not just of survival against the bad guys who wanted them kidnapped (which of course there was plenty) but survival against the very environment, the empty forests of Alaska, in which everything from the bears to the berries to the abundance of snow and not a lot of food and warmth wants to kill you. 

It was a perfectly combination of the things that always draw me to Ally Carter's book and this whole new story of survival.

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

Monday, 11 June 2018

Hope is Our Only Wing by Rutendo Tavengerwei

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 304
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 3rd of May 2018 

For fifteen-year-old Shamiso, struggling with grief and bewilderment following her father's death, hope is nothing but a leap into darkness. 

For Tanyaradzwa, whose life has been turned upside down by a cancer diagnosis, hope is the only reason to keep fighting. 

As the two of them form an unlikely friendship, Shamiso begins to confront her terrible fear of loss. In getting close to another person, particularly someone who's ill, isn't she just opening herself up to more pain? And underpinning it all - what did happen to her father, the night of that strange and implausible car crash? 

What I Have to Say 

This book was so sad! Right from the start it dealt with issues that are familiar, Cancer, grief, in a country that is very different, one that's struggling with it's economy. Zimbabwe is not a country I know that well, so it was really interesting to see it and to feel the issues on a personal level, with the characters caught up in it all. 

The characters were easy to relate to. Shamiso was having to get used to living in Zimbabwe, having to leave all of her friends behind. Her friendship with Tanyaradzwa was interesting, seeing her push her away so much even though Tanyaradzwa had just as much reason not to pursue a relationship. 

The mystery was good, but I didn't really get into it that much. I don't know why but I just didn't really care that much about how it turned out. I don't often get that way about mysteries. 

It was still a good book though. I enjoyed reading it. If anything, it was a bit short and it maybe would have grabbed my attention more if it was longer and the story was more complex. 

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

Saturday, 9 June 2018

The Life of a Banana by PP Wong

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 270
Publisher: Legend Press 
Released: 1st of September 2018 

Xing Li is what some Chinese people call a banana - yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Although born and raised in London, she never feels like she fits in. When her mother dies, she moves with her older brother to live with venomous Grandma, strange Uncle Ho and Hollywood actress Auntie Mei. Her only friend is Jay - a mixed raced Jamaican boy with a passion for classical music.

Then Xing Li's life takes an even harsher turn: the school bullying escalates and her uncle requests she assist him in an unthinkable favour. Her happy childhood becomes a distant memory as her new life is infiltrated with the harsh reality of being an ethnic minority.

Consumed by secrets, violence and confusing family relations, Xing Li tries to find hope wherever she can. In order to find her own identity, she must first discover what it means to be both Chinese and British.

What I Have to Say 

I didn't like this book much. For one thing, I think Xing Li was written a bit too young for me. Perhaps a younger reader would like the way the books written better, but a lot of things just annoyed me. I would have thought a twelve year old would know what tablets look like and not have to put them in her mouth to find out they're not sweets. Also she lives in London so I don't see why she wouldn't know how to spell Trafalgar. But even if she does't know how to spell Trafalgar or Wagner, or any of the other words the author deliberately misspelled in this book,  I don't think they need to be written out like that. The voice was fine without misspellings and I still can't work out who she was meaning by "Bart". 

I also didn't really like the way that Uncle Ho was written. I can understand why the family would treat him like that, not knowing what to do about him and not wanting to seek advice, but the author didn't use a lot of tact when writing about him. He was constantly referred to as strange and there was rarely any sympathy for him from the narrator. I feel that authors have a responsibility to show that people shouldn't be seen in that way, regardless of how the characters act towards him. 

In short, this just wasn't the book for me at all. I think younger readers could enjoy it, but the treatment of mental health (or whatever it was that Uncle Ho suffered from) was really awful. 

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

Thursday, 7 June 2018

Smoke in the Sun by Renée Ahdieh

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 432
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: 5th of June 2018

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice - to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor's ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire.

What I Have to Say 

I am so upset that this is only a duology! I am so far from ready to leave these characters and this world that Ahdieh has created. I want a whole series, not just two books. I love the powerful female characters, Mariko and Yumi at the forefront and the two mothers of the emperor's sons, pulling the strings from behind the screen. 

I loved how so much of Mariko's role in this book was based around her playing the harmless girl, allowing herself to be Raiden's bride, finding out what she can and then sneaking around in the night. Not enough books show this sort of strength and intelligence but it's as much the role of a ninja as jumping over rooftops and whirling around nunchunks. It was so great to see not one but two strong kunoichi showing their skills. 

I loved the male characters as well, though I felt that they were not written as well as the female characters. I liked to see Kenshin and Raiden and how our view of them was changed as the book went. 

I've been meaning to read Ahdieh's other books for a while and now I can't wait to get into them. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 4 June 2018

Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 240
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 14th of June 2018 

Bennett's Bookshop has always been a haven for sixteen-year-old Paige Turner. It's a place where she can escape from her sleepy hometown, hang out with her best friend, Holly, and also earn some money.

But, like so many bookshops, Bennett's has become a 'casualty of the high street' - it's strapped for cash and going to be torn down. Paige is determined to save it but mobilising a small town like Greysworth is no mean feat.

Time is ticking - but that's not the only problem Paige has. How is she going to fend off the attractions of beautiful fellow artist, Blaine? And, more importantly, will his anarchist ways make or break her bookshop campaign?

What I Have to Say 

This was really, really not the book for me. I'm just not a fan of the cringy teenage girls embarrassing themselves in front of their crush at every turn type of book. I just don't like the second hand embarrassment. It's okay in some books, but I think there is a balance that needs to be achieved. This was way too much. It was like Paige was doing something completely ridiculous and cringe-worthy on every single page. 

The plot wasn't that great either. I found it predictable in so many ways, from the total tool that Paige decided to be totally in love with, and embarrass herself in front of every single time that he turns up to the random subplots that had absolutely nothing to do with anything. I mean did we really need the bit with the bath bomb or the dead cat? What even was that? 

In short, this was just not my sort of book. I didn't enjoy this sort of thing when I was a teenager and I don't now. It might be better for someone who's more into that kind of thing, but I'm honestly not sure. 

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

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Little Liar by Julia Gray

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 384
Publisher: Anderson 
Released: 7th of June 2018 

 Nora has lied about many things. But has she told her most dangerous lie of all?

There’s a new art assistant at Nora’s school, and he’s crossed a line. Nora decides to teach him a lesson he won’t forget.
But not everything goes quite to plan, and Nora needs an escape. She befriends the rich and talented Bel, who longs for a part in a remake of a famous film. Bel is unpredictable, jealous and crazy, but she opens up a new world for Nora, and that makes her irresistible. 
As events start to spin wildly out of control, Nora must decide where her loyalties lie – and what deceits she can get away with.

What I Have to Say 

This book gripped me right from the very start. There was so much mystery, so much happening and  a main character who couldn't be trusted, let alone believed. Little Liar was such a good story that was impossible to predict. I loved Nora so much, despite how much she lied and how awful she was to the people around her, there was something about her that made me want her to succeed. Despite being a terrible person, she was incredibly likable. 

Bel also was a great character. She made me think a lot about the manic pixie dream girl trope and how there is a friendship version as well. Bel is beautiful and unpredictable and spontaneous. There are often books about quiet girls befriending girls like her and having their world changed around them. Of course it usually ends in tears. 

Little Liar was no exception and I enjoyed the book right until the very end. I was very sorry to finish it and have no more to read. I'm really excited to explore other books by Julia Gray. 

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