Posted in 2018, ARC, Harper Teen, Net Galley, Reads of ...

All of This is True

Release date: 15.5.2018
About: In this genre-defying page-turner from Lygia Day Peñaflor, four teens befriend their favorite YA novelist, only to find their deepest, darkest secrets in the pages of her next book–with devastating consequences.
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to hear the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her.
Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck–especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too.
Penny Panzarella was more than the materialist party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was–and she was willing to share all her secrets with Fatima Ro to prove it.
Jonah Nicholls had more to hide than any of them. And now that Fatima’s next book is out in the world, he’s the one who is paying the price…
Perfect for fans of One of Us Is Lying–and told as a series of interviews, journal entries, and even pages from the book within the book–this gripping story of a fictional scandal will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
Buy it here


Character/s

This book wouldn’t be the same without each and every one of these complex characters. Their personalities don’t work in isolation and are a result of actions of others. Meeting them in a Pretty Little Lies post-event environment makes for some unreliable narrators and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Plot.

It’s a puzzle piece plot that will only make sense once you get to the end. Because of the nature of the plot, I can’t actually talk much about it, other than the fact that it will consume you completely. You will not want to put it down until you have all the answers.

Writing

It’s amazing when you have so many different characters with their own narratives going on that a writer can give each one a unique voice on paper. You don’t have to read the start of chapters multiple times to find out whose views your reading.

 

Posted in 2018, ARC, Han, Han's Reviews, Hot Key Books, Net Galley, Reads of ...

Ascension by Victor Dixen @VictorDixen

Release date: 28.6.2018
About:
Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world’s craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.

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


Characters

I love Leonor. She’s a good voice to have when you’re stuck in space; she grounds you, so to speak. When you have a character like her; passionate, flawed and insightful. The way she works through the speed dating is interesting and something I easily identify with. Not only that, it adds a level of internal conflict that some narratives miss.

We learn bits about the other crew, but it’s those left on earth that are the most interesting. We have Serena, who communicates directly with the participants and becomes the ‘host’ of the broadcast. She’s a piece of work, you’ll quickly learn, but I want you to find that out for yourself.

Plot

It reads like a brilliant Sci-fi blockbuster. There are many threads in play and they change your perspective like a rubrics cube, waiting to be solved. Being the first in a trilogy, you go in knowing that you will have a resolve of some sorts, but there will be questions left unanswered to ensure you want more. It’s expertly done so that it doesn’t feel like it’s the first in a sequence, but a story in its own right.

Writing

Being a translated story, there’s always a worry that the writing loses something. This story, I’m delighted to say, doesn’t. It’s language is clean, its engaging and powerful. It makes for such a consumable, compulsive read.
I just wish I knew enough French to read the other two books in the series. Yes, they’re already published guys but you need to have progressed further than a GCSE in French to be able to access them.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Hot Key Books, Net Galley, Reads of ...

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton

Release Date: 8.2.2018
About:
Lily has died in a car accident. The trouble is, Lily’s really not at all sure she wants to ‘move on’ . . . This funny, heartbreaking novel is perfect if you loved John Green or The Lovely Bones.
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road.
She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead.
But what is she supposed do now?
Lily has no option but to follow her body and sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .
Buy from Here


Character/s

Lily is one of the most interesting characters I’ve seen on page. She’s dead from the moment we meet her, so we never really get a true sense of who she was. Being in the first person means we get a reflective character full of regret. It’s just as untrustworthy as other characters you meet and establish as untrustworthy.

Plus, a good chunk of the time, she’s not being herself. She’s being her brother. Now that is interesting and is truly good at showing how little we can sometimes know people.

Plot

The supernatural Freaky Friday plot really works here. It toes a perfect line of light-hearted scenarios and a deep emotional look at grief and loss. It’s not for everyone, but for those people who have lost someone close and have found it difficult to process those emotions, this might actually be the story for you.

Writing

The sign of good writing here is how the movements of Lily. Regardless of her form; ghost or host, there’s no confusion as to where she is or who she is. The writing also keeps emotion in play while allowing the reader to remove themselves from the grief.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Book reviews, Net Galley, Reads of ..., The British Book Challenge

Starfish by @akemidawn

So, this book is not going to take my normal approach to reviewing because my thoughts are all jumbled in a this-is-so-amazing brain dump. I still can’t, 12 hours or so from finishing the story, process how much EVERYONE needs to read this book.

There are so many threads within the book that at least one will have you gasping ‘that’s so me’. It deals with so many crucial issues that make or break someone; divorce, cultural belonging, parental approval, plans for the future, truthfulness, failure and so many more. Not only does Bowman address them, she provides solutions to some if you’re open to seeing them and not all of them are to do with acceptance.

I cried, more than once, reading the novel in my almost-one-sitting. I had a twenty minute break while I had something to eat; unfortunately with now having two beautiful kittens, eating at home is like waging war; one false step and I’ve lost my food. I digress. There are points in the book, whether you’ve been through it or not, your empathy will flood you with emotions. Bowman has created such a strong character that perceives herself as unworthy and weak. It’s hard not to want Kiko in your life as a friend.

While I have my own feelings about the Uncle Max thread and how that is dealt with has brought me some comfort that I never thought I’d find from a book, it is the issue of anxiety that I most identified with. The way Bowman represents Kiko’s thought process hopefully reveals to those who don’t suffer from anxiety, how exhausting it can be. It also helped me feel a little more ‘normal’.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Book reviews, Ramblings, Reads of ...

The Curious Heart of Alisa Rae by @ubder_blue_sky

Characters

Alisa is the focus of the book and she is a wonderful protagonist to take you through her turbulent life. She’s kind, considerate and rather patient when it comes to her over bearing mother. She’s a realistic, emotional adult who has not experienced life and it’s hard not to love her.

While there are plenty of other, well rounded, characters in Alisa’s life it is Lennox who is the most interesting of all. You do wonder how trustworthy Alisa’s views are of him owing to the fact that everything is from the perspective post his death. He’s a character I would have loved to have gotten to know more, but it adds depth to the narrative, so its certain not something I dwell on for long.

Plot

The plot is a tangle of pre and post new heart for Alisa. It almost feels a little like a rubiks cube; the faces are ever changing as you try to put what you know into place. It’s wonderful and keeps you focused.

Alisa’s blog wins a reward that sees her in the presence of someone known to society, but not to her; a handsome actor whose life hasn’t gone exactly how her thought it would. He draws Alisa into his world and shows her that there is a life outside letting other people make her choices for her. It’s this romance that is at the heart of the story; it is its own thread, but it has impact upon Alisa’s other relationships both past and present. That said, it’s a beautifully sweet part of the story and will have you rooting for them, long after the book has finished.

Writing

The writing is a mix of emails, blog posts and narrative chapters. It’s a wonderful way of showing the emotional aspect of the story and gives it a beautiful non-linear approach that’s quite real of our own thoughts and feelings.

It’s rather refreshing and uplifting for a book that deals with organ donation, death and family tension. Once I started, I couldn’t put it down and even when it was finished, I wasn’t ready to let go of the characters.

Posted in 2018, Reads of ..., Usborne

Orphan Monster Spy Blog Tour: Matt Killeen’s female hero ‪@by_Matt_Killeen ‬ ‪@Usborne ‬

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games

 

Contains Spoilers

Katniss Everdeen is a hero. It seems too obvious to mention. So successful has this character been in book and film form, so universal and ubiquitous has her effect been, that this blog might seem redundant. But leaving aside her personal influence on me – I’m a big fan, the kind of fan who collects dolls and first editions – she’s really a much more complex character than many “strong female” archetypes. Yes, she is strong and smart and gutsy but it is the root nature of that heroism that is worthy of note.

For a trilogy about a revolution, Katniss begins with no interest in starting one. That was never her intention. She was angry about lots of things, but the focus of that rage lay elsewhere. She was angry with her mother’s mental collapse, rather than explicitly angry at the system that allowed her father’s death. She has no love for the Hunger Games, but her only wish is to run away from it.

All Katniss wants to do is protect her sister, her de facto child. She doesn’t volunteer as Tribute with a view to winning or surviving. She believes that she is ending her life to save Prim’s. She isn’t aware of the power of her single-mindedness, or that her skill with the bow is a potential game-changer. The Tributes from District 12 die every single year – with one exception in 74 years, long before Katniss was born. Not for nothing is Haymitch an alcoholic mess. He’s helped send forty-six children to their deaths.

It isn’t that she doesn’t have a rebellious streak. The arrow aimed at the judges during training is a huge overreaction to being ignored. It isn’t a piece of calculation to up her score, although that is its effect. She snaps, as she does outside the hospital in District 8 before delivering a plot defining speech. But this anger is swiftly channelled into a will to survive. To get back to Prim.

She doesn’t begin to hate the Capitol, I mean really loathe its raison d’etre, until Rue is killed. Again, it’s her instinct to nurture – a traditionally “feminine” trait – that leads her to risk a loss. Rue is a surrogate for Prim and the Tribute’s murder is her sister’s death writ large. The funeral flowers are a direct act of rebellion, a funeral rite that interrupts the process of the games – her body cannot be collected while Katniss is there. This isn’t to bring down the Capitol, it’s to reassert some humanity. That, of course, is what makes it so dangerous. It’s interesting that the film chooses that moment to show a riot in District 11, the moment that she herself has crossed the Rubicon and become a threat.

The very second that she believes that both she and Peter can be saved she seeks him out, even though that makes her more vulnerable. She risks death again to get his medicine. Even the final moment with the nightlock, the moment that is the beginning of the end of Snow and the Capitol, does not come from a place of rebellion. She is not willing to kill, or have Peter die for her and he will not do the killing. The trick with the berries is just a way of saving both of them. The act of defiance that it represents is incidental.

When she meets the revolution – District 13 and its conspirators – she is suspicious from the off. For a start, it failed to protect all those she cared for. She suspects that, like every rebellion since the dawn of man, it will end in bloodshed and she’s right.

She only agrees to become the Mockingjay in return for promises of safety and rescue for those same people…and her sister’s cat.

The horrible irony by the end is that despite beginning the journey to save her sister, Prim dies as a result of rebel action. It isn’t that the Capitol – the Nazis or the Empire or whoever – shouldn’t be resisted, it’s just that warfare without compassion is temptingly effective and its cost cannot be calculated. Prioritising the ends, no matter the means, just proves President Snow right. This is a reality about conflict that is as true of World War Two as it is of the rebellion against the Capitol.

Katniss is a hero that changes her world because she cares, because she has an instinct to nurture. The skill with the bow, the determination, the righteous anger – attributes that could be described as male or masculine – are secondary. It is compassion that is the root of everything she does. It is why she is powerful.

Her final act – killing Coin – comes from that same place. She gives everything up at that moment, she can expect nothing but death. But there will be no more Hunger Games. The children of Panem, all of them, will be safe. It is the same deal that she made at the very start.

Posted in 2018, ARC, Reads of ..., Usborne

Book Review: Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killen

Plot: 

Sarah has played many roles. Dutiful daughter. Talented gymnast. Persecuted Jew. Lost orphan. But now she faces her most challenging role of all. Now she must become the very thing she hates. For the only way she can survive as a spy at a boarding school for the cream of Nazi society is to become a monster like them. A monster who can destroy them.

Discover the girl who can beat Bond and Bourne at their own game, in this utterly addictive thriller from a jaw-dropping new talent.

Characters
Sarah and the Captain are two strong figures within this novel. Sarah has a flawed balance between bravery and naivety that could only be brought about from the time in which the book is set. There’s an empathy readers will have with the orphaned teen in a war-torn Berlin.
Sarah is given a new name and a new role to play, which allows her to come into contact with enemies of her own age. There are a number of characters readers will meet during Sarah’s mission, but it will be Mouse that you will take to your heart.
The Captain does take a back seat for most of the story, but he is an interesting character that I wish I’d gotten to know more. He has a mystery surrounding his character that will leave any reader begging for a sequel.
Plot
I cannot do the plot justice without spoiling it. So, all I will say is that it is a well written historical war story that will not let you catch your breath for a second. The second act takes place in a boarding school setting, that will forever change your ideologies of an education away from home.
The ending is haunting is the current climate. It doesn’t shy away from the brutalities of life outside of the war and the pressures of family. It seeps through slowly, but the reveal still hits you like a brick.
Writing
I have so much respect for Matt Killen. He has written such a strong female protagonist that is flawed and impassioned; layered within a story that it firmly placed within a researched history. Matt proves, with this one novel, that you don’t always have to stay within your comfort zone and write what you know.
It a compelling and emotion-fuelled read, that works well as a standalone. However, I’m hoping Matt has at least another story waiting for fans who will be undoubtedly begging once they read that final chapter.