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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.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Review: These Shallow Graves - Jennifer Donnelly

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly, published by Hot Key Books on 27th October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.

'These Shallow Graves' is a Victorian murder mystery, featuring feisty young heroine Josephine Montfort, or Jo as she likes to be known.  Jo's father dies at the beginning of the story and she takes it into her own hands to find out the truth about his death, helped along the way by handsome journalist Eddie. 

The setting for the story is New York, 1890.  I thought that Jennifer Donnelly did a really good job of incorporating a sense of the atmosphere of the period.  Women did not have many rights beyond working if they were poor and marrying if they were rich.  Jo subverts the line between the two by coming from a wealthy and privileged background, but she also wants to pursue her own dreams which are far greater than simply being a wife.  She is an interesting heroine because she is incredibly ambitious for the time and refuses to stop throwing herself into the path of danger if it means she will discover answers to the elusive questions the story poses.   

I enjoyed the way that Jo peeled away the layers of mystery and intrigue to gradually piece together the truth about her father and what really happened to him.  I love a good murder mystery and this one kept me on my toes. 

This was quite a long book at nearly 500 pages.  I found it quite slow in places at the beginning and I'll admit that I nearly gave up on reading it at one point but it picked up considerably as the pieces of the mystery began to come together.  I do think that the plot could have been tighter and there were some elements which didn't altogether work for me but there was a lot I liked to.  I don't feel that this was a very memorable read but if you enjoy historical murder mysteries then it's definitely worth a try. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Blog Tour: Dangerous Lies - Becca Fitzpatrick

Becca Fitzpatrick has stopped by A Dream of Books today to provide some advice for teens. 

On being a teen or advice for teens

In my writing I tend to draw, at least in bits and pieces, on my own teen years. In Dangerous Lies I based Chet Falconer, the story's hero, on my high school boyfriend. I had a great high school boyfriend. He was kind, smart, athletic, good looking. At the time, I wondered why he was with me. Girls would come up to me at school and say things like, “Is he really with you?” and it made me more insecure. I think teens can be really hard on themselves. We're very critical of every perceived flaw. Recently, a friend from high school contacted me and said, “You had everything. I wanted to be you.” I was baffled.

Moral of the story: Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Focus on your good qualities, because someone out there sees them.

Becca's new book 'Dangerous Lies' (published by Simon and Schuster) is out now. 

Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.  After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.  As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks.

Don't forget to check out the rest of the stops on the 'Dangerous Lies' blog tour. There are some great posts still to look forward to. 

Monday, 9 November 2015

Review: Can We Live Here? - Sarah Alderson

Can We Live Here? by Sarah Alderson, published by Blink on 6th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
In 2009, Sarah and John Alderson quit their full-time jobs in London and headed off, with Alula, their three-year-old daughter, on a global adventure to find a new home. For eight months, they travelled through Australia, the US and Asia navigating India with a toddler in a tutu, battling black magic curses in Indonesia and encountering bears in North America asking themselves one defining question: Can We Live Here?

Inspirational, hilarious and fascinating this is an unforgettable travel memoir and a unique guide to quitting your job, following your dreams and finding your home in a far-flung paradise.

Sarah Alderson's first non-fiction title charts her escape from the rat race of London to a new adventure, trying to find a home somewhere in the world with her husband and young daughter.  As they travel through places such as India, Bali, Singapore and Australia, she contemplates finding the perfect place to settle in and put down new roots. 

I am not a big traveller myself and I definitely don't have the travel bug but what I could identify with in the book was Sarah's musings on escaping the trappings of day to day life and believing that there is something more out there - a simpler and less complicated way of living.  A life away from the routines, complacency, bills and the never-ending cycle of work that threatens to sap out spirit.  Sarah was brave enough to make the plunge into the unknown, which I really admired. 

I enjoyed reading about all the places she and her family ended up visiting and the new and unusual experiences that they have.  Some of her anecdotes are absolutely hilarious, such as in Malaysia, when a bus and a bottle are involved.  I did have to laugh.

It was also interesting to discover more about Sarah herself and to find out her path to becoming a published author.  I found it quite incredible how luck seemed to land in her lap, although she obviously had a talent for words all along and since then has worked incredibly hard writing lots of fantastic young-adult novels to keep all us readers entertained. 

Overall, an enjoyable travel memoir for those looking for a glimpse of a simpler way of life. 

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Review: George - Alex Gino

George by Alex Gino, published by Scholastic on 25th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she's not a boy. She knows she's a girl.

George thinks she'll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte's Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can't even try out for the part . . . because she's a boy.

With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte -- but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

Alex Gino’s debut novel is a moving and hopeful story about a boy called George who believes that he is really a girl inside (I’ll refer to George in the female tense from now on).  Even though George is only ten years old, she knows who she truly is but how can she get anyone else to see her for who she is meant to be.   When she gets the chance to be part of the school play of Charlotte’s Web, she becomes convinced that if she can only play the part of Charlotte, then she will finally be able to show her true self. 
George is a loveable character and one who you warm to immediately.  I liked the friendship she has with her best friend Kelly, who is incredibly supportive and provides the hand to hold that George so desperately needs.  It was also interesting to see how George’s relationship with her mum evolves, as this is obviously a tough situation for any parent to react to and know how to handle.    
This is an important book for young people to read, as it shows how we need to be accepting of others and not judge people for who they are.  I haven’t read a lot of LGBT books, but this is one that should really find a place on school library bookshelves.  

Monday, 2 November 2015

Review: Dangerous Lies - Becca Fitzpatrick

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick, published by Simon and Schuster on 10th November 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Stella Gordon is not her real name. Thunder Basin, Nebraska, is not her real home. This is not her real life.

After witnessing a lethal crime, Stella Gordon is sent to the middle of nowhere for her own safety before she testifies against the man she saw kill her mother’s drug dealer.

But Stella was about to start her senior year with the boyfriend she loves. How can she be pulled away from the only life she knows and expected to start a new one in Nebraska? Stella chafes at her protection and is rude to everyone she meets. She’s not planning on staying long, so why be friendly? Then she meets Chet Falconer and it becomes harder to keep her guard up, even as her guilt about having to lie to him grows.

As Stella starts to feel safer, the real threat to her life increases—because her enemies are actually closer than she thinks.

'Dangerous Lies’ was probably the best book I’ve read by Becca Fitzpatrick so far.  I’ve had a bumpy track record with her books, some I’ve loved and some I haven’t enjoyed, but I thought this was a great read.  It wasn’t a five star standout but it had a good plot which featured a hot guy (it always helps!) and there was an exciting turn of events which kept me hooked until the end.
At the beginning of the story, Stella Gordon enters the witness protection programme which leads to her relocating to the middle of nowhere, or Thunder Bay, Nebraska to be more specific.  Although upset to be apart from her boyfriend and her old life, she finds that there are some things to enjoy about life in a small town, local boy Chet being one of them.  I thought that the idea for the plot was great – teen hides out alone from bad guys in a small town.  I kept wondering if Stella was really as safe as she appeared to be and this kept me on my toes throughout the book, as I was constantly looking for danger around every corner.  Not only does Stella have some pretty dangerous people to watch out for, she also has to deal with local bad boy Trigger McLure.  I have to say that I didn’t quite understand why Trigger hated Stella as much as he did but he was one very bad piece of work.
Chet on the other hand was wonderfully dreamy!  He has had a lot put on his young shoulders but he copes with things admirably and I could easily see why Stella began to fall for him.  He has a lovely personality and is gorgeous too!
Although Stella wasn’t my favourite heroine, she grew on me throughout the book and I enjoyed finding out about the secrets she is hiding at the end.  There were some good twists and turns and a dramatic conclusion which had me on the edge of my seat.  More like this please Becca Fitzpatrick!

Monday, 19 October 2015

Review: A Thousand Nights - E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston, published by Macmillan Children's Books on 22nd October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to my village, looking for a wife. When Lo-Melkhiin - a formidable king - arrives at her desert home, she knows that he will take her beautiful sister for a wife. Desperate to save her sister from certain death, she makes the ultimate sacrifice - leaving home and family behind to live with a fearful man. But it seems that a strange magic flows between her and Lo-Melkhiin, and night after night, she survives. Finding power in storytelling, the words she speaks are given strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. But she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king ...if only she can stop her heart from falling for a monster.

I was really looking forward to this book. A retelling of ‘A Thousand and One Nights’, I was expecting this to become a firm favourite. I’m always on the lookout for clever retellings of classic tales and from all the hype surrounding this title, I thought it sounded like exactly my kind of book. Although I had a proof copy, the finished cover art is absolutely gorgeous and would definitely make me pick this title up if I saw it in a bookshop. Sadly, for me, the contents didn’t match the packaging. I did finish this one but my attention had sorely wandered by the time that I came to the last page which is such a shame because I had high hopes for ‘A Thousand Nights’. 

The story begins with an introduction to the character of Lo-Melkiin. He marries young girls and only ever picks one from each village or town, but none survive beyond sunrise. The nameless narrator of the story is certain that when he visits her village, he will choose her beautiful sister for his bride. Determined to stop this from happening, she makes herself look more attractive so that he will be drawn to choose her instead. I loved the way that she protected her sister from certain death at Lo-Melkiin’s hands and the way that the strength of the bond between the two siblings so obviously came across throughout the book.       

After she becomes Lo-Melkiin’s wife, she stays alive by telling him stories at night, while suspecting that there is something dark living within him. I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two leads so the romance aspect of the story fell completely flat for me. I liked the fact that our heroine was courageous and brave and more than capable of standing alone but I also wanted her to have more of a drive to safe Lo-Melkiin because she felt some sort of love for him.

About a third of the way through the book, the story became very fantastical and there was a definite increase in the amount of magic and fantasy that was woven into the plot. I’m afraid this didn’t particularly appeal to me and it seemed to throw the story off-kilter. 

I suspect that this is a book which some people will love but unfortunately I didn’t fall into that category. If my expectations hadn’t been so high at the start then I suspect I probably wouldn’t have persevered with finishing it.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: Angel Dares - Joss Stirling

Angel Dares by Joss Stirling, published by Oxford University Press on 1st October 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Angel is impulsive. Disguising her savant ability to control water doesn't come easily to her. Then she meets the broodingly handsome Marcus at a music festival where they're both performing, and finds herself all at sea. For when he sings, her soul answers with its own music. Like the tide, their mutual attraction cannot be held back, but Marcus's mistrust of Angel's gift is even stronger. How can they ever be together if Marcus is unable to accept who Angel is or what they could mean to each other? And with the net closing in on the Savant community it's time for everyone to choose a side.

Joss Stirling's SoulFinder series is one of my favourites.  I love the whole idea of the Savant community and the fact that all these couples are destined to be together but have to find each other first. 

'Angel Dares' was another terrific addition to the series.  The main character Angel, meets Marcus, a fellow musician at a festival and is drawn to him through their music.  He is originally distrustful of her gift and refuses to believe in the savant community which makes their relationship extremely difficult.  Angel however, is such a positive person that she won't be deterred and tries to get him to change his mind, with often mixed results I might add.

I have to say that as much as I love this series, I am a little disappointed that the direction of the stories has shifted away from the Benedict brothers and instead has focussed on some of the younger characters.  I would have loved to have seen the whole book based around Will and his personal search for his soulfinder but this was relegated to being nothing more than a sub-plot.  I realise that some of the brothers are slightly older, so I can only imagine that they were deemed too old to be the central focus of a young-adult series.  All the same, I miss seeing them at the heart of the story. 
There were glimpses of them in the book though which did keep me very happy.   

I thought the plot was good, especially the inclusion of the threat which hangs over the heads of the savants.  This led to a really dramatic conclusion which was both exciting and gripping. 

Hopefully the next book in the series will be about Victor Benedict who has always been one of my favourites.  I'm hoping that he will eventually be lucky in love! 
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