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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.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Review: Second Chance Summer - Jill Shalvis

Second Chance Summer by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 30th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
What do you do when you run into the man who broke your heart? Lily's been back in Cedar Ridge for less than ten minutes when she bumps into Aidan, the former love of her life. So much for sneaking back into town unnoticed. And thanks to frizzy hair and armfuls of junk food, she's turning his head for all the wrong reasons. No one knows why Lily is home after ten years, and she's determined to stay no longer than the summer. But Cedar Ridge and Aidan have other ideas. As they set about persuading Lily to give them a second chance, she finds herself falling under the spell of the Colorado mountains ... and the one man she could never forget.

Jill Shalvis's Lucky Harbor books are my go-to series when I'm in the mood for a generous helping of romance.  'Second Chance Summer' is the first title in her new Cedar Ridge series which didn't let me down.  It gave me lashings of romance, as well as hot sparks flying around left, right and centre.  Well it does feature firemen.  Yes, that's right firemen!

What I love about Jill's books, is the way that she creates a whole community of wonderful characters who you instantly care about and want to see more of.  This time, it's the Kincaid family who live and work on Cedar Ridge and are determined to make a success of their family business at all costs.  Although Aidan is one of the main characters, I also really loved his older brother Gray and his domineering and feisty wife Penny, as well as his younger siblings Hudson and Kenna.  My favourite thing about them all is that you know they are always watching each other's backs.  Although they joke and fight with one another, there is no doubt in your mind that they will stand together through thick and thin. 

When Aidan hears that local girl Lily Danville is back in town after a ten year absence, his heart can't help skipping a beat.  Lily was the girl that got away and now that she is back, he won't let her escape so easily next time.  However, Aidan and Lily are both carrying their own burdens of guilt and until they can leave the past behind, they won't be able to move on with their futures together. 

I absolutely adored the setting for the story too.  Cedar Ridge sounds picturesque with it's beautiful mountains and hiking trails.  First, I wanted to live at the beach and now I'm thinking that the mountains sound right up my alley!

This was a super read which swept me away on a tide of romance.  I'm most definitely eager to read the second book in the series now which will be centred around Hudson.   

Monday, 24 August 2015

Review: Reawakened - Colleen Houck

Reawakened by Colleen Houck, published by Hodder on 13th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When seventeen-year-old Lilliana Young enters the Metropolitan Museum of Art one morning during spring break, the last thing she expects to find is a live Egyptian prince with godlike powers, who has been reawakened after a thousand years of mummification.

And she really can't imagine being chosen to aid him in an epic quest that will lead them across the globe to find his brothers and complete a grand ceremony that will save mankind.

But fate has taken hold of Lily, and she, along with her sun prince, Amon, must travel to the Valley of the Kings, raise his brothers, and stop an evil, shape-shifting god named Seth from taking over the world.

I have not read Colleen Houck's Tiger series, so she is a brand new author to me.  I really liked the sound of 'Reawakened' because I can't think of another YA series that I have read which is set in Egypt and leans heavily on Egyptian mythology.  It is always nice to discover something fresh and original and the plot sounded fantastic. 

There was a lot to like about 'Reawakened'.  The story was quite unique and I enjoyed the way in which Colleen Houck interwove the elements of Egypt and the Gods but with a modern setting.  At times, I thought that there was a lot of dense information given to the reader all in one go, which did help to build the mythology but was a lot to get your head around all at once.  I did love the myths and legends part of the book though.

The idea of a mummy coming to life and just happening to be a handsome guy who sweeps the main character off her feet, sounds pretty fantastical, but that is pretty much what happens.  I really liked the Egyptian Prince Amon and his quest to find his two brothers, although I was not as keen on his female counter-part Lily.  She comes across as spoilt and selfish at the start of the book but she grew on me a lot throughout the story and had matured a lot by the end.  I would have liked to have seen more romance between the two leads but this often takes a backseat to everything else that is going on.

The second half of the book was absolutely packed full of adventure and excitement, with one obstacle after another lying in the path of Amon and Lily's quest.  There was hardly time to catch my breath as they are thrown into one dangerous situation after another.     

I originally thought that this title was going to be a stand-alone, but judging by the ending I think that this could be the first in a series.  There is a lot still to sort out and it would be good to see more of Amon's two brothers in the future.  This is definitely a series that I will be following. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Review: One - Sarah Crossan

One by Sarah Crossan, published by Bloomsbury on 26th August 2015

Goodreads synopsis:

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.  And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

I have read several of Sarah Crossan’s books now and it is clear to me that she has a very powerful way with words. Every sentence that she writes and every word that she uses is carefully crafted and thought out. This lends a lyrical quality to her stories which are often written in free verse. Her new book, ‘One’ is no exception, with a poetic form which captivates the reader.

The story itself centres around sixteen year old conjoined twins, Grace and Tippi, who are about to go to a real school for the first time. Now I will admit that I was slightly apprehensive when I first heard about the subject matter of Sarah’s new book. It’s not normally the sort of thing that I would pick up and read but I had confidence in her writing and I had heard nothing but good things about it from fellow readers. I’m glad that I didn’t let it put me off because I would have missed out on a great read.

Grace narrates the story and provides insight into the challenges that conjoined twins face. I like the way that the two come across as separate people with different personalities, but always with a special bond between them. They have each other to lean on through thick and thin. As money is tight at home, they decide to allow a film-maker to shoot them for a documentary which provides outsiders with the opportunity to learn more about them. I’m glad that we also got to see the impact that living with conjoined twins has on the rest of their family and how their mother, father and younger sister cope with this.   

The ending was not necessarily unexpected because I predicted quite early on what was going to happen but that didn’t mean that it was any less moving or emotional. I would recommend this book to anyone that wants to find out more about this subject, as it presents several difficult ethical questions to the reader.

Another winner from the pen of Sarah Crossan.  

Monday, 17 August 2015

Review: Gray Mountain - John Grisham

Gray Mountain by John Grisham, published by Hodder on 2nd July 2015 

Goodreads synopsis:
One week ago, Samantha Kofer was a third-year associate at New York City's largest law firm. Now she is an unpaid intern in a legal aid clinic deep in small-town Appalachia. When Lehman Brothers collapsed, she lost her job, her security, her future. As she confronts real clients with real problems, she finds herself a world away from her past life of corporate fat cats and fatter bonuses. This is coal country. Meth country. The law is different here. And standing up for the truth means putting your life on the line.

I’m a huge John Grisham fan and I always look forward to his new releases. Luckily, he writes quickly so there’s always a new book on the horizon!

‘Gray Mountain’ was not my favourite of his novels and I think it was lacking a little in drama but overall it was still a very good book and an enjoyable read. It focuses on the issue of coal mining and the devastation that strip mining causes to families and communities. It also looks at the destruction to the land that this causes. It is a depressing and quite bleak topic because what came across is that there is often little hope in trying to fight these huge companies.  At the same time, I think it is an important issue to explore and one which I enjoyed finding out more about. 

The main character is New York City lawyer Samantha Kofer, who at the start of the book loses her job and ends up taking an unpaid position at a legal aid firm in the middle of small town Appalachia. The cases she starts to take on teach her about the struggles of real people and show her what being a lawyer is all about – helping those in desperate need of someone to stand up for them and fight their corner or their cause. Along the way, she meets Donovan Gray who is fighting the coal companies in court. 

About half-way through the book, there was a massive plot twist which I never saw coming. It did surprise me because in some ways it totally changed the direction of the story and was quite a bold choice to make. I’m still not sure I agree with the route that Grisham took but I can see the benefits of this. 

My main issue with ‘Gray Mountain’ was the pace of the story which seemed to meander along at times. It felt to me like it needed more drive. I did like however, the way the reader sees things through Samantha’s eyes as she matures into a damn good lawyer and becomes part of a new community which is always ready to rally round those in need. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Review: Lying Out Loud - Kody Keplinger

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger, published by Hodder Children's Books on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend's house every night because she has nowhere else to go.  Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.

Ryder's the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can't stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.

But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there's one small catch: he thinks he's been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she's the girl he's really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?

Kody Keplinger is the Queen of High School YA fiction.  She always seems to be able to perfectly capture the authenticity of teenagers learning life lessons about love, family and friendship, while surviving the rigours of the school environment.  I will read anything that she writes!
‘Lying Out Loud’ is about Sonny Ardmore and Amy Rush (sister of Wesley from The Duff).  Sonny is having problems at home and goes to live with Amy and her family but can’t bring herself to tell them the truth about what is going on.  Fact: Sonny is an excellent liar but her lies are about to get her into a whole heap of trouble. 
When Ryder Cross starts at Hamilton High, boy troubles are most definitely on the horizon.  Will he be the reason that Amy and Sonny’s friendship falls apart?
Although the story is told from Sonny’s point of view, at times I actually identified more with Amy.  I didn’t like the way that she let herself be pushed around by Sonny, so it was good to see her standing up for herself more by the end and developing a new sense of confidence.  It just goes to show that you can have a privileged lifestyle with a bright future in front of you but you can still struggle with self-confidence issues.    
As this is a kind of companion novel to 'The Duff', it was great seeing Wesley and Bianca in the story.  They are still together and although they seem like complete opposites at times, they just work.   
I loved this book.  I sped through it so quickly because it was an amazing read.  Kody Keplinger is on my auto-buy list.  I’ve loved all of her books so far and I’m excited to see what she will write next.  

Monday, 27 July 2015

Review: Emmy and Oliver - Robin Benway

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway, published by Simon and Schuster on 16th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. But now Oliver is back, and he's not the skinny boy-next-door that used to be Emmy's best friend. Now he's the boy who got kidnapped. A stranger - a totally hot stranger! - with a whole history that Emmy knows nothing about.

But is their story still meant to be? Or are they like the pieces of two different puzzles - impossible to fit together?

Emmy and Oliver’ is a wonderful contemporary YA novel from an author who is fast becoming a firm favourite of mine.  I thought from looking at the cover art and reading the blurb, that this book was going to be a romance.  It was in part but it was largely a book about friendship and family.  It is about learning to understand and accept each other for who you are, not what someone wants you to be.  It is about learning when to let go and when to hold on.  There are a lot of poignant messages and themes in the story which struck a chord with me.
The characters were brilliant, particularly Emmy who I loved from the start, as well as her two best friends Caro and Drew.  Their friendship was epic!  I would have loved a close-knit group like that when I was growing up.  It took me a little longer to warm up to Oliver but that was okay because a bit like Emmy and co, I needed some time to learn more about who he was and to understand the different sides of his personality.  He had definitely won me over by the end of the book. 
I adored the small town setting, close to the beach and the sea.  I would love to live in a seaside town like this.  I think the setting helped to illustrate how hard it is for Emmy to follow her own dreams.  She is more than ready to leave behind the protection of her parents but doesn’t want to hurt them in the process.    
I enjoyed the story immensely.  It’s quiet and moving and creeps up on you.  It teaches the importance of having good friends and how a good friend can be in your life forever, even if you are not physically together.  I would highly recommend this book.  

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Review: Kit - Marina Fiorato

Kit by Marina Fiorato, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 16th July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Dublin 1702...and Irish beauty Kit Kavanagh has everything she could want in life. Newly married, she runs a successful alehouse with her beloved husband Richard. The wars that rage in Europe over the Spanish throne seem a world away. But everything changes on the night that Richard simply disappears. Finding the Queen's shilling at the bottom of Richard's tankard, Kit realizes that her husband has been taken for a soldier.

Kit follows Richard's trail across the battlefields of Italy in the Duke of Marlborough's regiment. Living as a man, risking her life in battle, she forms a close bond with her wry and handsome commanding officer Captain Ross. When she is forced to flee the regiment following a duel, she evades capture by dressing once more as a woman. But the war is not over for Kit. Her beauty catches the eye of the scheming Duke of Ormonde, who recruits her to spy upon the French. In her finery she meets Captain Ross once again, who seems just as drawn to the woman as he was to the soldier. Torn between Captain Ross and her loyalty to her husband, and under the orders of the English Crown, Kit finds that her life is in more danger now than on the battlefield. Of all the dangers that she faced, the greatest was discovery...

‘Kit’ is the new title from the pen of Marina Fiorato. I always enjoy her books because she brings to life her characters so brilliantly and writes vividly about many different periods of history. After I’ve finished her books, I’m usually left feeling inspired to find out more about all of the history. ‘Kit’ is based on the true story of a woman who disguised herself as a man to try and bring her husband back from the wars. In the novel, the character of Kit, ends up risking her life in battle and unexpectedly finds her heart becoming entangled with her commanding officer, Captain Ross (who cuts quite the dashing figure!).

I thought that the story had something of a Shakespeare-esque element about it. Marina Fiorato possibly drew on some of Shakespeare plays, where the female character frequently disguises herself as a man to avoid detection. It was interesting to see the lengths that Kit had to go to in her quest to hide her gender and the way that she goes undiscovered for such a long time. Kit herself is a really feisty and fierce main character. She has many predominantly male characteristics and it’s intriguing to see how these aspects of her personality develop when she is disguised as the opposite sex. I loved her growing bond with the Captain and the way their relationship develops throughout the story.   

Fast paced and with a gripping plot, I thought that ‘Kit’ was a great book. I have to say that I didn’t love it quite as much as some of Marina Fiorato’s earlier novels but nevertheless it was an enjoyable read, set during a fascinating historical period. I didn’t know a lot about the European wars which took place during the eighteenth century but I’m a lot more educated on the subject now.

Historical fiction fans will lap this up and if you’ve yet to discover Marina Fiorato’s books then what are you waiting for!
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