Thursday, 16 June 2016

Book Review: The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

The Square Root of SummerTitle: The Square Root of Summer 
Author: Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Series:  standalone
Pages:  336
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Date of Publication: 5th May, 2016
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from back of book: 
This is what it means to love someone.
This is what it means to grieve someone.

It's a little bit like a black hole. 
It's a little bit like infinity.

When the fabric of the universe surrounding Gottie's sleepy seaside town begins to fray, she is hurtled through wormholes to the past.
To last summer, when her grandfather, Grey, died.
To the afternoon she fell in love with Jason, who wouldn't even hold her hand at Grey's funeral.
To the day her childhood best friend, Thomas, moved away, leaving her with a scar on her hand and a gap in her memory.
This summer, although Grey is gone, Jason and Thomas are back, and Gottie's past, present and future are about to collide - and be changed forever. 

My Thoughts:
There is a huge amount of hype surrounding The Square Root of Summer, so rightly I was super excited to give it a read. I will say right from the start that I was completely wrong in my expectations for the book. I'd briefly read the blurb, expecting quite a light, summery contemporary (I'll admit I totally judged it by the cover ;) ) and that isn't quite what it is - kind of, but with added science fiction-y maths-y time travel.  Yeah. That's not a bad thing at all, as I do like to be surprised, but I think it did affect my reading experience just a little cos it took me a while to wrap my head around it... Totally my own fault, so I'm just warning you not to make the same mistake :P

It took almost the whole first half of the book for me to settle in to the rhythm and really gel with Gottie's voice.  I understand that she was grieving and that things were so tough, but sometimes I felt that she could be a little bit annoying and melodramatic. Maybe I'm being harsh but I couldn't get on with her, especially when she was moping about Jason, whom I really didn't like (Thomas is much better - and he bakes! WINNER ;) ).  However, this all set up for the end, by which point you could really see Gottie's development throughout the story, and this was something that I really loved. It's not often that you can see character development so clearly but it not seem forced, and Harriet hit the nail on the head there with Gottie so that was pretty cool.

One thing that really surprised me about The Square Root of Summer was the amount of physics that is in it.  I have absolutely no idea whether any of it is real physics or maths or whatever (like it could all be made up for all I know!) and to be honest most of it went completely over my head but it was an interesting addition to the story, and not something I've seen before in a YA novel.  It's not vitally important to the plot or anything so don't worry about it though if you're not sciencey! It was also really cool to see Gottie genuinely interested in it - although STEM bores me completely to death, obviously it's so important that young girls who are interested see females embracing and flourishing in it.  There is also a lot of German within the novel as Gottie has German heritage, and that was really cool - and not only because it proved that my German A Level wasn't a complete waste of time since I understood most of it! You could almost pass this book off as educational ;)

Then there was the time travel element of the story, which was pretty good, I think? I'm unsure. It is pretty confusing, not gonna lie, but it does make for interesting reading! I love time travel on TV, like you probs know that Doctor Who is one of my favourite things if you've ever been on my Twitter or spent any time with me, but I've always found that it doesn't work all that well, for me, anyhow, in books.  I always end up getting so confused, and all Gottie's talk of wormholes and trying to keep the timeline linear in my head so I knew what was going on was pretty difficult! Maybe because I didn't devote enough time to reading (it took me about three weeks?) and so I couldn't remember things from the beginning of the book though? One thing I did really like about it was that it was in these bits that we got to know Grey, Gottie's grandfather. Even though he dies before the book even begins, I feel like I know him as a character and he just seems like he was a cool guy. Would have liked more of him although that isn't the point of the book at all.

Overall, I am glad that I gave The Square Root of Summer a chance and ended up really enjoying it.  It's unlike anything I've ever read before and probably will ever read again, and it's not often that one can say that in today's world! I definitely recommend for your summer reading lists and I'm looking forward to more from Harriet in the future - she's definitely one to be watched, I think!

*Huge thanks to Macmillan Children's Books for sending me this in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Book Review: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

The Unexpected EverythingTitle: The Unexpected Everything
Author: Morgan Matson
Series:  standalone
Pages:  518
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date of Publication: 5th May, 2016
Source: Spare review copy passed on*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Andie has a plan. And she always sticks to her plan.

Future? A top-tier medical school.
Dad? Avoid him as much as possible (which isn’t that hard considering he’s a Congressman and he’s never around).
Friends? Palmer, Bri, and Toby—pretty much the most awesome people on the planet, who needs anyone else?
Relationships? No one’s worth more than three weeks.

So it’s no surprise that Andie’s got her summer all planned out too.

Until a political scandal costs Andie her summer pre-med internship, and lands both she and Dad back in the same house together for the first time in years. Suddenly she’s doing things that aren’t Andie at all—working as a dog walker, doing an epic scavenger hunt with her dad, and maybe, just maybe, letting the super cute Clark get closer than she expected. Palmer, Bri, and Toby tell her to embrace all the chaos, but can she really let go of her control?

My Thoughts:
I have been a huge fan of Morgan Matson ever since I read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour several years ago. So, understandably I was super excited to get The Unexpected Everything from Sophie (you're literally the best Sophie!) when she got an extra copy. I decided to control myself and save it until revision week, so that I would have something I was really looking forward to to save me from revision hell. While I still think that Since You've Been Gone is my favourite of Morgan's books, I read this in just a few sittings despite its pretty large page count and I absolutely loved it.

The thing that makes Morgan's books so great are definitely her characters. I quickly fell for Andie and her group of friends, Toby, Palmer, and Bri. Their friendship felt so genuine and they reminded me of some of my own friends too which was great. I particularly loved Toby because I felt like I could relate to her the most, and her emoji-only texts cracked me up. I also thought that the portrayal of their friendship was very realistic, and not sugar-coated which was refreshing. I don't think that a lot of other books would have ended like this did, shall we say (I hope if you've read it you can guess what I'm talking about!).  Morgan's books also always have a great emphasis on building family relationships which is also great to see, and this was no exception. I really loved watching Andie rebuild her relationship with her father and getting to know her mother through that too. And it goes without saying that Andie's relationship with Clark is a lot of fun too. Adorable!

The plot is very simple, and it's so easy to read and get lost in. It's just about a group of friends going about their lives, doing fun things like scavenger hunts and having pool parties, and navigating difficult relationships . I wanna do a big scavenger hunt like they do, just need a Palmer to organise it for me, haha! Andie's a dog walker so there are also a lot of fun doggie scenes which always made me smile. I normally avoid books about animals for some reason, so it was something I've never really read about before but it was very enjoyable haha. Also the pups on the cover are very cute too, which definitely doesn't hurt!

Overall The Unexpected Everything was everything that I wanted it to be. It was the perfect read to start off my summer, and has got me really excited for kicking off my summer reading. I definitely recommend this and all of Morgan's other books if you're looking for something fun and summery to take on holiday, or let's be honest just if you're looking for something really good to dig into. You won't be disappointed!

*Huge thanks to Sophie Waters from So Many Books, So Little Time, for sending me this! I owe you one! 

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Review: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow (The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, #1)Title: The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow
Author: Katherine Woodfine
Series:  The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, #2
Pages:  320
Publisher: Egmont
Date of Publication: 4th June, 2015
Source: Library
Synopsis from Goodreads:
You are cordially invited to attend the Grand Opening of Sinclair’s department store!

Enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and MYSTERIES around every corner. WONDER at the daring theft of the priceless CLOCKWORK SPARROW! TREMBLE as the most DASTARDLY criminals in London enact their wicked plans! GASP as our bold heroines, Miss Sophie Taylor and Miss Lilian Rose, CRACK CODES, DEVOUR ICED BUNS and vow to bring the villians to justice…

My Thoughts:
I borrowed The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow from the library on a whim when I was pretty sure I didn't have time to read it but because it has the most gorgeous cover I couldn't resist.  I don't read that much middle grade, but some of my favourites are A Most Improper Magick by Stephanie Burgis, and Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens - both historical with a feisty young female lead and both excellent, so this had a lot to live up to.  And it definitely did!   I quickly fell in love with the world of Sinclair's department store and the really great cast of characters, and I can heartily recommend it.

The blurb says 'enter a world of bonbons, hats, perfumes and mysteries' and I cannot think of a better way to describe what it's like, reading about Sinclair's department store.  I absolutely loved it!  I loved reading about all the different sections of the store and the descriptions of what you can buy, and it's so easy to imagine all the colours, sights, and smells. It made the story so exciting and vivid, even before the real plot even begins.

And then when it does, you are thrown into the mystery surrounding the clockwork sparrow and why it is so rare, and most importantly, who could have stolen it and why.  There follows a romp through Edwardian London as Sophie and her gaggle of friends try to solve the mystery.  The plot is fast paced and very twisty and it kept me guessing until the end.

The novel has the best characters I've read in a little while.  I quickly fell in love with Sophie as she made friends with the unlikeliest of people in the store, the ones that everyone else looks over, and soon they form a tight little group of amateur crime solvers.  Lilian is particularly gutsy and fabulous!  All of the characters are fleshed out so well, and you even love to hate the baddies - including Edith, Sophie's nemesis on the shop floor.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow is not one to be missed.  Whether you like historical fiction, crime and mystery, or you just want a great story, then look no further than this because it is exactly what you are looking for.  Now I cannot wait to read book two, The Mystery of the Jewelled Moth!

Friday, 11 March 2016

Book Review: Othergirl by Nicole Burstein

OthergirlTitle: Othergirl
Author: Nicole Burstein
Series:  n/a
Pages:  272
Publisher: Andersen Press
Date of Publication: 2nd April, 2015
Source: Library
Synopsis from Goodreads: Louise and Erica have been best friends since forever. They're closer than sisters and depend on each other for almost everything. Just one problem: Erica has superpowers.

When Erica isn't doing loop-the-loops in the sky or burning things with her heat pulse powers, she needs Louise to hold her non-super life together. After all, the girls still have homework, parents and boys to figure out. But being a superhero's BFF is not easy, especially as trouble has a way of seeking them out. Soon Louise discovers that Erica might be able to survive explosions and fly faster than a speeding bullet, but she can't win every fight by herself.

Life isn't a comic book - it's even crazier than that.

My Thoughts:
I had pretty high hopes for Othergirl. I like superhero movies a lot but I'd never read a book about them so that was very exciting, and I'd heard good things about it. While it didn't blow my socks off, Othergirl was a quick and enjoyable read, which I think will appeal hugely to slightly younger readers.

In the world of Othergirl, superheroes are very prominent figures who form groups called Vigils around the globe to save the world. Enter Erica and Louise two best friends. Erica can fly, control heat, and wants to be a Vigil, and Louise is her best friend who makes sure she keeps up with her homework and doesn't let her powers get the better of her.

First and foremost I had problems with this friendship. I totally understand that some friends have nothing in common yet they work anyway, but at least most friendships usually (should!) include some kind of mutual appreciation of each other. I really don't see why Louise put up with Erica, to be honest. It was weird! Erica was full of herself and pretty bitchy throughout: she lets her powers make her arrogant, she stomps all over Louise when she tries to look out for her, and she ditches Louise for a guy she likes more than once. What happened to sisters before misters? Erica gave nothing to the relationship so I don't know why Louise bothered to. Maybe the idea was to portray Louise's undying loyalty or whatever but it all becomes a bit silly after a while.

I really liked the superhero concept- the idea of all the Vigils was exciting, especially with the kind of celebrity culture that followed them. It reminded me of Megamind which is a film that I LOVE so that was cool. However I don't think that they were fleshed out nearly enough. There was no explanation for how some individuals had special powers, which bugged me throughout, and it would have been nice to read in more detail about the famous superheroes and what they've done, rather than just their names and about how everyone loves them. A few exciting pages of their stories would not have gone amiss!

The novel is very, very easy to read and won't take you long at all. It was a really nice antidote to all of the heavy Roman History books that I (should) have been reading for my course, so I didn't really mind that. At times though I would have liked a little more, it could be quite simplistic. I'm not actually sure what age bracket this is aimed at (probably should have looked that up) but it reads a lot younger than I expected so maybe that has something to do with it. The plot is therefore quite predictable (the stereotypical hot bad guy in a long leather coat didn't help!) and the ending fell a little flat for me - I'd have liked more of a twist to be honest! It wasn't bad by any means, just not as exciting as I had hoped.

Overall though, Othergirl was an enjoyable read that I would definitely recommend if it's something you've been considering reading for a while. It will only take you an afternoon or so to zip through, and so it's perfect for a rainy afternoon and sometimes that's exactly what you need! Also if you like it you can look forward to the next book set in this world, Wonderboy, which comes out in September.

Monday, 29 February 2016

Book Review: How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

How Hard Can Love Be? (Normal, #2)Title: How Hard Can Love Be?
Author: Holly Bourne
Series:  Normal, #2
Pages:  470
Publisher: Usborne Children's Books
Date of Publication: 1st February, 2016
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?

All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber's hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.

And then there's prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie's advice, there's no escaping the fact: love is hard.

My Thoughts:
I am a huge fan of Holly Bourne, and so understandably I was super excited to read How Hard Can Love Be?. As soon as I finished my last exam, I headed down into town to Waterstones, where I bought myself two books (this and All The Rage) even though I am a poor student who can't really afford to be buying books (I did get a buy one get one half price offer so that makes it okay, right?). I started it as soon as I could, and quickly and easily fell back in love with the world and characters that Holly has created.

While it is the second in the Normal series, the books are not consequential. The first book, Am I Normal Yet?, follows Evie and her struggles with OCD and anxiety. This one follows Amber and the issues in her family, stemming from alcoholism.  Am I Normal Yet? hit me hard with the honest and unflinching portrayal of Evie's illness (you can read my review here) and this one once again made me consider things that I have never had to consider before. Two years ago, Amber's mum left her behind to move to America with her new husband, and Amber hasn't heard from her since. So Amber jets off to spend the summer with her, hoping to mend their broken relationship, and it is while she is on camp there, that she meets Kyle.

Don't be alarmed, this isn't one of those stories where a girl has all sorts of problems, then meets a boy who magically takes them all away, leaving everything fine and dandy. That just doesn't happen in real life.  Anyway.  The novel starts off with Amber, extremely hungover, boarding a plane and desperately trying not to vomit all over the children in front of her.  Therefore right from the start alcohol plays a pretty major part of the story.  As I'm living in student halls at the moment where it seems like everyone drinks far too much (the amount of vomit here is astounding sometimes), even though I myself don't drink very much, alcohol plays a pretty big role in my life.  There are people in my corridor and on my course whom if they carry on drinking the way they do, could quite easily be in the same position as Amber's mum in just a few short years, which made it all the more heartbreaking at times reading about how Amber was feeling at the brokenness of her family, and about her abandonment issues and mistrust and insecurity, all because of this.

Another huge issue that Holly expertly tackles in How Hard Can Love Be? is feminism.  This is a recurring theme throughout the trilogy so far and I expect it will only grow in the final book.  Despite Amber being in a whole different continent, she and Evie and Lottie still manage to hold their regular Spinster Club meetings, which they started in Am I Normal Yet?  These scenes are definitely some of my favourites, as Evie and Lottie set such good examples of female friendship which is so important, while at the same time discussing important feminist issues and just having a really fun time together, and so really it's just one big fat win for feminism. Yay!

The novel is set in a Camp America-like setting, and both the activities that they have to partake in and the characters Amber interacts with there are so much fun and were such a joy to read about.  I loved how the contrasts between American and British behaviour was brought out and Amber's uncertainty about being around the Americans, and how as she got to know them you could feel her loosening up.  I particularly loved Whinnie and I sincerely hope that she makes an appearance in future books.  Of course, Kyle was also fabulous, and I am very glad that he was because I noticed a distinct lack of genuinely nice male characters in Am I Normal Yet? (which was appropriate for the novel so it wasn't too big a deal, but it was good to finally read about one!).  Kyle also makes a great point about the label of 'nice guy' which I'd never considered before.  Finally I have a lot of love for one of the campers, Calvin.  He was just so cute.

How Hard Can Love Be? is a more than worthy follow up to the brilliant Am I Normal Yet? and I loved every minute of it.  I cannot recommend these books enough - they are always my go to recommendation whenever anyone asks for something good to read!  Holly Bourne is definitely on my auto-buy list and I can't wait for more from her and from the Spinster Club girls.  If you haven't read Am I Normal Yet? go out and buy yourself a copy and while you're there get this too.  You won't regret it!  All I have to say now is: Bring on book three! 

tl;dr: Thought-provoking, feminist, and at the same time both heart-breaking and hilarious. With a lovable cast of characters and a super-fun setting, you should just go out and buy it!

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Book Review: Waiting For Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill

Waiting for CallbackTitle: Waiting For Callback
Author: Perdita and Honor Cargill
Series:  n/a
Pages: 346
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books
Date of Publication: 28th January, 2016
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: When Elektra is discovered by an acting agent, she imagines Oscar glory can't be far away, but instead lurches from one cringe-worthy moment to the next! Just how many times can you be rejected for the part of 'Dead Girl Number Three' without losing hope? And who knew that actors were actually supposed to be multi-lingual, play seven instruments and be trained in a variety of circus skills?

Off-stage things aren't going well either - she's fallen out with her best friend, remains firmly in the friend-zone with her crush and her parents are driving her crazy. One way or another, Elektra's life is now spent waiting for the phone to ring - waiting for callback.

Can an average girl-next-door like Elektra really make it in the world of luvvies and starlets?

My Thoughts:
So I started reading Waiting For Callback in the midst of my first bout of university exams.  I had been MEGA stressed about these and could never escape the scary thoughts of what the stress was doing to my body and especially how it was affecting my mental health, and I needed to do something to distract myself, literally for my own sanity and well-being.  One night when I couldn't sleep I picked up Waiting For Callback and it was exactly what I needed.  Something fun, light-hearted and easy to read, and before I knew it I was 100 pages in and loving it (and thinking 'oh no it's 12:30am and I'm really tired but I don't want to stop reading').  It perfectly distracted me from my thoughts as I got lost in Elektra's story, and I loved it.

The book begins with Elektra dressed as a spider, impersonating a carrot onstage.  Yep, you read that right!!  I found this weird (who wouldn't?) but I decided to roll with it - why not, eh?  In the audience is an agent, who goes on to represent Elektra as she begins her career as a young actress.  From here on out the story is of Elekta navigating the scary world of child acting: prepping for auditions, the feeling of failure and disappointment when they are unsuccessful, the waiting, etc.  To top it all off she is also struggling with school, friendships and the emotional baggage that comes with first crushes and relationships.

Elektra's voice is super easy to read and get lost in, and also so authentic.  It's odd how when I started this blog I was younger than all these YA protagonists (I was thirteen, I think?), yet I realised as I was reading Waiting For Callback that now that I am nineteen, I am four years older than the main character, and older than most of the protagonists that I read about now.  Yet it didn't affect my ability to relate to Elektra, as I think that the feelings and experiences that you have when you are fifteen don't go away just because you're older.  Just because you're older doesn't mean you can't learn from a fifteen year old!  This was just something that I found myself considering as I read, and now more as I am writing this review.

I related mostly to what Elektra was going through with her friendships and school stresses, as these things are still happening to me now, if in a slightly different way: uni rather than school, and a lot of my friends are spread over the country at other unis or still at home.  One of my best friends has just got together with one of her best friends (I'm soooo happy for them) and while I don't at all feel like she's ditched me for him as Elektra does in the book, it was a tiny worry that crept into my head when she told me.  It's a thought I shouldn't have had (sorry if you're reading this, you know who you are) and I think Elektra feels the same- she knows it's silly, yet it's so hard not to listen to the thoughts in your head, no matter what age you are.  So yeah I know since a lot of the readers of my blog probably are adults reading YA I don't need to tell you this but I've done a lot of growing up very quickly in the last few months and it's scary, but it's a comfort to know that some things don't change.

The other major (actually probably the main) part of the book is obviously Elektra's auditions and blossoming career as a young actress.  I've never been interested in drama or acting (drama class at school was my second least favourite, only after PE), but I do like watching films and TV a lot so it was cool to see a little bit about how casting works and the background things that happen so far in advance of a film that you hardly ever or really never think about when you're sitting back and enjoying watching something.  I dunno how realistic they are but they fooled me if they're not!  Haha.  I felt Elektra's frustration right along with her, and found it just as upsetting when she missed out on parts or when things went mega wrong!  I was impressed by how much she didn't let it go to her head and by how mature she was (most of the time!) about it!  I was worried at first that she'd be a brat and while she did have some moments it wasn't over-the-top drama queen (that was all Flissy!) so I didn't mind.

Basically, go read Waiting For Callback.  It's light-hearted and doesn't take itself too seriously, yet still manages to deal really well with some mature themes.  I am so pleased I chose to read this in the middle of exams too, since it meant that I could easily escape from my own head even for a little while, giving me perspective.  To top it all off there was more than one Chuck Bass reference in there, and any book that acknowledges the existence and perfection of Chuck Bass is one that I want to read ;)  I will definitely be looking out for future books by this mother-daughter duo (and maybe a sequel?! I don't think it needs one necessarily but I definitely would not turn it away!) and you so should too!

*Huge thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy of Waiting For Callback in exchange for an honest review.  In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Carry OnTitle: Carry On
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Series:  n/a
Pages:  517
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Date of Publication: 8th October, 2015
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he'll be safe. Simon can't even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can't stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you're the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.

My Thoughts:
Before I start this review, I feel I should explain how this book came about. Rainbow Rowell's novel Fangirl is about, you guessed it, a fangirl called Cath who writes fanfiction about a character called Simon Snow. The Simon Snow books are the world of Fangirl's equivalent to our Harry Potter, I guess, and Carry On is supposedly the full fanfic that Cath writes in Fangirl. You don't have to have read Fangirl to read Carry On, however you should anyway!

I was super excited to get a full Simon Snow story, since in Fangirl you get so many little snippets of his world, but you never quite get to see the full picture. I couldn't wait to fully immerse myself in the world of Mages and get to know Simon, Baz, Penelope and Agatha properly, for a whole book, and I was not disappointed. It's been compared many times to Harry Potter and the similarities are definitely there, however I'm a big fan of HP so it didn't really bother me too much. Although it took me almost a whole month what with uni and life and all that jazz getting in the way, I really enjoyed it.

The book starts off with the start of the school year. I really liked reading about Watford and the setting of the school, and the inside covers of the hardback are colourful maps of the school grounds so that was definitely a bonus! I was pleasantly surprised to find that the novel is set in England which I just wasn't expecting from an American author, and although there were a couple of things that I didn't think a British person would say overall it was very convincing.

Obviously, the relationship between Simon and Baz was the highlight of the novel for me. I loved how it developed from Simon hating Baz at the beginning, yet still not being able to stop thinking about him, to a truce that was almost friendship, to something more. It was especially cute because right from the start, from Fangirl you know they will end up together and it's just a matter of when, so it's impossible not to read and be rooting for them, even when at times it seemed impossible that it would happen! They are so good together and I loved it.

Their relationship is not the only plotline however - Simon also is 'the Chosen One' who must defeat the Insidious Humdrum, and they also have to find out who killed Baz's mother. These plots were pretty good, although again I couldn't thinking of Harry and Voldemort and Penelope's super brain was just like Hermione's, but I think this just made me like it more because I love HP and also that's not to say it wasn't written well and can't stand on it's own. I was surprised by the ending so it wasn't predictable, which is always good. The plot moves fast towards the end so it's hard to put down, and the multiple narrators are interwoven really effectively to keep you hooked in and unable to put the book down. And so , overall it really isn't one to be missed, (especially for fans of Fangirl)!

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Book Review: Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Night OwlsTitle: Night Owls
Author: Jenn Bennett
Series:  n/a
Pages:  272
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date of Publication: 13th August, 2015
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Feeling alive is always worth the risk.

Meeting Jack on the Owl—San Francisco's night bus—turns Beatrix's world upside down. Jack is charming, wildly attractive...and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists.

But Jack is hiding a piece of himself. On midnight rides and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who this enigmatic boy really is.

My Thoughts:
I didn't really know anything about Night Owls when it dropped through my letterbox, but after a few weeks when reviewers had started to read it, I began to see it everywhere. I'd seen comparisons to Graffiti Moon which I actually didn't enjoy that much so I was slightly apprehensive, but I'm happy to tell you guys that I really enjoyed Night Owls. It portrays being a teenager accurately and realistically; sensitively exploring everything from family issues, relationships, and mental health, as well as LGBT themes, all packed into just 300 pages.

Bex and Jack meet on a night train one night, and their connection is instant. Bex doesn't know anything about this mysterious boy sitting opposite her, until he accidentally drops a can of gold spray paint. She realises he's San Francisco's secret vandal, who's been painting huge words throughout the streets at night. Despite knowing he's a criminal wanted by the police, as Bex gets to know him, she can't help but fall for him, but he's got some secrets and baggage of his own...

Looking back through my review history, it's quite clear that YA romantic contemporaries are my thing, and so this was right up my alley. As I began to read, I quickly fell into the rhythm of Bex's narrative and became invested in her story. I particularly enjoyed reading about her unusual hobby - drawing scientifically accurate anatomical diagrams. Although at times it was pretty gruesome (and aww, Minnie!), it was really interesting and I have a kind of morbid curiosity that makes me really want to see her drawings, even though it is really not my kind of thing (things that are inside your body should remain inside your body, in my opinion. I don't need to see them!). Jack's graffiti was also really cool and although I do not condone vandalism of any kind, I enjoyed reading about his reasoning behind it and the scenes where he actually creates his pieces were some of my favourite in the novel.

However, Bex's relationship with Jack did seem kind of instalove-y, if I'm honest. She declares that she is in love with him pretty early on, and although he was rather swoon worthy I'll admit, I couldn't ignore the voice in the back of my mind screaming 'you hardly know him!'. Anyway. They don't actually get together until about half way through the book though so perhaps I'm being slightly unfair; it just bothered me for a lot of the book so I felt I had to mention it. Once they'd got to know each other properly though and spent more time with each other I found myself rooting for their relationship and believing in it a lot more so it did redeem itself - don't worry!

I can easily see Night Owls becoming one of the biggest releases of late 2015, and I definitely think that it is deserving of that. It's a really excellent read that pulls you in and keeps you hooked until the end, and I even found myself tearing up at the resolution (even though I was in a car full of my family, who would definitely have laughed at me, had they noticed). I recommend you get yourself to your local bookstore to get yourself a copy as soon as possible as you really won't be disappointed.

*Huge thanks to Simon and Schuster for providing me with a copy of this in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Book Review: How To Be Bad by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski and Lauren Myracle

How to Be BadTitle: How To Be Bad
Author: E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle
Series:  n/a
Pages:  288
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Date of UK Publication: 4th June, 2015
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads:
When you're tired of being good, sometimes you gotta be a little bad ...

Jesse, Vicks and Mel couldn't be more different. Jesse, a righteous Southern gal who's as thoughtful as she is uptight, is keeping a secret that she knows will change her life forever. Vicks is a wild child: seemingly cool, calm and collected on the outside, but inside she's furious at herself for being so anxious about her neglectful boyfriend. And Mel is the new girl in town. She's already been dismissed as just another rich kid, but all she wants is to get over some of her fears and find some true friends.

But for all their differences, the girls discover they've got one thing in common - they're desperate to escape. Desperate to get the heck out of Niceville and discover their true 'badass' selves! Even if it's just for the weekend ... One 'borrowed' car later, it's time to hit the road and head for Miami. Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything.

My Thoughts:
Ever since I read We Were Liars, I've been a big fan of E. Lockhart. I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks last year and loved it, so I had high hopes for more of the same from How To Be Bad. While it wasn't at all what I wanted, it was still enjoyable and I'm glad I've read it.

Three girls, Jesse, Vicks, and Mel, work in the local Waffle House and they've all had enough of their lives and decide to go on an elaborate road trip to escape. The novel is narrated in alternating POV, with each of the three authors taking a character each. I think Mel was the most relatable, but Jesse was the hardest for me to get used to.

However Jesse was also the character that I found most interesting, with her strong Christian views affecting everything that she does. I liked seeing such a steadfast and unashamed faith in a character as it's not something I've ever seen in a YA novel, but I do think that she was overexaggerated and her faith was portrayed negatively, which I didn't think was very fair. She fell into the pushy, close-minded Christian stereotype and for the most part (or at least in my experience), Christians are not like that. In Britain at least, perhaps it's different in America? I don't know, but I did enjoy her discussion of VeggieTales. You should watch them if you haven't. They're very silly... Anyway!

The novel's a lot more character driven than plot driven (at times the plot is rather ludicrous, and at others just plain not-that-interesting), but I didn't mind that. At the beginning none of the characters were particularly likeable, but by the end their friendships grow and change and they develop into better people which is always nice to see. I enjoyed watching their friendship blossom, even through their fights, and it's always great to see a novel whose main plot is the development of female friendships. Yes, there are boys involved but only secondarily - go girls!

While How To Be Bad did not deliver everything that I wanted from it, I did enjoy it and was quite happy to sit and read it almost all in one sitting. If, like me, you're looking for something as good and individual as E. Lockhart's previous titles, We Were Liars and The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, perhaps look elsewhere, but I'd recommend it more if you're a contemporary enthusiast and for fans specifically looking for a good YA road trip.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Book Review: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Am I Normal Yet?Title: Am I Normal Yet?
Author: Holly Bourne
Series:  Normal Trilogy, #1
Pages:  434
Publisher: Usborne
Date of Publication: 1st August, 2015
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

My Thoughts:
Ever since I read a proof copy of Soulmates back in 2013, I've been a big fan of Holly Bourne. I devoured Soulmates in only one day despite it's 500 pages, and The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting was probably one of my favourite reads last year. Therefore I was super excited to get my hands on a copy of Am I Normal Yet? at YALC and I couldn't wait to get started.

Mental health is a big issue today, but to be honest I've never really thought too much about it because it's not something I've seriously ever encountered or considered, until reading Am I Normal Yet?, which now that I've written it down is really bad, I know! However, now that I've finished reading the novel, which is so honestly told from Evie's POV as she returns to school after first becoming ill and throughout a relapse, I feel like I can understand much better what she went through and how real sufferers are thinking.

I have to start this with a hats off to Holly for being able to depict Evie's illness accurately yet sensitively - I can't imagine it was easy! Despite the tough subject matter, Evie's voice was so easy to read and individual and I was able to lose myself in her voice and story. I was really interested in the psychology of her illness, for example her thinking behind having to touch lampposts six times or wash her hands several times, because although it was a totally alien thing to me, it made perfect sense in Evie's head. Equally though I loved the moments that Evie spent at school (though not when she was talking to all the douchey guys - seriously not a single guy in this book is nice! It irked me, sorry - I know it's a feminist book and all but not all guys are bad, and it's good to have a healthy relationship, right?!), and particularly those conversations that she has with her two new friends, Lottie and Amber.

It is during these conversations that Holly manages to integrate discussions of feminism into her novel. They discuss many modern day issues surrounding feminism, such as ever-taboo periods, and the Bechdel test. The girls form a 'Spinster Club' and while sometimes these meetings felt a bit like an info dump, they voiced many thoughts I've had and heard discussed by my school's Feminist Society, while at the same time being pretty laugh-out-loud funny. Feminism is so obviously something that Holly is passionate about and it's so great to see it shining through in her novel.

Am I Normal Yet? was brilliant, and the fact that it is a trilogy and there's more to come in the future is super exciting and I can't wait for the next two books! I think it's such an important read for everyone, to gain insight into what it's really like to live with a mental illness in an interesting and fun way, and for that reason, you definitely need to get yourself a copy, pronto.
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