Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read so Far in 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the wonderful folks over at The Broke & The Bookish - head over there to join in with future topics!

2015 has been a pretty awesome year for books so far with an incredible array of publications. There are still yet more amazing ones to come, but in the mean time it's time to take a look back at the ones I've enjoyed the most in the first six months. It was really tough cutting it down to ten because I have been remarkably lucky with the caliber of books I've picked up. But I valiantly chopped it down to ten books that I am mightily glad I read/sobbed over/laughed with/got mushy over.

The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough
This book was absolutely gorgeous. It drew me in with its beautiful prose and unique story, filled me with love and hope and outrage. Such hard and visceral emotions that aren't normally provoked in such depth when I read. I couldn't stop reading, tugged ever onward through the narrative, and had no real idea how it could end. It was a book that kept me guessing, touched me in ways I am rarely touched by books and left me in tears at the end.
I turned the last page and put the book down, sobbing. My Husband turned to me and said, "was it a bad book?"
And I replied, "no, it was perfect."

You can read my review here

One by Sarah Crossan
This book hasn't yet reached our shelves, but I read it in May in one sitting, and it was utterly glorious. Written in free verse, the prose is sparse and simplistic, but even more moving and effective for its brevity. Do not underestimate this story and the power it holds. It is beautiful and heartbreaking and some of the most effective prose I have ever read. August cannot come soon enough so that I can talk about it properly!
Check back in August for my review!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
This was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, and thankfully it exceeded all of my hopes. Brutal, devastating and utterly thrilling, I loved the world, the conflict, the characters. The juxtaposition of Elias and Laia's stories work beautifully showcasing Tahir's writing skills at creating raw, quiet character development as well as big, brash bursts of action. I was swept away in this novel and I cannot wait for the sequel next year, but in the mean time I'm going to keep listening to the gorgeous audiobook read by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, who bring the book into incredible life with their narratives. You can read my review here

The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
Another beautiful urban fantasy novel, reminiscent of Laini Taylor's 'Daughter of Smoke and Bone'. Another human caught in the middle of a war of magical creatures, another fight for survival, but wrapped in all of that is a truly unique story filled with humour, love, betrayal and desperation. Grey's prose is stunning and Echo was a truly extraordinary heroine who pulled me through and into this treasure hunt race against everyone else to solve the puzzle and end the war. You can read my review here

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell
Sarah's debut novel is stunning. Quiet and filled with raw beauty and dignity, this is a debut to be reckoned with. If you're looking for a diverse read, this should be at the top of your list. Sora is a Japanese teenage suffering from ALS and trying to work out how to live in the limited time available to him instead of just existing. It is poignant, full of heartbreak and sadness and hope and above all leaves you thinking long after you've turned the final page.
You can read my review here

Lion Heart by A. C. Gaughen
This series has been one of my favourites, and Scarlet one of my favourite heroines ever since A C Gaughen's debut novel 'Scarlet', which I read in one sitting whilst I was horribly ill and ended up sobbing and clutching the book to my chest I loved it so much. Each book since then has lived up to the incredibly high bar set by Scarlet, and Lion Heart provides the perfect, poignant and beautiful finale to a truly incredible series. This is my favourite Robin Hood retellings, and Scarlet one of the most human, tough and vulnerable in equal parts, heroines around.
You can read my review here

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
I had heard of Outlander in passing, but never really found out any more about it, until the incredible TV series began on Starz. I stormed through the first eight episodes and then in the hiatus got my hands on all of the books because my Outlander hangover was truly insane. The book was incredible. Despite the size I raced through it, immersing myself in Claire and Jamie's story, in their world - the politics and the language and the landscape. I fell in love with it all, but mostly I fell in love with them. They are the true heart of the story, one of the most incredible, complex and loving relationships I've seen depicted in fiction. This book (and the following series) are now favourites, ones I love to get lost in. You can read my review here

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renée Ahdieh
This book is gorgeous. Sumptuous prose, a captivating story. It pulled me in and I was swept away with the dual narrative of Shahrzad's story and the story she tells. It is an incredible novel, full of hope and fear, anger and love. I fell in love with it completely and cannot recommend it enough.
Keep an eye out for my review in July!

Every Breath by Ellie Marney
A teenage Sherlock Holmes story with Watson as a girl?! My interest was definitely piqued, and oh boy was this book brilliant. Funny, fast paced, with one of the most butterfly inducing relationships at its heart. James Mycroft and Rachel Watts are the perfect team, dragged unwittingly into solving a murder, this book avoids all of the cliches and pitfalls usually associated with teen murder mysteries and instead creates a thrilling and compelling story that had me racing with bated breath to the conclusion. Watts and Mycroft have one of my very favourite fictional relationships, a brilliant friendship with a smoldering chemistry and I cannot wait to get onto the second book in the trilogy.
You can read my review here

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
This is such a gorgeous book. Filled with slippery magic and secrets, reading this is like sleepwalking, like watching events through a haze where you aren't quite sure what's real and what's imaginary. It's a quiet, twisting story about love and friendship and the secrets we keep and lies we tell ourselves and how they can warp and take on a life of their own. Fans of Maggie Stiefvater will love this stunning debut novel. You can read my review here

So these are my top ten books that I've read so far this year, but now I want to hear from you! Are any of these books on your top ten? And are you interested in picking up any new ones you've spotted in this list? What books made it onto your lists? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Review: Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Length: 344 pages


Thanks to Netgalley and Bloomsbury for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet. Ollie is allergic to electricity. Contact with it causes debilitating seizures. Moritz’s weak heart is kept pumping by an electronic pacemaker. If they ever did meet, Ollie would seize. But Moritz would die without his pacemaker. Both hermits from society, the boys develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline during dark times—as Ollie loses his only friend, Liz, to the normalcy of high school and Moritz deals with a bully set on destroying him.
A story of impossible friendship and hope under strange circumstances, this debut is powerful, dark and humorous in equal measure. These extraordinary voices bring readers into the hearts and minds of two special boys who, like many teens, are just waiting for their moment to shine.

I was crazily excited about this book, and then I started to hear rumblings that the end suddenly went very different from the rest of the book and was this contemporary or was it sci-fi? So I went warily into this one, unsure of quite what to expect.

Unfortunately I didn’t get along with it. For starters I didn’t connect with or like Ollie at all. His letters were amusing to start with but quickly degenerated into mind numbing exposition that I had to really work to get through. Nothing really happened, he was incredibly self centred and utterly hung up over Liz (who I also didn’t particularly like.) and as a result most of his letters felt like upbeat whinging. Who knew that could be a thing? He comes across as very young, I know he’s meant to be fourteen, but he seemed even younger than that. And his obsession with Liz never really made complete sense to me. Ok sure, he doesn’t see many people and his only friend stops coming to visit him after a traumatic experience. But the traumatic experience, whilst a little traumatic, was not quite the crisis situation that Ollie was making it out to be. There was so much build up, so much dragging of his heels when writing to Moritz, so much procrastination where he doesn’t want to tell him about it. And then it happens and I kinda felt, well, is that it? Liz doesn’t strike me as a particularly good friend, I’m with Moritz on this one. She seemed determined to ‘fix’ Ollie, and anyone who feels that people with disabilities or illnesses need to be ‘fixed’ to be ‘normal’ automatically gets me incredibly irate.

So Ollie didn’t really interest or appeal to me, which left me with Moritz. Moritz and I actually got along a lot better. I still found him to be ridiculously verbose and depressive, but I found his story to be much more engaging. I still found his ‘disability’ frustrating. I’m blind! But I can see everything! So really I’m actually fine! I felt like the set up had been ‘hey look, two disabled teenagers’ and then the rug was being pulled from under as the author went ‘ha ha, not really!’

It was a mixed bag, I struggled to continue reading, to persuade myself to even care about some of Ollie’s letters, and then suddenly out of the blue at 75%, the ridiculous happened. What had been a perfectly ok  contemporary novel with a couple of interesting tweaks, suddenly turned into full on sci-fi with no warning. 
There was no build up, no sly clues along the way, just suddenly an info dump in one of Moritz’s letters that completely upended everything and made me do a double take. What was this novel? What had just happened? Had I missed something?

And then the end! Why oh why did Ollie suddenly have to be ‘fixed’, why did it suddenly have to become this thing that he’d grow into?! This goes back to my earlier point about ‘fixing’ people with illnesses or disabilities. It makes me feel like the rest of the book was obsolete, like I’ve been cheated somehow. That this novel that promised it would be about two teenage boys with disabilities had suddenly changed its mind and didn’t follow through at the end. That really frustrated me and left me with a bitter taste.

So this novel that I was crazily excited for felt like it wasn’t anything like the novel I was hoping for or expecting. I felt bored, frustrated and cheated and ended up not really feeling any sort of attachment to any of the characters.
I know plenty of people have loved it, have loved the characters and the writing style and the sudden change of pace at the end, but for me personally, this just wasn’t my cup of tea.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Review: Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: Egmont Publishing/Electric Monkey
Length: 320 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Egmont Publishing/Electric Monkey for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

June barely has time to mourn the death of her best friend Delia, before Delia's ex-boyfriend convinces her Delia was murdered, and June is swept into a tangle of lies, deceit, and conspiracy.

There is one thing guaranteed to make me feel frustrated with a book after reading, and that is if the by the end of the story, the book has made me feel stupid. I read a lot, I’m a reasonably intelligent person, and I can usually see twists in plots coming from quite a distance, so it’s always a strange feeling when I finish a book and don’t actually really understand what happened at the end.

Let’s go back to the start for a moment. The book is a fast paced, intense read that had me racing through the pages to find out what was going to happen next. Did I see the big ‘twists’ coming? Sure. But I wasn’t too bothered about that, because I was caught up in the intensity and pace of the story.

I don’t want to give too much away – even the blurb is trying not to give anything away – because I think that the less you know going in the more you will enjoy the story and become engrossed in the twisting tale unfolding around you as June tries to disentangle the truth.

Like I said, I saw the ‘twists’ coming, but on the whole I enjoyed it. June was a bit flat for a protagonist, and there were several moments of lapsed judgement – for example when she goes to confront Tig – where I really wanted to shake her. Despite the flaws in the creation of her character she is likeable enough, and offers a way in to the story that steamrollers onward, sweeping everything up with it. It’s a hard book to put down, and is a very intense read as clues and distractions are unearthed. If you’re after a fast paced and intense murder mystery then this is definitely a book you should pick up.

However there were two big things detracting from my enjoyment. The first is the snippets of Delia and June’s relationship that we’re offered through flashbacks. I think it was supposed to offer an idea of a wonderful friendship of kindred souls. However it comes across as toxic and with Delia not being particularly likeable. I never warmed to Delia, nor to any of the characters really. They were all the worst versions of themselves with little to no redeeming qualities. Reading a book as intense as this can be exhausting, if you then add in that there are no truly likeable characters it becomes an exercise in frustration.

The second thing was the ending. Now like I said, I kept up with the rest of the story no problem, but I really have very little idea of what happened at the end. I get the basic premise, but other than that, it doesn’t make any sense. I’ve been back and read the final few chapters several times thinking that maybe I missed something, that I just wasn’t being clever enough to work it out. So if you read this book and can enlighten me as to what I’ve missed in the comments, that would be awesome. As it stands all that hard work the book did throughout the rest of the story came crashing down in those final few pages, because a book that makes the reader feel stupid is never going to end favourably for the reader.

It was an intense read, gripping and at times terrifying, but the characters were unlikeable and the twists (for me personally) a little predictable. All of that could have been forgiven if not for the ending, so whilst I know some people will love this story, it didn’t quite work for me.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Review: Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015 (UK)
Publisher: Macmillan
Length: 400 pages

Huge thanks to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

From Meg Cabot, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Princess Diaries series, comes the very first new adult instalment, featuring the now grown-up Princess Mia!
Royal Wedding follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding - but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.
For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community centre, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements, Mia's gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn't need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.
But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother's leaked "fake" wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia's father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone - especially herself - that she's not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

I loved the Princess Diaries books when I was growing up (and the first film, but don’t talk to me about the second, even Chris Pine can’t make that one good for me…) so I was incredibly excited to hear that Mia was making a comeback in the form of her first adult diary.

Fear not those of you who either a) haven’t read the books but have seen the film, b) have read the books but haven’t read them for a long time or c) have only read some of the books – you will keep up just fine. I was nervous going in because I haven’t read any of the rest of the series in a very long time and I wasn’t sure how much I’d remember, but there is a genius article at the start of the book which gives a set up for the events of this book plus a handy re-cap of the important points of the rest of the books so that if like me you’ve forgotten a lot, you’ll still be up to speed enough to enjoy this.

Meg Cabot is a genius. She wrote a truly brilliant and accurate fourteen year old, and now leaped to write a truly brilliant and accurate twenty six year old without compromising and losing any of Mia’s identity. Mia is all grown up but still the brilliant girl she was. I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed her until I started reading and was laughing within the first few pages.

"Is Michael Moscovitz the world's greatest lover? 'YES!' says sex-mad Princess Mia, declares the cover of this week's InTouch.
Michael's dad thought this was so hilarious, he bought dozens of copies to give to his friends and even his patients. Michael's asked him to stop, but his dad won't listen. 
"You really expect me not to buy this?" Dr. Moscovitz asked. "My son is the world's greatest lover! It says so right here. Of course I'm going to buy this!"

The book is brilliant, the perfect summer read. It’s full of humour, snark and some truly insane moments. Some steamier moments – be warned this is not a book you want your princess diaries loving teen to read, save it for when they’re a little bit older. And the whole character cast are back for a fast paced, fantastic encore. I had forgotten just how terrible Grandmére could be, how sweet and wonderful Michael could be, and how much of a hypochondriac Mia is. It reminded me of everything I loved whilst giving a fantastic look on life as a twenty something juggling life, boyfriends and family – even if we aren’t all royalty as well…
Told through the traditional diary entries as well as a whole host of amazing texts (Grandmére I am looking at you and your sidecar) as well as emails, forms and Mia’s obsessive consultations of her Rate the Royals rating, this is a book that fairly comes alive and drags you into the hilarious romp of a story.

The only thing I really struggled with was the Wedding Stress, and yes that does warrant capitals. Having gone through W.S. this time last year, it is still a little too close to home and I found my palms sweating and my heart racing and the utter indignation and rage swelling every time Grandmére told Mia that of course she couldn’t have what she wanted at her wedding. Rage inducing. I felt so awful for Mia, even though it was all being made light of, that this incredibly important day was being ripped out of her control.

This is everything old fans could wish for and more, it is a perfect continuation for Mia’s story as well as tying in brilliantly to the newly released "From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess”. And I think Mia will be earning a whole new host of fans with her first adult diary. I just really hope that this isn’t a one off, given the ending of this book I would love to see what happens next for Mia and Michael.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Review: The Kiss by Lucy Courtenay

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books/Hodder Children’s Books
Length: 336 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Hachette Children’s Books/Hodder Children’s Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

'Aphrodite kissed a mortal once by the light of this moon, many thousands of years ago. It drove him crazy. The next person that he kissed - boum. The craziness travelled like this from person to person. It travelled through time. Everywhere - boum! Tu comprends?' 'Where did it end up?' I whisper. His lips are on my cheek now. 'It ended with me. And now I am going to pass it to you. You will like that, mermaid?' Imagine the perfect kiss. A legendary kiss that makes people crazy with love. Imagine a summer's night, on a moonlit beach in the South of France, as French boy Laurent kisses 16-year-old Delilah after the best chat-up line she's ever heard. BOOM! Delilah is pretty sure the Kiss is fiction, despite her head-spinning holiday fling. But with all the sudden crushes, break-ups and melt-downs happening back at home, the Kiss starts looking a little too real for comfort. If only Delilah could keep track of where it's gone ...Who knew one kiss could cause this much trouble?

This is another case of a blurb not doing a book justice. I was curious based on the blurb, but not sold. And then I read the first few chapters and the dialogue was so cringe worthy that I very nearly put the book down and moved onto the next one. But it was a quiet Sunday so I figured I would persevere and see what happened. And you know what? I am so glad I did.

The first few chapters were not great, and they were almost enough to put me off, and sadly I think enough to put a lot of people off. However, get beyond those to when Jem is introduced and suddenly the book gets a whole heap better. The magical properties of the kiss take more of a backseat and the book becomes focussed on Delilah’s life, her problems, her friends, and how she tries to juggle/fix everything whilst it falls apart. I found that aspect much more interesting than the kiss, which fades into the background and then makes a reappearance right at the end. However just because the book gets better when Jem is introduced, don't assume that the romance is all there is to this book. It's a great story about problems faced by most teenagers that include love, friendships, money and bad relationships as well as finding yourself and being the best possible version of you.

My three gripes were the terrible first few chapters and the occasional lapses into truly cliché and awkward dialogue, and how the adult characters weren’t fleshed out at all. For example Delilah’s father loathes that she wants to get a college education – why? We never find out why, what the backstory or motives for that were and that really frustrated me.

However I loved Delilah, how she was a control freak desperately trying to keep her and her friends lives together and forced to take a step back and start again when it all fell apart. I loved her friendships and I loved the romance. Jem was a truly fantastic love interest. And I loved how she pulled her life and mistakes back together at the end to have a truly fantastic finale.

This is a fantastic quick read that once you get past the stumbling block of the opening is a wonderful summer romance. This book definitely surprised me and whilst I was skeptical going in, I am so glad I stuck with it.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Review: Tangled Webs by Lee Bross

Publication Date: June 23rd 2015
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Length: 304 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Disney-Hyperion for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.
Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.
But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.
Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?

I was so excited for this book, that blurb seemed to tick all of the boxes: strong female protagonist, secrets and spies, set in London in 1725, it seemed too good to be true. And unfortunately it was.

The idea is fantastic, a truly brilliant concept, but the execution was decidedly lacking. Which left me feeling frustrated, bored and unimpressed. By the last third of the novel I was basically skimming.

Let’s start with the setting and language. I love historical novels, but I’m very picky about them. If you’re going to set a novel in a specific time period, that implies that you’ve done a modicum of research into etiquette, clothing and speech and that you want to bring that time period alive for a specific reason. There is a worrying trend in young adult novels where the books are being set in a specific time period, but little to no research is being done. It’s sloppy, it makes the reader feels as though the author hasn’t cared enough to bother researching properly, and leaves you with a book that may as well be a contemporary novel with some pretty dresses and balls. This novel suffers from this in spades. Completely unrealistic dress, no attempt at period appropriate etiquette and the dialogue is filled with Americanisms and modernisms. Things like sidewalk? Really?

If there is a strong enough protagonist at the novels heart then I’m inclined to forgive a lot of other problems in novels, but Arista wasn’t compelling or engaging or even likeable at points. She’s supposed to be this mysterious Lady, who trades and barters secrets and can take care of herself, but she comes across as naïve and immature. She doesn’t seem capable of thinking even a step ahead, never mind several. She oscillates between enjoying the power and hating it but with no real explanation or thought process to allow the reader to understand. In short, she lacked conviction. I didn’t for one moment believe that she was capable of the things she was supposedly doing. I didn’t really see any evidence of it. She is constantly going on about how people hate her as Lady A, but apart from one or two instances we never see this. A whole lot of plot points hinge on things that the reader never sees or is introduced to.

The characters are flat and one dimensional, the plot barely hangs together thanks to Arista, all the ‘twists’ were signposted so obviously that there was no tension or shock factor. The writing needed a serious edit, so much extraneous detail that really wasn't necessary and bogged the story down even further.
All in all this was a case of a novel really not living up to the expectations set up by the blurb, and one that has left me sorely disappointed that I gave up time to read it.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Review: The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

Publication Date: June 23rd 2015
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Length: 352 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

A sweeping and captivating debut novel about a young librarian who is sent a mysterious old book, inscribed with his grandmother's name. What is the book's connection to his family?
Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.
One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon's grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand. 
The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler's gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

This was an intriguing book, one that I have had my eye on for some time and was looking forward to exploring. It was a spellbinding read, one that sucked me under and kept me guessing and wondering, filled me with anger and hurt and desperation, and was suffused with a quiet magic. It’s a story told through two timelines, Simon, desperately trying to piece together his family history and protect his sister. And Amos, from the 1700s, deftly weaving the stories origin point so that as Simon uncovers more clues about this strange book he has been sent and his families tragic past, we see it unfold through Amos as well.

It had elements of both ‘The Snow Child’ and ‘The Night Circus’ – two books I loved. The same lilting magic and quiet depths. The story takes its time, ambling between the two storylines at a sometimes frustrating pace. But rather than wanting to skip one timeline to get to the other as so often happens with these split books, I found myself enjoying both tales equally. There were points where one took precedence to the detriment of the other, forcing the narrative stream down to a dribble, but on the whole it moved along at a solid pace to reach a quite tense and dramatic climax.

The writing is quiet, beautiful at times and filled with memorable passages. There are several quotes that I know I will take with me. Swyler most definitely has a way with words, of twisting language into this wondrous thing, even when her characters could not speak at all, the ways of communication were filled with surprising depths and double meanings.

“We would bury ourselves in books until flesh and paper became one and ink and blood at last ran together.”

The odd thing was that whilst the book was good, and I am glad I read it, I didn’t enjoy it exactly. It was too melancholy, and had too many threads of lies, sadness and betrayal for me to fully immerse myself in the story in an enjoyable fashion. It pulled me in, made me want to unravel the mystery and see it through to its breath-taking climax, but once I finished, I was glad to close the book. It is a fascinating story, one I wasn’t sure how it would end. It had so many tangled threads and possibilities that snarl together as Simon attempts to piece the history together, only to emerge as a solid braid in the last few pages. 

It’s beautiful and wretched and filled with sorrow, not necessarily a good summer book, but definitely one to pick up if you enjoyed ‘The Snow Child’ or ‘The Night Circus’.

“We carry our families like anchors, rooting us in storms, making sure we never drift from where and who we are. We carry our families within us the way we carry our breath underwater, keeping us afloat, keeping us alive. I’ve been lifting anchors since I was eighteen. I’ve been holding my breath since before I was born.”

Friday, 19 June 2015

Review: Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Books/Hodder Children’s Books
Length: 309 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Hachette Children’s Books/Hodder Children’s Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend's house every night because she has nowhere else to go.
Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.
Ryder's the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can't stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.
But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there's one small catch: he thinks he's been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she's the girl he's really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?

I absolutely adored ‘The DUFF’ when I read it for the first time earlier this year, Bianca was sassy and brilliant and I loved the relationship between her and Wesley. So I was insanely excited to find out this was a companion novel with Amy, Wesley’s little sister as one of the main characters – plus there would be cameos from Bianca and Wesley themselves.

However the idea and the actuality were two very different things. Whilst I was a huge fan of Bianca I really didn’t gel so well with Sonny, she was so destructive and her compulsive lying and constant bragging about her lying abilities were frustrating and stopped me from really connecting with her as a character. The further into the story I got the clearer it became that whilst Sonny thought she was fooling everyone, and yes she did manage it with a few people, on the whole the only person she was successfully lying to was herself. Everyone else just saw straight through it.

Without that connection to Sonny the book never lifted beyond ‘okay’ for me. Keplinger has a talent for writing very polarizing characters. Bianca split people’s opinions just as much, only I fell in the loving her camp rather than finding her abrasive. This time I’m on the other side of the fence and so whilst it was a quick and at points enjoyable read, I never recaptured the same enjoyment I experienced whilst reading ‘The DUFF’.

That then coloured all of my other feelings for the story. I didn’t find Wesley and Bianca as interesting in their brief cameos, I never really connected with Amy and she felt like a criminally underused character that I was looking forward to getting to know, and Ryder never captivated me the same way that Wesley did.
I love that Keplinger writes flawed characters – it was one of the reasons I loved ‘The DUFF’ so much but I didn’t find Ryder and Sonny as easy to relate to.

So whilst my enjoyment of the book was marred by these, they were personal preferences. The story had all the elements that I loved in ‘The DUFF’ it was just a shame that I didn’t connect with the characters. I know a lot of people will love this story and the characters as they did with Bianca. But for me personally I’m going to stick with ‘The Duff’.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Publication Date: July 2nd 2015
Publisher: Corgi Children’s/Random House Children’s Books
Length: 288 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Corgi Children’s/Random House Children’s Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

It's the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.
The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.
But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

You know when you loved a book so much you just want to hug it, and then press it on everyone and tell them they should read it? Yeah, that.
So I loved ‘The Accident Season’, far more than I expected to, and it sky rocketed up into one of my favourite books for this year, and indeed one of my favourite books ever.

I knew very little about the book, aside from the increasing buzz from the book world about it, and assumed that it would be a straightforward contemporary YA, and I was right… up to a point. If you’re a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s novels (particularly The Raven Cycle, and Lament and Ballad) then you have to pick up this book. It has the same sliding sense of gravity not being where it should be, the same feeling of magic and breathless anticipation. In short, it was breathtaking.

This book crept up on me and drew me in completely. It’s a gorgeous, lilting tale set in Ireland where you’re not quite sure how real the magic is, until it has infused every page and you realise that it’s been real all along. You can feel the world slipping away and the further in you get, the more unsure you are about what’s real and what isn’t. How much magic there is and how much there are rational explanations for.

It’s a haunting tale about secrets, how they can twist and take on identities of their own. How you can forget what they were to begin with as they warp and change until they’re a thing unleashed. It’s a tale about family and the lies we tell ourselves. It’s a beautiful, hungry book that will pull you in and leave you aching to go back when you reach the end.

In short this book is not what I expected, but it ended up being so much more than that. I fell in love with it, the magic and the lies and the secrets and the ties that bound the characters together. It’s a quiet story that gains in momentum as the accident season grows and gains power, screeching to a climax at the end of October with the revelations that tear the world apart and restructure it anew. It is a beautiful book. A surprising book. At times terrifying and magical. I had no idea how it would end, where the journey would take Cara and Alice and Sam and Bea, but I am so glad that I took a chance and picked this one up. I can’t wait to see what Moira writes next, and I cannot wait to see her at YALC 2015 in July!

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Review: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler

Publication Date: June 30th 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Contemporary
Length: 312 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley and Spencer Hill Contemporary for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Josh Chester loves being a Hollywood bad boy, coasting on his good looks, his parties, his parents' wealth, and the occasional modeling gig. But his laid-back lifestyle is about to change. To help out his best friend, Liam, he joins his hit teen TV show, Daylight Falls...opposite Vanessa Park, the one actor immune to his charms. (Not that he's trying to charm her, of course.) Meanwhile, his drama-queen mother blackmails him into a new family reality TV show, with Josh in the starring role. Now that he's in the spotlight—on everyone's terms but his own—Josh has to decide whether a life as a superstar is the one he really wants.
Vanessa Park has always been certain about her path as an actor, despite her parents' disapproval. But with all her relationships currently in upheaval, she's painfully 
uncertain about everything else. When she meets her new career handler, Brianna, Van is relieved to have found someone she can rely on, now that her BFF, Ally, is at college across the country. But as feelings unexpectedly evolve beyond friendship, Van's life reaches a whole new level of confusing. And she'll have to choose between the one thing she's always loved...and the person she never imagined she could.

If you’re after a contemporary romance this summer but you’re bored of all the cliché, boy meets girl and butterflies and tingles ensue, then this is the book for you.

It’s the second in the Daylight Falls books, but don’t let that put you off as I didn’t even realise there was a preceding book until I was well into the story. It works really well either as a standalone or as a sequel and you won’t have to play catch up to get into the story.

Going into the story both point of view characters, Josh and Vanessa were incredibly unlikeable and hard to connect with. Josh particularly is a grade A horror – think Chuck Bass, but worse. But the story was compelling, it swept me up and pulled me in and so despite the fact that I wasn’t sold on either of the characters who were showing me their world, I wanted to know more. And I am so glad I did. The further into the story you get the more you begin to warm to the characters and to relate to them. Vanessa is such a wonderful character once you get past her self absorbed superficial act in the first few chapters. Josh takes infinitely more time and patience to reach a point where you genuinely care about him, but he too is worth the wait.

Like I said this isn’t your stereotypical boy meets girl story, so whilst there is some attraction between these two, it is only a tiny side part of the whole. It is more two viewpoints into these two very different people’s lives and all the confusions and messed up things they’re going through. Both of them are stuck in situations they don’t know how to deal with, and whilst we may not all be actors in Hollywood, they are situations that everyone can relate to.
The book tackles friendship, family, sexuality, emancipation and trying to find your place in the world. It’s an incredible book, one that doesn’t shy away from tough subjects and flags up so many things. I wanted to weep and hug this book at times for giving such an honest and realistic portrayal of these problems.

Whilst Josh was a fascinating character and I did even come to like him by the end, this book was, for me, all about Vanessa. She’s determined, she loves her job, she wants to succeed and please her parents and satisfy her agent/fans/public. She works insanely hard and never really does anything for herself. And as well as all that she is Korean and has a major part in a tv show, and she never forgets how lucky she is to have a major role. As well as all her difficulties as a young adult trying to find her way in the world and balance everything in her life she is going in with her eyes wide open about the difficulties placed on her in her chosen profession because of her skin colour and ethnicity. She’s type cast in minor roles and desperately afraid that her career will end with the role on the show. It is a brutally honest look at the acting business and how girls, particularly girls who aren’t straight, white and skinny, have everything stacked against them.

But not only all of that, which is awesome just on its own, she is also coming to terms with her feelings for another girl and her own sexuality. And this isn’t just a book that glosses over the subject and the feelings, Adler refuses to compromise and makes this a wonderfully honest and frank portrayal of the relationship Vanessa begins to build. She gives it as much time and development and detail as you would find in any straight romance book, and I love that.

This book is awesome on so many levels, and it is so bold and brilliant and honest and I flew through it in a matter of hours. I became so invested with the story and characters and I was desperate to see how it would all turn out.

The only reason that this wasn’t a full five star read was because of the unlikeability of both characters in the first few chapters, that was the only thing that knocked down what is otherwise a fantastic book.

If you’re after a diverse read, a book that deals with a female same sex relationship and a whole host of other awesome, read this, read this now. I can’t wait to get my hands on everything else Adler has written now, I’m definitely a fan of someone who has the gumption to write a book like this and to pull it off with such style.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Top Ten Books on my Summer TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely folks over at The Broke & The Bookish - to join in go to their site for more details!

So my Summer to read pile is a tall and wobbly thing, but it is stuffed full of exciting new releases that I cannot wait to get stuck into. Being stuck in France means that I am becoming increasingly reliant on Netgalley to provide me with awesome books, so this weeks list is basically a compilation of Netgalley titles that I currently have on my kindle that I cannot wait to get reading in a patch of sunshine on the balcony. Plus a couple of extras that I just cannot wait to get hold of.
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
Release Date: August 27th 2015
My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla. 
But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He's tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.
Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

This blurb and cover combined to catch my fancy and intrigued me. I have an Anna and the French Kiss sized hole that I need to fill and whilst I'm not yet convinced that this one will do exactly that, I want something a little bit light and a little bit romantic to enjoy in the sunshine this summer.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release Date: July 7th 2015

When sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick is sent to live with her older sister, Ivy, she has no idea that the infamous Ivy Kendrick is Washington D.C.'s #1 “fixer,” known for making politicians' scandals go away for a price. No sooner does Tess enroll at Hardwicke Academy than she unwittingly follows in her sister's footsteps and becomes D.C.'s premier high school fixer, solving problems for elite teens.
Secrets pile up as each sister lives a double life... Until their worlds come crashing together and Tess finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy with one of her classmates and a client of Ivy's. Suddenly, there is much more on the line than good grades, money, or politics, and the price for this fix might be more than Tess is willing to pay.

I love Jenny's books, she has such a fantastic imagination and executes her ideas brilliantly. I've loved every book of hers that I've read, so it was a no-brainer when this one popped up on Netgalley - of course I wanted to read it.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

The Invasion of the Tearling by Erkia Johansen
Release Date: July 16th 2015 (Hardcover) / June 9th 2015 (Kindle)

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.
But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling – and that of Kelsea’s own soul – may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.
My excitement for this book has been well documented over the last few months and it is now so close! I want it, I need it, I cannot wait to read it.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman
Release Date: August 25th 2015
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.
Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.
Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

I am so crazily excited for this one that it is taking all of my self restraint to not just throw my reading schedule out the window and start reading it now. I have heard nothing but good things about it and I cannot wait to read it.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler
Release Date: June 30th 2015
Young actor Josh Chester has never been sure that acting is for him--he's mostly interested in the parties and the hot Hollywood girls that come with the job. But he ends up taking a job on the hit TV series Daylight Falls, opposite Vanessa Park, a girl who is immune to his charms and also his polar opposite. Vanessa loves her job, despite her parents' disapproval. She's pretty certain about everything in her life, until she meets her new career handler, a gorgeous girl named Bri. Then things start to get a little confusing. Under the Lights features an adorable romance between two young women, all set against the backdrop of Hollywood. As Vanessa confronts her emerging feelings for her handler, Bri, her co-star Josh confronts his realization that the Hollywood scene might not really be his cup of tea. Under the Lights is a story of self-discovery: learning that the person you always thought you were might not actually be the case anymore.

Another Netgalley gift, I'd heard some really great things about this one so it had been on my radar and to read wish list for a while. Then Netgalley happened and the rest, as they say is history. Confession, I have actually read this one in the last week and loved it, but it is currently summer so it technically still counts. Right? Anyway, it was a courageous and brilliant book and I can't wait for more people to read it.
You can read my review of the book here tomorrow!

You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

Because You'll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas
Release Date: June 2nd 2015

Ollie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures, while Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize, but turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz.
Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times - until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.
This is another Netgalley find and I'm intrigued. There have been a lot of books about illness released this year which I think is a very good thing. Plus friendship! Letters! Gorgeous cover! What more could you want really?
I'll be reviewing this title at the end of the month so don't forget to check back!

You can order this book on Amazon here

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara
Release Date: July 30th 2015

The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix
But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories.Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away...The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!
It's Ali McNamara. Nuff said really. Her first book is one of my favourite contemporary romances ever - fun, brilliantly written and with a great plot. Ali's books are an auto buy for me, no blurb reading necessary.
Keep an eye out for my review in July!

You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell
Release Date: August 13th 2015

Nicolette's awful stepsisters call her Mechanica to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother's knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have pushed her into a life of dreary servitude. When she discovers a secret workshop in the cellar on her sixteenth birthday-and befriends Jules, a tiny magical metal horse-Nicolette starts to imagine a new life for herself. And the timing may be perfect: There's a technological exposition and a royal ball on the horizon. Determined to invent her own happily-ever-after, Mechanica seeks to wow the prince and eager entrepreneurs alike.

A Cinderella re-telling with a gorgeous cover and a slightly steampunk feel? Yes please! The cover caught my eye and the blurb caught my interest and now I can't wait to see if the story lives up to my expectations.
You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Release Date: July 2nd 2015

It's the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.
The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.
But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

There has been so much buzz surrounding this book for months now, and I was incredibly curious. That cover,  that sneaky blurb that just piques my curiosity further, this has been on my want to read it now list for months and now in the last couple of days I finally have and it was so good. One of the best books I've read this year - if you're a fan of Maggie Stiefvater than you're going to love this one. Look out for my review on Thursday!
You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot
Release Date:  July 2nd 2015

Royal Wedding follows Princess Mia and her Prince Charming as they plan their fairy tale wedding - but a few poisoned apples could turn this happily-ever-after into a royal nightmare.
For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community centre, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements, Mia's gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn't need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.
But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother's leaked "fake" wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia's father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch. Can Mia prove to everyone - especially herself - that she's not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?
I have loved Princess Mia ever since I was a little girl, and now she's all grown up and getting married and I am so excited. The first adult book in the series, to reflect Mia's own age, I cannot wait to see what hijinks are in store as she tries to juggle being a twenty something getting married and a princess about to start her reign. This one is taunting me from my bedside table and I cannot wait to get stuck in.
Keep an eye out at the end of the month for my review!

You can pre-order this book on Amazon here

So those are the books that have found their way onto my to read pile. Are there any you haven't heard of that you're adding to your reading pile after seeing them here? Any that are on your to read piles as well? Or any I've missed that you think I need to pick up? Let me know and link me to your own top tens in the comments below!