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I'm a librarian based in the UK who loves books. I'm happiest when I'm either talking about them, reading them or buying them. This blog is devoted to my addiction to YA fiction.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Review: Nowhere - Jon Robinson

Nowhere by Jon Robinson, published by Puffin on 4th July 2013

Goodreads synopsis:
Alyn, Jes, Ryan and Elsa are Nowhere.
A concrete cube in the middle of a dense forest.
Imprisoned inside are one hundred teenagers from all over the country.
They're all criminals. But none of them remember committing any crimes.
Who has put them there. What do their captors want?
And how will they ever break free...

Nowhere’ by Jon Robinson is the first in an enigmatic and thrilling new YA series.  I hadn’t actually heard a lot about it prior to reading this so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I think that was a good thing because it meant that I was continually taken by surprise in terms of the quality of the plot and the unusual twists and turns that the author incorporated.
The premise for this book is brilliant!  Teenagers put in prison in the middle of nowhere, with no knowledge of why they are there.  This must be everybody’s worst nightmare and that alone was enough to hook me in and get me interested in the characters' plights.   
The story was really puzzling but in a good way.  There were hints and clues as to what was going on but you had to try to connect all the dots yourself.  I still have lots and lots of questions about the reasons why the teenagers were all being held in the prison and why they were made to think that they were guilty of crimes they had not committed.  It would have been nice to have found out a bit more by the end of the book but I guess a lot of the reveals are being saved for later in the series. 
The teens themselves were an interesting bunch.  The book focuses on Alyn, Jes, Ryan and Elsa as they attempt to break out and escape.  I admired their strong will and determination and found myself really rooting for them to succeed.  I would have liked a little more character development throughout the book but flashes of their previous lives are interwoven into the story.      
This is a debut novel by a UK author who is definitely one to watch.  I’m eager to read the follow-up ‘Anywhere’ which I’m hoping will shed light on some of the mysteries that are still unanswered. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

Review: In the Age of Love and Chocolate - Gabrielle Zevin

In the Age of Love and Chocolate by Gabrielle Zevin, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 31st July 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Anya Balanchine is a teenager with the responsibilities of a grown woman. Now eighteen, life has been more bitter than sweet for Anya. She has lost her parents and her grandmother, and has spent the better part of her high school years in trouble with the law. Perhaps hardest of all, her decision to open a nightclub with her old nemesis Charles Delacroix has cost Anya her relationship with Win.
Against the odds, the nightclub becomes an enormous success, and Anya feels like she is on her way and that nothing will ever go wrong for her again. Until a terrible misjudgment leaves Anya fighting for her life ...

I was thrilled to get my hands on a copy of this book because I couldn't wait to see how Gabrielle Zevin was going to conclude Anya Balanchine's story.  After having gone through so much and faced both love and loss, I wasn't sure if Anya was going to get a happy ending or not so I started reading this with a small sense of trepidation but also a huge amount of confidence that Zevin would give her trilogy the right ending. 

Anya is now eighteen and has become the owner of a nightclub The Dark Room with her former nemesis Charles Delacroix.  Her relationship with Win is over and life is changing, finally for the better.  It was great to see Anya trying to legitimise the Balanchine crime family at long last and give them something positive to focus on for the future after having been on the wrong side of the law for so long.   

At the heart of this series has always been the personal character development of Anya herself.  She has lost so many people that she has loved and cared about but she is incredibly tough and never gives in which are qualities that I admire about her.  She has also taken her responsibilities towards her younger sister Natty very seriously and wants to ensure that she gives her a better future than she had herself.  I love their sibling bond and the closeness that the sisters have always shared. 

There were some exciting and unexpected last minute twists in the plot which I thoroughly enjoyed.  There is also a dramatic ending to the story which caused my jaw to quite literally drop open.  The Birthright trilogy features romance, friendship and familial relationships but also presents a wonderful depiction of Anya's fall and rise from a young girl to a woman in her own right.          

Friday, 22 August 2014

Review: An English Boy in New York - T.S Easton

An English Boy in New York by T.S Easton, published by Hot Keys Books on 7th August 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
As part of his prize for winning the All-UK Knitting Championships, seventeen-year-old Ben Fletcher has won himself an all-expenses paid trip to New York... and to the US National KnitFair. Unfortunately his new girlfriend Megan is (somewhat suspiciously) unable to come with him, which means Ben has the dubious pleasure of being accompanied by his family and his third-choice-friend Gex.

The other problem is, Ben's not really sure he wants to be known as teenage knitting genius any more. His idea for a knit-able hoodie could make him millions... or turn him into a laughing stock forever. An existential knitting crisis turns out to be the least of Ben's concerns though, as he quickly finds that his apparent magnetism for trouble has followed him across the pond.

Champion knitter Ben is back and off to New York to claim his prize of an all-expenses paid trip to the US National KnitFair.  I loved the first book about Ben which was funny, humorous and warm-hearted, so I couldn't wait to get stuck into the sequel. 

Ben's a natural worrier so his anxiety comes to the fore when he has to decide who to take with him on the trip when his girlfriend Megan can't go.  It's quite hilarious watching Ben trying to puzzle out who to ask as his list of possible travel partners keeps on getting smaller and smaller.  He eventually ends up rather reluctantly asking Gex who jumps at the chance, although he has zero interest in knitting.  His Mum and Dad are also there to accompany him on the trip and although they are pretty embarrassing, pretending that they are on their second honeymoon, I found them really funny.

The New York setting was one of my favourite things about the book.  The Big Apple is my top dream holiday destination and until I get there (I will one day!) I like to live vicariously through others.  It was great getting to see Ben explore some of the sights and sounds of the city and he gave me a lot of laughs with his obsession about eating the way that New Yorkers do.  I'll admit that I would do the same if I ever got the opportunity to go!

Ben's passion for knitting is another aspect which makes these books so enjoyable.  His love for all things knit and purl shines out from every page and he makes me want to pick my knitting needles up and join him.  He has an interesting challenge to face in the story which I won't spoil but needless to say, it involves Ben having got himself into a rather tricky and very humorous situation.

This was a truly enjoyable read by a fantastic author.  I'm so pleased that Ben got a sequel because he's such a great character that you really take him to your heart.  Fans of the original will be sure to love this book.   

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Review: As Red As Blood - Salla Simukka

As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka, published by Hot Keys Books on 7th August 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson is hardly your average teenager. She lives by herself in the city of Tampere, Finland, and has a firm rule to mind nobody's business but her own. But that rule is put to the test when she happens upon five hundred washed euro notes hanging up to dry in her school's darkroom, and it is shattered once Lumikki realises who owns them.

Caught in an increasingly tangled web of deception, corruption and danger, Lumikki finds herself navigating the Tampere's dark underbelly in the search to expose its shocking connection to the international drugs trade. Lumikki is smart, but is she smarter than a master criminal? Can she bring down the infamous 'Polar Bear' - or will she become another one of his victims?

'As Red As Blood' is translated from the original Finnish by Owen F. Witesman and is the first book in a brand new thriller series by Salla Simukka.  It is a dark and sinister read which really impressed me and which I will be highly recommending. 

The main character, teenager Lukikki Andersson, reminded me of female heroine Lisbeth Salander, from the books by Stieg Larsson.  She is a loner and is extremely independent, living on her own away from her parents.  She is very resourceful and clever but is also hiding secrets about her past which I was definitely intrigued to know more about.  We are given glimpses of a relationship she was previously involved in but nothing is explicitly revealed and you are left to make your own deductions about this. 

The story really kicks into gear when Lukikki unexpectedly stumbles across dirty money hanging in her school darkroom.  From this moment on, she becomes embroiled in a dangerous criminal underworld where murder and deception dog her every step.  I loved the narrative and I was drawn in by the extremely puzzling plot which had me utterly gripped.  I couldn't put it down for even a second and finished this title in one sitting.  It's not a particularly long book but every chapter is brilliantly written, combining intrigue, deceit, danger and fear.     

An enticing blend of crime thriller and mystery, this was a fantastic read which unravelled gradually revealing hidden secrets but which still left me with plenty of questions which will hopefully be answered in the next book in the series.  I was swept away by the fantastic plot and the kick-ass heroine and I can't wait to read more by this very talented author. 

Monday, 18 August 2014

Review: Panic - Lauren Oliver

Panic by Lauren Oliver, published by Hodder on 14th August 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

'Panic' is the best of Lauren Oliver's books that I've read so far.  A contemporary YA with a darkly dangerous undercurrent, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the secrets of the small town of Carp.

Carp is a town where everyone longs to escape and Panic is their way out.  All graduating seniors are eligible to take part, but not everyone is prepared to confront the danger that Panic represents, even with the incentive of a large monetary prize. 

The book alternates between the points of view of Heather and Dodge, two participants in the legendary game of Panic.  They both want to win but they have very different motivations for taking part.  Not only did I enjoy the twists and turns of the game and the challenges that the participants faced, but I also liked seeing how the game influenced each of the characters and made them do things which they might not have believed themselves capable of. 

Heather's best friends Bishop and Natalie are also interwoven into the book.  I really liked the easy friendship between Heather and Bishop, although it is touched with an undercurrent of something more, as their relationship begins to dip it's toe into the waters of a potential romance.  I found Bishop quite enigmatic at times but I loved the way that he was always there for Heather as a shoulder which she could lean on and I was rooting for them to end up together.

This book was a fast-paced read which I couldn't put down.  I was desperate to find out who was going to win Panic and who was going to be eliminated and I couldn't believe some of the challenges which they were all made to complete.  This is a game for which you have to be made of stern stuff to take part.  It was incredibly tense throughout as they all have to face their greatest fears to remain in with a chance of winning the prize. 

Lauren Oliver has surprised me yet again with this gripping read which I would definitely recommend you starting with if you haven't read anything by this author before. 

Friday, 15 August 2014

Review: Bad For You - Abbi Glines

Bad For You by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 14th August 2014

Goodread synopsis:
Addiction is part of Krit Corbin’s nature—and women have always been his favorite obsession. But that’s the life of a lead singer in a band. He can have any woman he wants—anywhere, anytime. Well, except for one.

Blythe Denton is used to being alone. The minister’s family who raised her never accepted her as their own, and the cruel minister’s wife made sure Blythe understood just how unworthy she was of love. So when she finally gets the chance to live by herself, Blythe takes it and moves into an apartment building with a loud upstairs neighbor who keeps throwing parties all night long.

It’s during one such party when Krit opens the door to find his new neighbor standing there. Blythe wants him to turn down the music, but he convinces her to stay. She’s nothing like the women who parade in and out of his apartment, but Krit can’t resist her—her brown hair, cute glasses, and sexy innocence is too much for him to ignore.  Determined to win Blythe over, Krit Corbin may have just found his biggest addiction yet.

'Bad For You' is the seventh book in the Sea Breeze series and one of my favourites so far!  I literally fell in love with this one and I can't wait to pick it up and read it all over again.  In the meantime, I may just go back and re-read some of my favourite Krit and Blythe moments. 

I wasn't too sure about Krit from the glimpses I'd had of him in the previous book 'Misbehaving'.  Although he'd shown me some attractive qualities, he also came across as a real womaniser who found it impossible to be faithful to just one woman.  What I love about Abbi Glines however, is that she really gets under the skin of a character and allows you to see their true personality.  I ended up completely changing my original perception of Krit and by the end I had fallen for him and fallen hard.  Blythe is one lucky girl!  Krit's addictive personality means that he quite quickly becomes infatuated with Blythe - even when he is still trying to deny his feelings for her to himself.  Although he is extremely experienced, she is not and I thought it was touching that he was so tender and caring where she was concerned, never making her take the next step until she was ready. 

In comparison, I loved Blythe from the very beginning.  We share some similar character traits and she is the kind of person who I would have liked to have had as a best friend.  Although she is shy and hates to be the centre of attention, she never fails to speak up for Krit and sees the real him, underneath the tattoos and piercings and his rock star persona.  I  enjoyed seeing how she interacted with the other people in Krit's life too, especially his sister Trisha, who has always been the one to defend and protect him in the past.  Even though she has had a really tough upbringing and has never been shown an ounce of love, she is still willing to open herself up to others and lay herself bare.  I admired so many things about her that I think she may even be my favourite female character of the whole series.    

I never want to leave Sea Breeze - I adore the characters and their stories and I could go on reading about them forever!  Abbi Glines never disappoints me with her truly fantastic books and 'Bad For You' has shot right to the top of my best reads of 2014. 

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Review: Misbehaving - Abbi Glines

Misbehaving by Abbi Glines, published by Simon and Schuster on 17th July 2014

Goodreads synopsis:
Jason is sick of living in his rock star brother’s shadow. So when he ships off to Sea Breeze, Alabama, he’s looking for a much deserved escape and a chance to blow off some envious steam. Falling for the local bad girl was definitely not the plan. But as the new duo enjoys some naughty fun in the Alabama sun, Jason learns that even though Jax is the musician in the family, he’s not the only brother who can rock someone’s world.

I absolutely adore the new look to the Sea Breeze series.  I think the covers are much more fitting to the stories than the previous black ones and look so, so pretty on my shelves! 

'Misbehaving' is the latest book in the series and for the first time in an Abbi Glines story, features a bad girl main character.  Jess is a small town girl who lives with her stripper mother.  She is far from an innocent virgin and knows how to use her obvious charms to get her own way.  Although I don't often like bad girls and it took me much longer to warm to Jess than previous characters such as Willow and Amanda Hardy, I'm still glad that Abbi took a chance and went for it.  She managed to give Jess lots of interesting layers and showed that beneath her tough exterior she is as hopeful for love as everyone else.   

Jess is knocked off her feet when handsome Jason Stone, brother of Jax, appears in her life.  It just goes to show that even bad girls sometimes need a white knight and Jason is it for her.  He has to work hard to prove himself to her but as she begins to open up to him, he finds that she is vulnerable and insecure, as well as loving and selfless.  The latter qualities are particularly shown through her relationship with her mother.  The two are best friends as well as mother and daughter and it is obvious that they would support each other through thick and thin. 

It was great getting to see Jax Stone's little brother get his own story at last!  Who knew that Jason would grow up to be quite so gorgeous and chivalrous.  I also loved seeing glimpses of all the other characters that make up the Sea Breeze community and it made me smile that they all seem to be growing up and settling down with their own children now. 

In my opinion, Abbi Glines never puts a foot wrong and 'Misbehaving' is yet another fabulous instalment in one of my all-time favourite series.     

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