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!

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Review: Forever and a Day - Jill Shalvis

Forever and a Day by Jill Shalvis, published by Headline Eternal on 2nd April 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
Grace never thought she'd be starting her life over from scratch. Losing everything has landed her in Lucky Harbor, working as a dog walker for overwhelmed ER doctor Josh Scott. But the day his nanny fails to show up, Grace goes from caring for Josh's lovable mutt to caring for his rambunctious son. Soon Grace is playing house with the sexy single dad...

With so many people depending on him, Josh has no time for anything outside of his clinic and family - until Grace arrives in town. Now this brainy blonde is turning his life inside out and giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "good bedside manner". Josh and Grace don't know if what they have can last. But in a town like Lucky Harbor, a lifetime of love starts with just one day...

This is the 6th book in the Lucky Harbor series.  I am falling more in love with this series with every new instalment that I read.  I looked forward all day to getting home from work so that I could pick this up and catch up with all the Lucky Harbor ladies and their handsome guys. 

Grace and Dr Josh in this one weren't even my favourite couple (although don't get me wrong, I still really liked them) but what I did love about this book so much was the circumstances that were set up to bring the two of them together.  Josh's five year old son Toby is so cute (little kids always melt my heart), as is his new dog Tank.  I loved seeing Grace become more and more like a mother to him, without her even really realising it.  She has a very open heart and a lot of love to share, not only with Josh but his family too. 

Grace and Josh both have to deal with the responsibilities placed on them and in Grace's case, the fear of not living up to the expectations of her perfect parents.  It was nice to see them both learning to do some things for themselves, rather than always trying to please the people around them.  The similarities and differences they share make them the perfect couple. 

Fans of the series will love 'Forever and a Day' and if you haven't yet discovered any of these books yet, then you could still pick this one up and read it as a stand-alone. A heart-warming, romantic and brilliantly written story to pull at all your emotions.   Romance fans out there, this one is for you! 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Review: All My Secrets - Sophie McKenzie

All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzie, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
The shocking reality behind a GBP10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown's world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear ...including her life.  

'All My Secrets' is a new thriller from the pen of British author Sophie McKenzie.  It centres around teenager Evie Brown who at the start of the book is hit with two huge revelations - one is a shocking family secret and the other is the fact that she has just come into a ten million pound inheritance. With her life fast spiralling out of control, Evie is sent to Lightsea Island to take part in a young adult development programme.  However, mysterious things start occurring on the island and soon she fears that her life itself might be in danger. 

I liked the setting of the story, placing the action on a remote island.  It magnified the sense of danger that Evie feels throughout and means that she and the other teens on the island are far away from any kind of help or assistance.  They are very much on their own, as even some of the adults looking after them might not necessarily be trustworthy. 

I wish that I had liked Evie more, but unfortunately I never really warmed to the main protagonist.  I didn't agree with the way that she treated her parents at the beginning of the book and I didn't feel any sense of a connection to her.  A love triangle was whipped up to add some romance to the story but even this felt a bit flat to me. 

I had my suspicions about what was really going on but no idea whether or not I was right.  Sophie McKenzie is excellent at casting suspicion on people and often making you look in the wrong direction.  The ending of the story was super exciting with lots of twists but I wish that the rest of the book had matched it.  It sadly wasn't as good as some of McKenzie's other YA thrillers. 

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Review: The Potion Diaries - Amy Alward

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward, published by Simon and Schuster on 2nd July 2015

Goodreads synopsis:
When Nova's princess (more Kate Middleton than Rapunzel!) is poisoned by her own love potion, the city's alchemists are entered into a deadly, high-profile quest to find a cure. It's the chance of a lifetime for Sam's alchemist family, who have been mixing magic potions for generations... but can Sam save their crumbling reputation?

Sam must choose whether to work with or against her best friends, Anita and Arjun, and finds herself thrown towards Zain, heir to the ZoroAster synthetic potions corporation, and her arch enemy. He also happens to be the boy most likely to marry the princess...

With the nation's media watching her every move, Sam overcomes incredible dangers and impossible dilemmas in order to hunt down the ingredients: a mermaid's pearl, pink jasmine, Eluvian ivy, hair from an abominable and a unicorn's tail. Tricky. Can Sam save the now dangerously powerful princess by winning the contest? And just how close are she and Zain willing to get in the meantime?

Described as "The Hunger Games meets The Princess Diaries" if ever a tagline is going to make me want to read a book, that is it!  And what an unusual book, 'The Potion Diaries' by Amy Alward turned out to be.  Unusual in a good way but not at all what I was expecting.  It leant much more heavily towards the fantasy genre but was unlike anything else I've read before. 

The book combines a modern setting with one where magic is still prevalent.  This took a bit of getting used to because it's not every day that you experience magic being talked about in such a matter of fact way.  The main character Samantha Kemi has the ability to mix potions.  Her talent as an alchemist is second to none and is needed when her family are summoned to take part in an ancient quest to save the Princess from a potion gone awry.  Fantasy, magical adventures and drama aplenty enthuse, as Sam joins the hunt to find all the ingredients for an anti-dote. 

I have to admit that I wasn't immediately hooked by the story, although I loved the premise.  I didn't really get engrossed in it properly until at least six or seven chapters in, so stick with it if it is the same for you because it's definitely worth it.  The hunt itself was intriguing and trust me, you wouldn't even begin to be able to predict what was going to happen.  It's best to just strap in and enjoy the ride.     

I loved the character of Sam.  She is brave, resourceful and talented but also incredibly modest.  She wants to win the quest so that she can help provide for her family but along the way she learns a lot about her own abilities and talents.  Handsome Zain is one of her rival competitors.  Dark black hair and blue eyes is always a killer combination, so I was drawn to Zain even though I didn't know if he could be trusted.  There are romantic sparks between the two of them, although the romance angle takes more of a backseat to the quest itself, so more romance and kissing next time please! 

The book's recipe is to take a dash of humour and a sprinkle of romance.  Stir it up with adventure, excitement and danger and you have 'The Potion Diaries'. 

The second book in the series is due out in July 2016. 
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