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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, 8 February 2016

Review: The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl - Melissa Keil

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil, published by Stripes Publishing on 11th February 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Alba loves her life just as it is. She loves living behind the bakery, and waking up in a cloud of sugar and cinnamon. She loves drawing comics and watching bad TV with her friends.

The only problem is she’s overlooked a few teeny details:

Like, the guy she thought long gone has unexpectedly reappeared.
And the boy who has been her best friend since forever has suddenly gone off the rails.
And even her latest comic-book creation is misbehaving.

Also, the world might be ending – which is proving to be awkward.

As Doomsday enthusiasts flock to idyllic Eden Valley, Alba’s life is thrown into chaos. Whatever happens next, it’s the end of the world as she knows it. But when it comes to figuring out her heart, Armageddon might turn out to be the least of her problems.

‘The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl’ is written by Aussie author Melissa Keil.  It’s the first of her books I’ve read but it won’t be the last!   The title alone was enough to pique my interest, although I wasn’t initially sold on the blurb.  I did have my doubts that it was going to be my kind of read but I was very pleasantly surprised.  There was a real warmth to the characters that I wasn’t expecting which drew me in and made me care about what happened to them. 

The story is set at the start of the summer and is based around the central character of Alba, a budding graphic artist and comic book fan.  She is genuinely happy with her life, which was actually refreshing to see.  She loves her home town of Eden Valley, she loves living behind her mother’s bakery, she has a great group of friends and adores her best friend Grady who she has known since childhood.  What could she possibly have to deal with?  The story focuses on what happens when you have everything you think you want and are afraid to take the next step because it might never be as perfect as it is in that moment.  Alba has to face making big decisions about her future without knowing if they are the right ones to make.  Should she stay in Eden Valley or leave and go to university?  Will Grady always be her best friend or is there more between them?  These are questions that will be familiar to most teens.  I thought that Keil did well to make these issues in the book so realistic and easy to identify with.

There is a humorous steak throughout which made me laugh and smile as I was reading.  The idea that Eden Valley is the only safe place when the end of the world comes, was somewhat strange but actually worked well with the overall themes of the story.  You don’t always know what is around the corner so you should live life to the full and enjoy every moment you have.

My absolute favourite thing about this book was the friendship between Alba and Grady.  It’s easy, it’s comfortable and it’s the kind of best-friend bond that I would have loved to have had with someone growing up.  These two practically live in each other’s pockets and have supported each other through thick and thin.  Their friendship has taken a different direction by the end of the book but this works so well and was a joy to see develop.

This is a contemporary YA novel that you won’t want to miss.  Grab it now and bump it straight to the top of your TBR pile.   

Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: How Not To Disappear - Clare Furniss

How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss, published by Simon and Schuster on 28th January 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to 'find himself" and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding. Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant with Reuben's baby…Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery - Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future…

This is the second book by Clare Furniss, after the success of her debut 'The Year of the Rat'. It deals with difficult and emotive subjects but doesn't shy away from painting the realities of life, however hard they may be.

There are two perspectives and stories in the book which intertwine.  Teenager Hattie, who finds herself pregnant at the very beginning and her great-aunt Gloria.  As Gloria recollects her past and a dark secret she has always kept, her memories help Hattie to move forwards with her future.  I thought that the two central characters complimented each other well and it was interesting hearing about Gloria's life in the 1950's, as well as Hattie's in the present day.  Both women were written equally well.  I don't always find I enjoy stories with multiple narrators but this was easy to follow and both had captivating storylines.

The plot surrounding Gloria was actually much sadder than I was expecting.  I found it upsetting at times but I thought that it dealt honestly and truthfully with the subject of dementia.  This is something that I haven't seen a lot of in books, especially those in the YA genre.  It's a terrible thing to happen to someone but it was dealt with very sensitively.

'How Not To Disappear' is a very good second novel by Clare Furniss, which is sure to do as well as, if not better, than her debut. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Review: Front Lines - Michael Grant

Front Lines by Michael Grant, published by Electric Monkey on 28th January 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
1942. The fate of the world rests on a knife’s edge. And the soldiers who can tip the balance . . . are girls.

Set in an alternate World War II where young women are called up to fight alongside men, this is the story of Rio Richlin and her friends as they go into battle against Hitler’s forces.

But not everyone believes that they should be on the front lines. Now Rio and her friends must fight not only to survive, but to prove their courage and ingenuity. Because the fate of the world is in the hands of the soldier girls.
'Front Lines' has such an innovative storyline.  Michael Grant has imagined an alternative history where girls enlisted and fought on the front line during World War Two.  Joining their male counterparts, they protect their country against attack.  Uniquely different, this made for a plot which piqued my interest as soon as I read it.  I couldn't wait to see how Grant's spin was going to unravel.
Set in 1942, the story follows three girls as they go to war.  We initially see them at home with their families, understanding their motives for enlisting, before following them through rigorous training and all the way to the front line.  They have a lot to contend with along the way as they try to prove their worth.
I enjoyed 'Front Lines' and I think YA readers will too.  Although the subject matter might initially seem male orientated, because the central characters are all girls, I think this will appeal equally to female readers.  If you are a history buff then you need to get your hands on this title which provides such a unique and different spin on events.  Who would ever have thought of imagining girls as soldiers?  Michael Grant, that's who. 
I still haven't found any of his books quite as gripping and addictive as the Gone series, but this is still a great read and as the first in a new trilogy, it will be interesting to see what is in store for readers next.   

Monday, 25 January 2016

Review: My Life Next Door - Huntley Fitzpatrick

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, published by Electric Monkey on 8th January 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.

As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase's family embraces Samantha - even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha's world. She's suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?

I love contemporary YA but I don't often come across many books in this genre which tick every box.  'My Life Next Door' is one of those titles which has everything I look for and more.  A great central character (okay, I may be slightly bias because we share the same name), a sweet romance with the boy next door which I thought was genuinely realistic and well written, the boy in question being gorgeous and kind (Jace, be mine!) and a punchy storyline with a good twist at the end.

What I particularly liked about this book was how brilliantly Huntley Fitzpatrick portrays the wonderful Garrett family.  With seven children, the Garrett's home is messy and noisy and chaotic but there is a genuine sense of love and homeliness which Samantha lacks in her own house which is clean and well ordered.  I couldn't fail to be enveloped into the Garrett's world.  All the children are great but I have a soft spot for four year old George, who has some of the funniest lines in the book.  He's such a sweetie. 

The romance between Sam and Jace is at the heart of the book and wonderfully captures all the emotions and ups and downs of first love.  It was perfectly balanced, depicting all of those lovely first moments and brilliantly portrayed.  I loved them together and enjoyed the fact that for once, Jace was genuinely just such a good guy.  He had no deep, dark secrets or bad boy streak, he was just sweet and funny and kind to his siblings. 

There is an interesting twist near the end which took me by surprise and I originally I wasn't sure if it was in keeping with the rest of the plot.  However, once I'd had time to think about it I thought that it worked well to show that even couples who get on well together, still have to overcome bumps in the road. 

I would implore everyone to read 'My Life Next Door'.  You won't be disappointed.  I can't wait for 'What I Thought Was True' and 'The Boy Most Likely To' which are published by Electric Monkey and published in the UK later this year.    

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Review: See How They Run - Ally Carter

See How They Run by Ally Carter, published by Orchard on 14th January 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Grace thought finding her mother's killer would bring her peace. But the truth has only made her a target. on Embassy Row, trust is a luxury. Death is a very real threat. And a girl like Grace should be very careful about which secrets she brings to light...

'See How They Run' is the second book in the Embassy Row series and a fantastic read to kick off 2016!  What a brilliant and gripping sequel to last year's 'All Fall Down'.  Grace is still struggling with the secret she uncovered about her mother's death and there are plenty more surprises lying in wait for her. 

The plot was really thrilling.  Grace has to come to the rescue of handsome boy next door Alexei when trouble comes calling and he's accused of something he didn't do.  She's not a girl to back down from a fight and even though she is dealing with her own traumas, she won't let him go it alone.  I thought Ally Carter did a terrific job of keeping the story moving along swiftly, ensuring that I had to keep on and on reading.  This is definitely a book that you will have to finish in one sitting.

I absolutely love the unique setting of this series.  Embassy Row is full of political intrigue and conspiracy and it adds an additional element to the story that the countries are trying to avoid an international incident.  It means that when Grace comes barrelling in, you know there is going to be trouble ahead.

Grace is not the easiest character to get to know and she is dealing with a lot of issues, but I find myself liking her more and more.  I have my fingers crossed that her and Alexei might finally pair up because I think they would make a great couple.

The ending was a real jaw dropper and I can't believe the curveball that Ally Carter has thrown in.  How Grace deals with such an incredible revelation will be very interesting to see.  I think it could change the whole dynamic of the series from here on in. 

Monday, 11 January 2016

Review: The Vanishing Throne - Elizabeth May

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May, published by Gollancz on 19th November 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Aileana took a stand against the Wild Hunt, and she lost everything: her home, her family and her friends. Held captive by her enemy, and tormenting herself over her failure, escape seems like only the faintest possibility. But when she gets her chance, she seizes it . . . to rejoin a world devastated by war.

The future is bleak. Hunted by the fae, running for her life, Aileana has only a few options left. Trying to become part of a society scarred by – and hiding from – the Wild Hunt; trusting that a fragile alliance with the fae will save her; or walking the most dangerous path at all: coming in to her own powers as the last of the Falconers . . .

This is the book that I had been waiting all year to read.  The sequel to the phenomenal 'The Falconer' which was an absolutely five star read, I was over the moon to finally get my hands on a copy and I wouldn't wait to see what lay in store for Alieana and her friends next.  Plus, look at that awesome cover!  Who wouldn't want to pick this book up and dive straight in?!

After the events of the previous book, Alieana is seen at the beginning of the story in the hands of her enemy, Lonnrach.  The opening chapter plunged me straight back into Alieana's world, where everything is at stake and the fight for survival is all that matters.  There is a lot to absorb at the start of the story and I had to remind myself about what had happened previously but it didn't take me long to catch-up with the main plot points.   

One of the things I love about the series is Elizabeth May's characterisations.  Alieana is a truly brilliant heroine.  She is brave, determined, stubborn and a true fighter.  You know that she will never give up.  I really liked the relationship between her and Kiaran in 'The Falconer' and I was excited to see that develop further.  I am also Derrick the pixie's number one fan.  I loved the scenes with him and these are among my favourite in the book.  I thought that the introduction of Kiaran's sister Aithinne was also fantastic, as she is so interesting and intriguing with lots of hidden sides.

More is revealed about Alieana's enemies' true purpose and about Kiaran's past.  The ending left me on the edge of my seat and it's going to be a long and unbearable wait until the next book in the series. 

Exciting, fast-paced and compulsive reading.  Utterly impossible to put down, this is one of the best books I've read in the past year. 

Thursday, 7 January 2016

Review: Oblivion - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout, published by Hodder on 3rd December 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
I knew the moment Katy Swartz moved in next door, there was going to be trouble. Lots of it. And trouble’s the last thing I need, since I’m not exactly from around here. My people arrived on Earth from Lux, a planet thirteen billion light years away. Plus, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that humans can’t be trusted. We scare them. We can do things they only dream about, and honestly, we make them look weak as hell. ‘Cuz they are.

But Kat is getting to me in ways no one else has, and I can't stop myself from wanting her—or wanting to use my powers to protect her. She makes me weak, and I’m the strongest of our kind, tasked with protecting us all. So this one simple girl…she can mean the end for us. Because the Luxen have an even bigger enemy—the Arum, and I need to stay on my game.

Falling for Katy—a human—won't just place her in danger. It could get us all killed, and that’s one thing I’ll never let happen...

This book is 'Obsidian' retold from the point of view of Daemon Black.  You would think that the story itself would be a bit repetitive for anyone that has already read the Lux series, but I can guarantee you that it is not in the slightest.  In fact, seeing everything again but through Daemon's eyes this time, added an extra layer to the romance between himself and Katy.  Where she sees him behaving like a jerk, being hot one minute and cold towards her the next, the reader sees him doing it to protect not only his sister Dee, but Katy too.  He is determined to fight his feelings for her to keep her safe, but they are continually drawn to each other. 

If you haven't read 'Obsidian' and this is your first introduction to the Lux series, then it would work perfectly well to read this one and then carry on with the rest of the books in the series.  I don't think anyone would be able to resist getting caught up in the undeniable attraction and chemistry between Daemon and Katy.  Sparks most definitely fly between them whenever they are anywhere near each other.  It was also interesting to see how his perception of her changes as he gets to know her.  His initial reaction that she is entirely average evolves very quickly.

What really came across was how much responsibility Daemon shoulders but also how there was never any doubt about his feelings for Katy.  It seems almost inevitable that he was never going to be able to stay away from her for long, although he does his best to fight it.

I loved 'Oblivion' so much!  I'm a massive Jennifer L. Armentrout fan and this series is one of my favourites.  It was lovely getting to revisit all the characters and I fell for the romance all over again.  This is yet another stunning five star book in the series. 
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