Category: Book reviews

#YALC Sampler Round Up One: @MKenneyPR , @akemidawn ,@HoJay92 & @mkhanauthor

City of Dust by Michelle Kenney
HQ
Kindle– 2 October 2018
PB– 13 December 2018
Book of Fire: Review & Buy

9780008281441

I fell back into this world like meeting up with a friend I’d not seen in forever. For both me and the story time has passed, but it feels like yesterday that I was racing through Book of Fire, as if the character’s chance of survival increased by my speed of reading. In the three chapter sampler, you are quickly caught up with the characters and their lives for the last year before Talia’s life is thrown a curve ball.
The sampler ends on a cliffhanger that will have everyone counting down to that release date.
For those who have yet to read Book of Fire, I suggest you get on it, post haste. It was one of my top reads for 2017 and I’ve been waiting with such anticipation for this sequel.

 

 


Summer Blue Bird by Akemi Dawn Bowma
Ink Road
Spring 2019
Starfish: Review & Buy

Summer Blue Bird

This five chapter sampler has such a powerful opening and lays down a solid foundation for what will be unfolded in 2019. From what I’ve read so far, the set up reminds me of Fly Away Home; my favourite film and worn out novelisation from when I was a kid.
It’s a testament to Bowma’s writing that I’m already attached to her characters. 

 

 

 


A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Electric Monkey Press
2 May 2019
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40916679-a-good-girl-s-guide-to-murder?from_search=true

Holly-Jackson-Good-Girls-Guide-proof-cover

 

“We dare you to put it down” states the tagline on the cover of the two chapter sampler. Believe me, I’m gutted I can’t meet that challenge. It’s short, but very effective and I already have so many questions and theories that I need more information to be certain.
There was already a buzz at YALC about this book and even from the pages I’ve had the privilege to read, I can tell this is going to be the big book for next summer.

 

 

 


Kick the Moon by Muhammad Khan
MacMillian
19 January 2019
First book: I am Thunder

kick the moon

I knew nothing about Khan’s second book and I knew that I wanted it in my life. I work as an RE teacher in a diverse school in which some students feel they are almost invisible to society. Unless of course, they’re the subject of negative press. There are others who love reading, but find characters they identify with are tokens and there merely to check a box. It’s wonderful to say ‘here, you are being represented.’
Imagine my delight when I discover that the book will center around a protagonist that loves comic-book heroes. Not only is this perfect for me, I know of at least five students who will be fighting to be the first one to read it come January.

Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt

About
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume-designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool…and her secret.

Theatrical blog tour.jpg

Characters

Hope is everything young me wanted to be. She’s perhaps everything all of us want to be; someone who is successful and able to make a path for themselves in the world. She also falls into the trap we all do; we assume and respond to other’s unspoken views.
You’ll be gripped by her passion, her independence and her growth throughout the book. She’s a wonderful protagonist and a perfect mirror for any reader.
My other favourite character is Hope’s mother. She doesn’t necessarily get the most time in the book, but I love the different perspectives we’re given with a first person narrative. I actually felt like this was almost the most realistic way of developing a mother within a book.

Plot

The plot centring around a work experience placement is so wonderfully refreshing and unpredictable. There is romance, but it certainly isn’t central to the plot, for me! And I think that’s the beauty of Harcourt’s work; the prominent strand or relationship is what you bring to it. For me, making my mother proud and also breaking away and do my own thing was always something I tried to balance. However someone else will find the romantic strand the driving force.

Writing

The aspects of writing that really stuck out for me was not the characterisation, but the location. There was a part in the book that I fell into. Okay, mainly because it’s boiling hot right now, but her description of the rain and darkness gave me some relief from this sticky nightmare I’m currently finding myself in.

It also speaks volumes about the writing that I have 15 students on a waiting list for my copy just from reading the first page.

Blog Tour: Not the Girls You’re Looking For

Characters
Lulu is a brilliant young woman, growing up in a mixed culture household and not knowing where she truly belongs or its impact it has on her identity. That’s all before we even get onto the fact that she’s a teenager in high school and dealing with the social etiquette of that too.
I love her fire and loyalty. She’s honest and uncompromising with her views; it gives you a good basis for the plot to revolve around.
James is a curious individual who isn’t overly likeable at first, but as Lulu gets to know him, you’ll be forgiven for having a change of heart.
Plot
It’s Easy A meets Heathers, by way of Mean Girls. You get an understanding of teen life, before Lulu’s life is turned upside down. It causes her to confront aspects of her life that she has always questioned; enabling her to understand herself a little better before the status quo is finally reached.
You don’t leave Lulu’s perspective, so her friend’s views are given to us through Lulu’s perspective or second hand news. It gives you an interesting view of what Lulu thinks of herself and others.
Writing
The writing is crisp, clean and emotional; you can clearly feel the torment of a person caught between two cultures. It is perfect for anyone wanting to understand what it feels like to almost have your very existence questioned.

Not the Girls You’re Looking For – Book except

“It’s a matter of principle.” Audrey crossed her arms.

When it came to Audrey and her sister, everything was a matter of principle. Lulu shrugged. What Lulu knew of sisters, apart from Audrey, she had taken from fiction. Lulu suspected that Audrey found her sister to be a Mary Bennet– priggish and pedantic– while Audrey’s sister probably thought of Audrey as a Lydia Bennet– thoughtless and selfish. Or maybe they were Amy and Jo March and this was all about a burnt manuscript and an heiress of a boy. Lulu found the idea of sisters fascinating, but her only vocabulary for the relationship was borrowed. She did the best she could to keep up, given the circumstance.

Audrey turned the radio back up. Lulu flicked Audrey’s fingers, like swatting a fly, and turned the radio back down. Audrey sighed. After waiting a beat, she turned up the radio in one grand, sweeping effort, “So where to first?”

“‘Emma’s, then Lo’s,” Lulu punched off the radio with her knuckles. Her ears vibrated from the aftermath of that decibel level. “Then I’m thinking tacos. We haven’t had tacos in forever.”

“Two weeks. Yes, that was forever ago.” Audrey used as much condescension as she had in her. And Audrey had been bred to hold plenty of condescension.

Lulu laughed. Her freshly won freedom made her gracious enough not to hold a grudge. She had taken the blame for the night of the pool incident, getting Audrey off nearly scot-free. But Audrey would do the same for her, even if Audrey knew the world to be a certain way. A way that didn’t hold water, but still.

Lulu made an unprotected left turn and Audrey swooped in to turned the radio back on. Lulu paid these antics no further attention. They constantly danced around like this, attracting one another with what ought to repel. The two girls chatted and laughed until they became four. How any of them could hear one another, over each other, or the music, or the wind coming into the car as it sped along, was anyone’s guess.


BOOK INFORMATION

 

TITLE: Not the Girls You’re Looking For

AUTHOR: Aminah Mae Safi

PUBLISH DATE: June 19th 2018

PUBLISHER: Feiwel & Friends

SYNOPSIS:

Lulu Saad doesn’t need your advice, thank you very much. She’s got her three best friends and nothing can stop her from conquering the known world. Sure, for half a minute she thought she’d nearly drowned a cute guy at a party, but he was totally faking it. And fine, yes, she caused a scene during Ramadan. It’s all under control. Ish.

 

Except maybe this time she’s done a little more damage than she realizes. And if Lulu can’t find her way out of this mess soon, she’ll have to do more than repair friendships, family alliances, and wet clothing. She’ll have to go looking for herself.

 

Debut author Aminah Mae Safi’s honest and smart novel is about how easy it can be to hurt those around you even if —especially if—you love them.

 

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35795940-not-the-girls-you-re-looking-for

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1250151813

B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/not-the-girls-youre-looking-for-aminah-mae-safi/1126791458?ean=9781250151810#/

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781250151810

Audio (Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/Girls-Youre-Looking-Aminah-Safi/dp/1250314577/ref=tmm_abk_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

 

AUTHOR INFORMATION:

Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer who explores art, fiction, feminism, and film. She loves Sofia Coppola movies, Bollywood endings, and the Fast and Furious franchise. She’s the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest. Originally raised in Texas, she now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner, a cat bent on world domination, and another cat who’s just here for the snacks.

 

Author website: http://www.aminahmae.com/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16090821.Aminah_Mae_Safi

Twitter: https://twitter.com/aminahmae

Instagram: http://instagram.com/aminahmae

Tumblr: http://aminahmae.tumblr.com/

Slay by Kim Curran

The most painful time in my life was when my copy of this went missing in the post. For a month, I had this feeling of knowing I *could* have read it, I *could* know how awesome it was but I couldn’t, because my postman decided to ‘return to sender’. My house appeared to be Grimmauld Place for a month or so and clearly the post man was not privy to the knowledge of the secret keeper.

Anyhow, I did get to read it. As it happens, it arrived the day after I started I Was Born For This and they made for a thematic reading pair.


It’s hard not to be biased because I was sold at the reference to Buffy. My life is lacking something teen and supernatural and SLAY fits in just perfectly.
The story hits the ground running and doesn’t stop to let you catch your breath. It’s amazing. From the moment you meet the boys of SLAY, all the way through their collaboration with Milly you will feel like you’re right with them.

Milly is a perfect protagonist. She’s relatable and new to the world of demons that the boys are so familiar with. However, she’s not going to be a damsel; she holds her own and catches up quick. Her feelings towards the band members gives depth to her character and some friction that I expect to see arise in the sequel.

The boy band. They are a riot! If only this band was real; I’d so be going to see them live. There’s a clear leader complex in JD. His frosty front will melt your heart. There is then the twins who are the perfect ying and yang. Curran has a talent for demonstrating sign language in a coherent way. Zek is my favourite and the perfect person to bring together a group that might clash without him.

It’s a perfect origins story for this group. It has the ideal pace and emotion to get you attached, but you are still left wanting so much more. I personally can’t wait to see how the relationships develop within the next book.

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

About:

The third novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman – one of the most talked about YA writers in recent years.
For Angel Rahimi life is about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything she loves – her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.
Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.
But dreams don’t always turn out the way you think and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together, they find out how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.


I was waiting for this book for so long. I was anxious to get my hands on this book, as if there was a small window for it to be bought or it would be lost to me forever. I fully expect I wouldn’t have slept the night before it’s release date, had I not had the wonderful surprise of finding it in a Central London book shop, nestled in with the new releases, a few days before.

I love Alice Oseman’s writing and narrative messages so much that I abandoned what I was reading to start I Was Born for This. Once again, Oseman did not disappoint. There is so much to relate to in the book. It doesn’t matter if the fandom didn’t fit, the reactions and the emotions are still the same.
Me, I’m not so much a boy band following girl any more. I remember abandoning Westlife for Alice Cooper back in 2003 when I went to my first ever concert at 18, but before then I was firmly a Boyzone and Spice Girls fan. I’m also firmly in the tv and film fandoms and can completely relate to the meeting friends online, paying money to be involved in some event and even meeting some of the celebrities involved.

What, perhaps, is the most familiar aspect of the novel is the idea of perceptions. From the viewpoint of both Angel and Jimmy, they clearly think and feel differently to those around them. I loved how they were both explored for their negative and positive aspects.

How it came to an end was perfect; both Angel and Jimmy will make decisions in their lives that provide a fulfilling and satisfying ending. However, Oseman has given me people I love and I want to know more about them.

Book Review The Island by M A Bennet

The book is an epic rollercoaster from the first page. There are layers and twists within the plot and narration that will ensure you’ll want to read it again. I garentee you’ll discover something new every time as well.
Such a refreshing change having a male main character within a first person narrative. You’ll feel a little like a helpless, frustrated, Jiminy Cricket as Link’s story develops and he faces challenges on the Island. I found myself shouting as the pages one or twice. Okay, it was at least five.

Taking the concept of a private school with a skewed idea of success looks like, Link is your underdog and a book like this would normally be about the problems he faces and how he overcomes the challenges without sacrificing himself. But, you are not entering into that sort of narrative and you quickly find out Wonderland rules apply; up becomes down, the strong are weak and the geek will rule all.

While the twists are shocking, it’s the character responses to them that are the bit that will make sure you don’t put this book down.

Book Review Extinction Trials: Exile #JurassicLondon

Hello all.

I’ve been holding off reviewing this book until today because, of course, today Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom is released.

I hate to say this because I feel like I’m saying there’s a fault with the first one (and there’s not), but this sequel was better. It’s not only my favourite in the series so far, but my favourite read of 2018. With both, I’ve seamlessly fallen into the world. However, with Exile, I was one of them.

Picking up once the characters are somewhat settled after the events of the previous outing, we get to have much more of a glimpse into life on Earthasia and how Storm’s actions have impacted on her and the other survivors.

Following both Storm and Lincoln’s narrative makes for an emotional ride. One that is very separate at first. Lincoln’s guilt and ethical standing is explored in much more depth and it is hard not to feel the attachment of the character grow stronger.

This book wouldn’t be the same without a mission to Piloria. I’m so happy to say that it is far different from the time spent there in the first book. It doesn’t try and recreate the sequence or give the people the same mission, but this time it’s a whole new agenda.

The action is fast paced and film worthy. Adding Storm’s biological father into the party is a perfect move that adds so much more emotional growth to Storm. It might take place in a land that doesn’t exist,  but I’m certain there are people who will relate to Storm’s confusion of how to feel about a man who she’s never known.

As always I was left wanting more. I wasn’t ready to leave the characters behind, but I’m excited to wait for the third installment that is due in 2019.

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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.

 

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.

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.

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’.