Friday, 17 February 2017

Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas - review




Publisher: Bloomsbury children's books (22nd February 2017)

Ollie and Moritz might never meet, but their friendship knows no bounds. Their letters carry on as Ollie embarks on his first road trip away from the woods--no easy feat for a boy allergic to electricity--and Moritz decides which new school would best suit an eyeless boy who prefers to be alone. 


Along the way they meet other teens like them, other products of strange science who lead seemingly normal lives in ways Ollie and Moritz never imagined possible: a boy who jokes about his atypical skeleton; an aspiring actress who hides a strange deformity; a track star whose abnormal heart propels her to victory. Suddenly the future feels wide open for two former hermits. But even as Ollie and Moritz dare to enjoy life, they can't escape their past, which threatens to destroy any progress they've made. Can these boys ever find their place in a world that might never understand them? (Publishers' blurb)

Because you'll never meet me was a book that was recommended to me at YALC and I started reading without knowing much about it. It's still one of my favourites and is a book that has really stayed with me. 

'Nowhere Near You' had just as strong an emotional impact on me. I adored Ollie and Moritz in both books, especially the way they compliment each other. It's a really interesting idea to blend real conditions with science-fiction elements and it was great to see how their characters developed over this book. 

The letter writing format continued to work really well, allowing the characters (especially Ollie) to withhold information and for their stories to unravel in pieces. Their voices are very distinct from one another and also come across as very realistic.

One of my favourite aspects was how this book maintained the emotional highs and lows that characterised the last book. Nowhere near you upped the ante by testing Ollie and Moritz with new circumstances and their continued separation. 

This is a warm, emotional book that made me think and made me love these characters even more. 





If you liked the sound of this, now try Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

The Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles - Review


Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's Books (1st February 2017)

For the perfect love, what would you be willing to lose?

It's been a shattering year for seventeen-year-old Zoe, who's still reeling from her father's shocking death in a caving accident and her neighbors' mysterious disappearance from their own home. Then on a terrifying subzero, blizzardy night in Montana, she and her brother are brutally attacked in the woods--only to be rescued by a mysterious bounty hunter they call X.

X is no ordinary bounty hunter. He is from a hell called the Lowlands, sent to claim the soul of Zoe's evil attacker and others like him. X is forbidden from revealing himself to anyone other than his prey, but he casts aside the Lowlands' rules for Zoe. As they learn more about their colliding worlds, they begin to question the past, their fate, and their future. But escaping the Lowlands and the ties that bind X might mean the ultimate sacrifice for them both. (Publishers' Blurb)



I didn't know much about this book when I started it and I found it electrifying from the beginning! One of the best things was that there were high stakes and a lot of conflict from the outset.

I also found the concept of the book unique. I enjoyed the opportunity to explore X's life in the Lowlands and the moral battles he faced. This book went into some very dark places and didn't shy away from difficult subjects. I wasn't keen on a couple of plot points, but overall I found the story very strong and exciting.

Zoe is one of my favourite characters that I've encountered for a long time. I loved her relationship with her friends and found her to be a very complex, well-developed character. The teen voices came across as authentic (and were often very funny!)

I really liked the balance of action and romance in this book and the climax was excruciating (in a good way.)

I loved the contemporary feel blended with original, fantastical elements and I'm already looking forward to the sequel!




Sunday, 5 February 2017

The Cruelty by Scott Bergstrom - Review




Publisher: Walker Books (9th February 2017)
When Gwendolyn Bloom realizes that her father has been kidnapped, she has to take matters into her own hands. She traces him from New York City across the dark underbelly of Europe, taking on a new identity to survive in a world of brutal criminal masterminds. As she slowly leaves behind her schoolgirl self, she realizes that she must learn the terrifying truth about herself. To overcome the cruelty she encounters, she must also embrace it.
I didn’t know what to expect from this book, except that I found the blurb super intriguing. The Cruelty is one of the most exciting books that I've read for a long time. It's fast paced, disturbing and utterly gripping.

I've never read a YA thriller that deals with a frightening underworld of criminals in such a believable, visceral way.
Gwendolyn is a brilliant character, who has to explore some very dark places in the world and inside herself to seek her father. It was fascinating to watch her develop and I loved how the book made me think about the moral dilemmas that Gwendolyn faced.

She also meets some fascinating characters on her journey, all of whom felt realistic and well-developed (even those she met for only a short time).

The settings were another real strength. Over the course of the book, there were some incredible locations and the descriptions captured them in vivid and sometimes terrible detail.
This is a dark, unique and thrilling book. At the time of writing this blog, the ebook is only 98p on Kindle - go go go!




If you liked the sound of this, now try the Blood for Blood trilogy by Catherine Doyle.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Cruel Summer by Juno Dawson - Review

Cruel summer.jpg


Publisher: Orion Children’s Books (August 2014)


One year after the suicide of their friend Janey, the rest of the group decide to spend the summer together in a holiday villa in the Mediterranean. They're hoping to get over the terrible events of the previous year, but then a new guest arrives, claiming to have evidence that Janey's suicide was actually murder. When the guest is found dead, it becomes clear that the killer must be one of the group - but who is it? And will they strike again? (Publishers’ blurb)


I read this book as part of the British Books Challenge 2017. I’ll definitely be picking up more Juno Dawson books after reading Cruel Summer!


This came highly recommended on Twitter and I was so excited to read a YA horror! It's a fast paced, funny and also very tense book that reminded me of the best Point Horrors.


I loved all of the main characters (especially Ryan). The structure of alternating between their third person viewpoints worked really well, especially as the end drew near and I was trying to work out who the killer was.


This was a very well-plotted book, with good use of clues and flashbacks that left me guessing until the end. There were a couple of plot points that I questioned (such as why they didn’t leave immediately when they realised one of them was a murderer), but overall the plotting was great.


I also liked the fact that Ryan thought of his life like a TV show, as this felt very fresh and it gave the book a cinematic quality.

It only took me a day to read this book because I found it so engrossing. If you want a fun, action-filled horror then this is the book for you!







Sunday, 29 January 2017

Chasing Shadows Blog Tour



This is the last stop on the blog tour for 'Chasing Shadows' by T.A. Williams. Let me tell you a little bit about the book and then we'll get to the review.


Amy had it all – money, brains and beauty. And then the accident happened.
The Present Day: Left blind and without her family, Amy feels she needs to get away. On a trip along the Camino, she is accompanied by the mysterious and troubled Luke. Having been set up to help Amy by a mutual friend, Luke finds he is also running from his past…

1314: A Templar Knight, Luc, is also running. He meets the wife of a former comrade, now blinded in a terrifying attack: Aimee. Taking her under his wing, they must journey together through a dangerous world.

As they travel through the stunning scenery of Northern Spain, this couple, so very like Luke and Amy, emerge from the shadows of time carrying a treasure of inestimable value. (Publishers' blurb)

I don't read much historical fiction but I was really excited by this blurb. I found this an enjoyable, romantic read and I really liked the historical elements. 

My favourite aspect of this book was the modern story line running alongside the historical one. It definitely kept me interested and was easier to follow than I expected. I loved the fact that Amy and Luke were researching the time period and visiting the locations from the time of the Templars.

The historical aspects were threaded neatly into the narrative, without feeling overpowering, and felt well researched. I also enjoyed the modern Spanish setting and found it very authentic.  

Some elements of this book were a little predictable and I found the fixation on Amy's beauty to be distracting at times.

Despite that, I really liked Amy and Luke as characters. It was refreshing to read about a blind character, especially one portrayed as a rounded person where her blindness is only one aspect. On Jess Hearts Books' blog tour spot (which you can read here), I learned that the author T.A. Williams gave a lot of thought to the writing of a blind character and I think this showed.

After reading this, I'm determined to read more historical fiction and I'll check out more of T.A. Williams' books in future. 










Friday, 20 January 2017

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr - review


Publisher: Penguin

Please note that I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest, impartial review.

I read this book as part of the British Books Challenge, which is a wonderful opportunity to read more British Books. If you want to sign up, you can do so here.


HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN'T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?
I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can't remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn't, and the next day she remembers it. It's the first time she's remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone. She thinks he's moved to the Arctic. Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?


I've recommended this book to anyone who will listen! It's a long time since I've read a book that provoked such a strong emotional response in me. 

One of my favourite parts was trying to unpick the questions posed in the blurb - who can Flora trust? Which memories can she rely on as being true? The book is very cleverly plotted, with the reader trying to work things out as Flora does. It was so interesting and devastating to watch her trying to piece everything together, sometimes with less success than she's had before. 

I loved Flora's sweet, optimistic naivety and I really wanted things to go well for her. The climax of the book is utterly brilliant and made me feel a whole host of emotions. Flora's voice comes through really strongly, creating an authentic reading experience.

Another massive strength was the secondary characters. Flora's relationship with her parents was believable and her mum's struggles were portrayed really well. I also got very attached to her brother Jacob. He was so supportive and lovely!

This is a gorgeous, heartbreaking book that I can't stop thinking about. 

One to five star review

If you liked the sound of this, now try Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas.


Friday, 13 January 2017

Wing Jones Photo Tour #WJPhotoTour

It's great to be part of the Wing Jones photo tour! I've heard fantastic things about this book and I've finally got my hands on a copy.



Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter @kwebberwrites

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos!




One of my favorite things about living in the South was the incredible food! Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles was, and still is, one of my favorite restaurants in Atlanta. I love it so much that I put it in WING JONES.


Thanks for checking out my stop on the tour! Coincidentally, I've eaten at the same restaurant that this photo was taken in and I can vouch for how amazing it is! Follow the #WJPhotoTour hashtag to check out the other photos.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco - Review



Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Seventeen-year-old Audrey Rose Wadsworth was born a lord's daughter, with a life of wealth and privilege stretched out before her. But between the social teas and silk dress fittings, she leads a forbidden secret life.

Against her stern father's wishes and society's expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle's laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

I’d read a lot of great things about this book online and I’m so happy that it lived up to the hype! I’ve always been fascinated by Jack the Ripper and the forensic investigations really appealed to my macabre side.

One of my favourite aspects of this was the historical accuracy. Not only did it feel authentic when I was reading it, but I was really impressed by the information at the end of the book that explained how much research had gone into it. This is a perfect example of historical fiction, where the plot isn’t weighed down by the facts but at the same time you feel like you’ve accessed another world.

As a follow-on from this, I found Audrey Rose’s voice really appropriate for the time period and I really responded to her as a character. I loved how she resisted against the constraints of that time in a way that didn’t feel too excessive or unbelievable.

The mystery aspect was also very well-plotted. I enjoyed following the unravelling of the clues and the unexpected turns of the plot towards the fantastic finale!

Finally, I have to say a few words about the romance. Lately I haven’t been a massive fan of romance for the sake of it but this definitely wasn’t an example of that! Thomas was a great love interest and a worthy partner for Audrey Rose. I got a Sherlock Holmes vibe from him that I enjoyed and I felt their impending relationship enhanced the plot.

This book made me feel like reading more YA historical fiction and definitely left me with a thirst for the sequel!

Usually this is the point where I’d offer recommendations but historical fiction isn't my area of expertise! Can anyone suggest a historical YA as enjoyable (and preferably gruesome) as this one?



Monday, 2 January 2017

Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter - review

 
Publisher: Tor Teen (13th October 2016)

In Vassa's neighbourhood, where she lives with her stepmother and bickering stepsisters, one might stumble onto magic, but stumbling out again could become an issue. Babs Yagg, the owner of the local convenience store, has a policy of beheading shoplifters and sometimes innocent shoppers as well. So when Vassa's stepsister sends her out for light bulbs in the middle of night, she knows it could easily become a suicide mission. But Vassa has a bit of luck hidden in her pocket, a gift from her dead mother. Erg is a tough talking wooden doll with sticky fingers, a bottomless stomach, and a ferocious cunning. With Erg's help, Vassa just might be able to break the witch's curse and free her Brooklyn neighbourhood. But Babs won't be playing fair. Inspired by the Russian folktale "Vassilissa the Beautiful" and Sarah Porter's years of experience teaching creative writing to New York City students, Vassa in the Night weaves a dark yet hopeful tale about a young girl's search for home, love, and belonging.

This was my last book of the year and one of the most original that I've read all year. I didn't know much about this when it arrived in my Fairy Loot crate, but I knew I'd love it as soon as I read the blurb. I'm a sucker for a fairy tale retelling and I haven't read many as great as this one! 

The plot is amazingly compelling, cleverly weaving in elements of the original folktale to create a suspenseful, wonderfully offbeat story. I got really invested in this and it was great that I didn't know where it was going. It's a while since I've read a book that delivers such an exhilarating string of emotional punches!

Much of the story plays out in the convenience store and I was captivated by this setting. The escalating magic and eccentric characters were a breath of fresh air, like nothing I've ever read before. Who would have thought I'd feel so strongly about a disembodied, enchanted hand?

The narrative structure was also really awesome! The histories of Vassa and her family are gradually unfolded and it's only by the very end that you get the whole story.

This is one of my favourite books of the year and one of my favourite fairy tale retellings of all time. 





If you liked the sound of this, try Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott,a gorgeous feminist retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

Friday, 23 December 2016

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby - Review




Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps - gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza goes missing, the people of Bone Gap aren't surprised. After all, it isn't the first time someone's slipped away and left Finn and Sean O'Sullivan on their own.

Finn knows that's not what happened with Roza. He knows she was taken, ripped from the cornfields by a man whose face he can't remember. But no one believes him anymore. Well, almost no one. Petey Willis, the beekeeper's daughter, suspects that lurking behind Finn's fearful shyness is a story worth uncovering. But as we, like Petey, follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap - their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures - the truth about what happened to Roza is slowly revealed. And it is stranger than you can possibly imagine.


Even reading the blurb gets me excited about this book all over again. If it hasn't convinced you to preorder immediately, let me try! I've had a really good run of magical realism books recently and this is one of my favourites that I've read this year.

The best part of this for me was the way magical and fantastical elements were woven into a convincing contemporary story. It felt at times like a beautiful, dark fairy tale and at others like a really gripping contemporary novel.


In a lot of ways, I interpreted this as a coming of age book, with Finn trying to find himself as much as trying to find Roza. His relationships with Petey and his brother were incredibly realistic and complex. 

I also really liked getting the story from Roza's point of view, so you knew what was happening to her even when the boys didn't.

The unpredictability of this also kept me invested. There were a lot of aspects that I wasn't sure where they were going and I loved that!

This was a gorgeous book to end the year on. It comes out in just a few days so treat yourself!


Friday, 16 December 2016

Anna-Marie McLemore's favourite things

Anna-Marie McLemore is the author of my favourite book from this year, so I couldn't be more excited to share her favourite books, movies and characters!



'When the moon was ours' is my book of the year for so many reasons. It's not only the most beautifully written and plotted magical realism story that I've ever read. It also has incredible characters and explores identity in a moving, beautiful way that is rooted in Anna-Marie's own experiences. You can read my entire five star review here


Now for the main event - welcome to YA Under My Skin Anna-Marie!





Favourite YA book/s

WRITTEN IN THE STARS by Aisha Saeed 

Aisha’s language is precise and evocative, and she has a gorgeous way of depicting characters’ relationships with their families and family histories.

THE NAMES THEY GAVE US by Emery Lord

Look out for this one, both a family story and a camp story, in spring 2017. It’s also a brilliant, honest portrayal of faith.

NONE OF THE ABOVE

This one meant so much to me, I wrote a whole post about it for Jen at Pop! Goes the Reader: http://www.popgoesthereader.com/raise-your-voice/raise-your-voice-2016-with-anna-marie-mclemore/

IF YOU COULD BE MINE by Sara Farizan

In addition to being a study in how to write a book that’s short and spare but also rich and detailed, this book spoke to my heart as a queer WOC.


Favourite adult books

PASSING by Nella Larsen

If you haven’t read it and need more convincing to read it, consider that it’s also author Dhonielle Clayton’s favorite book!

LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE by Laura Esquivel

A sister story, a love story, and a story of the Mexican culture I’m proud to come from, this was one of the first books I ever saw myself in.

THE LITTLE PRINCE

There’s new magic in this book every time I read it. The first time I stumbled through it in French class, and I keep coming back to it. I want to learn new languages just so I can read it again with a new perspective.



Favourite movies (of all time and now)

All time: A THOUSAND CLOWNS

Cecilia Cackley of Hooray for Books! also loves this film, so much that we periodically have Twitter quote wars.

Now: THE ILLUSIONIST

I know I’m using the term “now” *really* loosely since it’s ten years old, but considering most of my best-loved movies are classics, I’m hoping this magical story counts! 


Favourite TV shows (of all time and now)

All time: This is more a category than a single show, but some of my best growing-up memories were watching American soap operas and the occasional favorite telenovela with my mother.

Right now: UnReal, though I’ve only seen Season 1 and I hear worrying things about Season 2?


Favourite song/ band

Oh, this changes constantly. But right now I’ve been listening to Gregory Alan Isakov a lot. “Idaho” often ends up on repeat.


Favourite characters from YA books

Emerson Birch from Saundra Mitchell’s THE SPRINGSWEET

Emerson is my YA book boyfriend. *swoons*

Kamala from THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN

She may be a horse, but she immediately came to mind: “‘It is nice to be nice,’ Kamala said with a sage nod. ‘It is also nice to eat people.’”


Favourite character/s from adult books

The Lisbon sisters from THE VIRGIN SUICIDES

As a girl with many brothers, I’m enthralled by sister stories. The subtle relationships we see among the Lisbons always pulls me into their world. 


Favourite characters from books that you read as a YA

The de la Garza sisters from the above-mentioned LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE

Their relationships are messy and complicated, sometimes loyal and sometimes full of betrayal. Even though I don’t have sisters, these women grabbed me by the heart.

Daisy Buchanan from THE GREAT GATSBY

Oh Daisy Buchanan. The glamorous white girl fifteen-year-old me so badly wanted to be…


Thanks so much for sharing your favourite things with us and growing to be read piles everywhere!


Sunday, 11 December 2016

British Books Challenge 2017


I'm really looking forward to taking part in the 2017 British Books Challenge! I try to support British authors as much as I can and this will definitely keep me focused in my reading.

I've listed a few books that I'm excited about for now and I'll add more as I think of them. I'm planning to concentrate on UK authors that I've come across at YALC and YA Shot conventions and authors of classics that I really should have read by now.






Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Books that give me hope - #YaXmasTour2016


Merry Christmas everyone! I'm so happy to be on this blog tour organised by the lovely Virginie (who you probably know as Chouette, blogger extraordinaire at www.chouett.com)

2016 has been a big, strange year for me and for the world. More and more, I seem to gravitate to books that give me hope and I wanted to share those as part of the blog tour.

These are some of my favourites from the past, this year and next year.



Northern Lights came out when I was eleven. My grandad used to take me to WH Smiths to buy books that were well-written and award-winning. I think he was trying to break my Point Horror habit! One such visit drew both of us to Northern Lights. I still count it as one of my favourite books because it started my obsession with fantasy and is so beautifully written. I loved Lyra because I aspired to be brave and wilful like her (and I'd still quite like to have my own daemon).





One of my newer favourites is Rebel of the Sands. I loved the Wild West meets Arabian Nights premise and like Lyra I think Amani is an incredible character. It makes me so happy to think of young girls (and people in general) discovering her for the first time. Alwyn did a brilliant post about her favourite things to promote YA Shot, which you can find here if you want to check it out.




I read Radio Silence earlier this year. From the moment I started reading it, I couldn't stop. This book was real, current and raw. It felt like such an accurate portrayal of what it's like to be a teenager and refreshingly is not a love story! I wish there were books like this when I was a teen and I'm so glad it exists now.



Anna Marie McLemore has become one of my favourite authors. The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon was Ours are beautiful, original and magical. Her writing sweeps you into the world and gives you all the feels! I can't wait to read what she comes up with next.



Laini Taylor is my favourite YA author so I was almost unbearably excited to get an advance copy of Strange the Dreamer. The only reason I haven't read it immediately is that I'm trying to savour it. The writing is just gorgeous and the plot and characters are stunningly original and realistic. I predict that this will become one of my favourite books of all time.

Based on this year, I have no idea what 2017 will bring (though I'm certain it has to be better!) At least we know that it will bring books and bookish conversations.

Merry Christmas everyone and a happy 2017!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich - review


Publisher: Orion Children's Books (14th July 2016)
US Publication title: And the Trees Crept In (6th September 2016)


When sisters Silla and Nori escape London and their abusive father, Aunt Cath's country house feels like a safe haven. But slowly, ever so slowly, things begin to unravel. Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic and spends day and night pacing. Every day the forbidden surrounding forest inches slowly towards the house. A mysterious boy appears, offering friendship. And Nori claims that a man watches them from the dark forest - a man with no eyes, who creeps ever closer. . . (Publishers' blurb)

When I read The Dead House last year, it really stayed with me. I'm not easily rattled or surprised by a book and The Dead House well and truly got under my skin! I
 put off reading Creeper Man until I was in the mood and it was everything I wanted.

First, take a minute to check out that cover. I love it for so many reasons and it gives me a little shudder every time I look at it.

One of the reasons why I adore Dawn Kurtagich's writing is that her books don't follow a straightforward narrative. There are extracts from characters' journals and other titbits that lend authenticity to the plot.

My favourite part of this book is the world building. You've not only got this disturbing, oppressive world that is shrinking as the trees creep in. Subtle details are also used to create a detailed picture of a crumbling outside world.

The characters are another fantastic part of this book. All of them, even those who appeared briefly, made a meaningful contribution to the plot and felt like heroes of their own stories. 

There weren't a lot of lighter moments in this, though for me that suited the building sense of threat and inevitability. It's a genuinely scary book with the qualities of the darkest, best kind of fairy tale. 

This is another original, surprising book by Dawn Kurtagich. If you like being scared, I highly recommend it.