Thursday, 26 January 2017

Review: The Memory Book - Lara Avery

The Memory Book by Lara Avery, published by Quercus Children's Books on 26th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Samantha McCoy has it all mapped out. First she's going to win the national debating championship, then she's going to move to New York and become a human rights lawyer. But when Sammie discovers that a rare disease is going to take away her memory, the future she'd planned so perfectly is derailed before it’s started. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. Realising that her life won't wait to be lived, she sets out on a summer of firsts: The first party; The first rebellion; The first friendship; The last love.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

Yes, this book will make you cry, so be prepared.  It's a moving and emotional read so buckle up.

Sam McCoy is seventeen and has a genetic disease which will eventually lead to her losing her memory.  She will forget who she is, who her family are and what she had planned for her future.  Sam decides to take action by starting to write down and record her memories.  She hopes that this will help her to preserve who she is.  Although she has big plans for her future, which include going to College in New York and becoming a human rights lawyer, everything has to change as her illness starts to progress. 

At the beginning of the book, Sam is functioning pretty normally.  She is set to compete at the national debating championship, she is just about keeping on top of her school work and she has a huge crush on Stuart Shah, a boy who used to go to her school.  She's dealing with life and has a positive outlook on her future.  Her illness is not something that she is going to let define her.  I loved her drive and her optimism and her bravery in moving on with her life.  As the story progresses, so do the symptoms of the disease and this was hard to read about at times.  One of the things I also adored in the book was her relationship with her family. Her Mum and Dad are hugely supportive while at the same time being protective and I thought her three siblings were incredibly sweet. 

The last couple of chapters in the book were gutting, I'm not going to lie.  I was blubbering away like a baby at the end as it packed a real emotional punch.  The story has inspired me to live life to the full and to make the most of every moment. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Review: Beware That Girl - Teresa Toten

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten, published by Hot Key Books on 12th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Kate O'Brien has always been known as the scholarship kid, running away from a terrible past and overcoming obstacles, some more sinister than others. She's determined to make a better life for herself. She deserves it. And at the elite Waverly school, Kate is willing to do whatever it takes to climb the social ladder and land her spot at Yale.

There's one girl in particular that catches Kate's eye. Olivia Michelle Sumner, all born blonde and rich and just messed up enough for Kate to latch on to. As for Olivia, she's a damaged girl, looking to be mended. She finds something promising in Kate. A study buddy. A best friend. A sister she never had. But even a vulnerable girl like Olivia has her own dark past to contend with.

When the handsome and whip-smart Mark Redkin joins the Waverly administration, he manages to woo the whole student body, paying particular attention to Olivia - an affair she very much wants to keep to herself, especially from Kate. And as a man who knows just how to get what he wants, Kate realises that Mark poses a huge threat, in more ways than she is willing to admit.

This book is described as Gossip Girl meets Pretty Little Liars.  That was enough to make me want to read it.  I don't always like psychological thrillers but I was willing to give this one a try.  It's set to be a big screen film with Dakota Fanning so I thought I would read the book first.

There are two main characters in the story, Kate O'Brien and Olivia Sumner.  Kate is the poor scholarship student who is desperate to get into Yale and determined to use Olivia's wealth and social connections to help her do so.  I didn't like Kate at all the beginning but the author threw in some brilliant twists and turns and by the end, I was rooting for her one hundred percent. The story is very cat and mouse until everything gets turned on its head.  My opinions of many of the characters had to be revised and I had to rethink a lot of the things which had happened in the book.  

The friendship between the two girls seems to be going well until Mark Redkin, the new educational director in charge of fundraising, enters the scene. Suddenly three is very much a crowd and Kate is no longer in control.  I did find that some of the scenes between Mark and Olivia were pretty disturbing and not to my taste at all.  I thought that they went a bit too far and at times seemed unnecessarily brutal but I guess the author was using this to set up the big finale.  The second half of the book got extremely dark and twisted and although I was intrigued, part of me didn't really want to find out what was going to happen. 

I didn't see the ending coming at all, although I'm sure many readers will but I do think that it was very clever and flash-backed to the beginning of the book.  Probably not quite to my reading tastes but I think that fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.       

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Review: Carve the Mark - Veronica Roth

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth, published by HarperCollins on 17th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another.

I was really thrilled to get my hands on 'Carve the Mark', although I couldn't quite tell from reading the synopsis what the story was going to be all about.  I loved Veronica Roth's Divergent series and I was really interested to see how her writing had changed and what direction she would take her storytelling in next.  This was such a treat to dive straight into!

I found the first half of the book, particularly the opening five or six chapters, unfolded at quite a slow pace.  Admittedly there was a lot of world building though and introductions were made to many of the main characters and their families.  I did find some of the characters' names bewildering and difficult to keep track of and I was a little puzzled about a few of the things that happened early on in the story.  I did go back to read a couple of sections again and that helped a lot. 

Luckily the story picked up a lot and I was gradually drawn further and further into the intrigue and action.  The main pull for me was the two main protagonists, Akos and Cyra.  Each chapter alternated between their two perspectives giving you different insights into their lives.  They have extremely contrasting personalities which was interesting.  Akos is extremely emotional and attached to his family, where as Cyra has learnt how to be tough and strong and operates more as an individual.  One of the dominant ideas in the story is that each person has a currentgift which is an extension of their personality.  Cyra and Akos find that their currentgifts almost compliment each other and this is one of the elements which brings them together.  Although I didn't love them as much as Tris and Four (I mean come on!), they were still an intriguing couple. 

Parts of the story actually made me think of Romeo and Juliet.  There are two rival nations, Thuvhe and Shotet and each is fighting for supremacy.  Cyra and Akos find themselves caught in the middle but their relationship seemed to me like it would prove to be pivotal to the overall outcome.      

The ending was absolutely brilliant with a shock revelation to keep you glued to the edge of your seat.  I really want to read the next instalment of the duology now.  I have to say that as a Veronica Roth fan, I didn't enjoy it as much as Divergent which grabbed me from the very beginning.  However, 'Carve the Mark' improved massively in the second half and has left me wanting more.   

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