Thursday, 31 May 2018

Review: All Of This Is True - Lygia Day Penaflor

All Of This Is True by Lygia Day Penaflor, published by Bloomsbury on 31st May 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Miri Tan loved the book Undertow like it was a living being. So when she and her friends went to a book signing to meet the author, Fatima Ro, they concocted a plan to get close to her, even if her friends won’t admit it now. As for Jonah, well—Miri knows none of that was Fatima’s fault.

Soleil Johnston wanted to be a writer herself one day. When she and her friends started hanging out with her favorite author, Fatima Ro, she couldn’t believe their luck—especially when Jonah Nicholls started hanging out with them, too. Now, looking back, Soleil can’t believe she let Fatima manipulate her and Jonah like that. She can’t believe that she got used for a book.

Penny Panzarella was more than the materialistic party girl everyone at the Graham School thought she was. She desperately wanted Fatima Ro to see that, and she saw her chance when Fatima asked the girls to be transparent with her. If only she’d known what would happen when Fatima learned Jonah’s secret. If only she’d known that the line between fiction and truth was more complicated than any of them imagined.

This is a hard review to write because I found 'All of This is True' to be quite a strange book.  I'd heard lots of good things about it prior to starting it and I was expecting suspense, intrigue, excitement and a twist to end all twists but...I didn't get any of that.  I read about a third of it and then briefly stopped to review what had actually happened so far and it wasn't much at all!  I wasn't sure where the shocks and spills were going to come so I carried on and yet I still didn't understand what was so puzzling about it.  Now to me, there was a very small, teeny tiny twist in the plot but I thought it was so obvious that I can't understand how anyone could be fooled by it. 

The story centres around four teenagers, Miri, Soleil, Jonah and Penny, plus author Fatima Ro. They all came across privileged teens with too much time on their hands and with more money than sense. I didn't like any of them and they came across as just a bunch of rich kids, wasting their time on foolish and trivial pursuits.

I also didn't enjoy the format of the book which was pretty unusual and felt jarring and disjointed. It takes the form of interviews, diary entries, magazine articles and excerpts from a novel.  The unique narrative meant that I never felt that I could get fully absorbed into the story and that, combined with shallow characters, really put me off.

I found the ending a complete disappointment and the whole novel slow and uninspiring.  Not for me I'm afraid.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Review: Not If I Save You First - Ally Carter

Not If I Save You First by Ally Carter, published by Orchard Books on 27th March 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
After Maddie's Secret Service dad takes a bullet for the president, he takes Maddie somewhere he thinks they'll be safe - far away from the White House and the president's son, Logan.

But when Logan comes to Alaska, so does the danger.

If there's one thing Alaska has taught Maddie, it's how to survive. And now her best friend's life depends on it ...

Ally Carter is one of my go-to authors when I want to read something that is pure escapism and a whole lot of fun.  I have adored all of her books and 'Not If I Save You First' may just be my new favourite.  I devoured it in one sitting and loved absolutely everything about it.  If I didn't have a humongous toppling to-be-read pile, then I would probably immediately begin reading it all over again.  Trust me, it's that good.

This book literally had everything I love and more.  Features a member of the Presidential First Family, tick.  Set in the Alaskan wilderness, tick.  A kick-ass teenage heroine, tick. A life and death situation, tick.  It's like Ally Carter reached inside my brain, scooped out all of my favourite things and put them into her story.  I could not have enjoyed this book any more if I'd tried.

The opening couple of chapters are set in the White House and set up the scenario which unfolds throughout the rest of the book.  The action then jumps forward six years and we see our protagonist Maddie, living with her father, formerly the President's bodyguard, in the middle of Alaska.  Maddie used to be best-friends with the President's son Logan, but that's before he never answered any of her letters and she lost all contact with him.  She's never forgotten him though and when he reappears in her life after so many years, she doesn't know whether to be happy or angry. And when he ends up getting kidnapped, it's up to Maddie to rescue him and keep them both alive.

I absolutely adored Maddie.  She came across like a female Bear Grylls.  Her father (and Alaska) have taught her how to survive and so she's not afraid to go after the kidnapper when he disappears with Logan.  She's constantly two steps ahead and is not to be messed with.  I thought her relationship with Logan was adorable, although she spends most of the book pretending to hate him!

Featuring tons of action and adventure, I never wanted the story to end.  I was constantly kept on my toes and the excitement just kept on coming.  One of the best books I've read so far this year.  Ally Carter has most definitely done it again!     

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Review: Night of the Party - Tracey Mathias

Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias, published by Scholastic on 3rd May 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
After withdrawing from the EU, Britain is governed by The Party, and everyone born outside the country is subject to immediate arrest and deportation. Failing to report illegals is a crime.

Zara is the only one who knows her friend Sophie died. But Zara's an illegal.

She can't tell anyone her secrets. Not even Ash, the boy she loves. The boy who needs to know the truth.

As the country prepares for an election, Zara must make an impossible choice.

'Night of the Party' is written by UK debut author Tracey Matthias.  It imagines a post-Brexit Britain where the governing party have introduced a new policy dictating that only those British Born or BB as they are known, have the right to live in Britain.  Everyone else is treated as an illegal and subject to immediate deportation.  It's a frightening look at a post-Brexit world where peoples' human rights are threatened and where suspicion is rife.  People are expected to automatically report anyone they know or suspect to be an illegal, leading to an atmosphere of fear and suspicion among communities.

The story focuses on two characters who meet at the beginning.  They are 'illegal' Zara and British born Ash.  They find themselves on opposite sides of the citizenship debate, although they are also linked in a way that Ash doesn't realise about until part way through the story.  Nevertheless they form a powerful bond which goes beyond nationality and bridges issues of love and family.

What I thought was particularly interesting about this book was that the scenario created by Tracey Matthias isn't completely impossible or as far removed from reality as you would think.  The author herself states that it started out as a 'what if' political dystopia but shifted worryingly close to real life.  The novel actually presents a political situation that could very well end up becoming true at some point in the future and that's an incredibly scary thought.

I have to admit that this isn't normally the type of book that I would choose to pick up and at times I found the story quite slow.  However, it was a thought-provoking read which definitely made me think about aspects of politics that I hadn't considered before. 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Review: Inferno - Julie Kagawa

Inferno by Julie Kagawa, published by HarperCollins on 3rd May 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
Ember Hill has learned a shocking truth about herself: she is the blood of the Elder Wyrm, the ancient dragon who leads Talon and who is on the verge of world domination. With the Order of St. George destroyed, Ember, Riley and Garret journey to the Amazon jungle in search of one who might hold the key to take down the Elder Wyrm and Talon—if they can survive the encounter.

Meanwhile, Ember’s brother, Dante, will travel to China with a message for the last Eastern dragons: join Talon or die. With the stakes rising and the Elder Wyrm declaring war, time is running out for the rogues and any dragon not allied with Talon.

The final battle approaches. And if Talon is victorious, the world will burn.

'Inferno' is the final book in Julie Kagawa's Talon series which is based around the idea that dragons exist today and are living among us.  I have been a huge fan of this series from the very beginning and have been excitedly awaiting the finale for months.  It didn't take me long to get stuck into the book and engrossed in the ultimate showdown between the rogues and the Talon organisation.

The story was everything I was hoping it was going to be.  Fast-paced and high-octane, it was a thrilling roller-coaster conclusion.  Ember, Garret and Riley are determined to finally put a stop to Talon once and for all, especially now that Ember has learnt that she is the blood of the Elder Wyrm, The latter is after world domination and immortality and must be stopped at all costs. With most of the Order of St. George destroyed, new friends and allies have to be sought if they are to stand any chance of taking Talon down and freeing the world of them.  There are many who still don't trust the dragons but Ember, as always, is hugely persuasive and determined to do everything in her power to convince people to fight alongside her.

The narrative voice alternates between Ember, Garret and Riley, as they pull out all the stops in the run up to the final battle.  Riley has always been a huge favourite of mine and that didn't change the whole way through.  I must admit that I've always wanted to see him and Ember together but I will say that I really enjoyed the direction that Julie Kagawa took his character and I was ultimately very happy with how he ended up. I was also glad to see the end of the love triangle between him, Ember and Garret as I think it was getting a little tired and it was time that it was concluded at last.

Ember's brother Dante also gets his turn in the book as he begins to learn the truths that have so far been concealed from him.  On Talon's orders, he ends up travelling to China to the council of Eastern dragons to convince them to join their cause.  He gradually discovers that things are not as he had thought and that there may be a different fate in store for him. 

I thoroughly enjoyed 'Inferno' which was an exciting, action packed and high octane read.  Julie Kagawa doesn't take her foot off the pedal for one second as she plunges her characters into one life and death situation after another.  I was gripped from start to finish and was so happy that this epic series went out with a bang.     

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Review: The Smoke Thieves - Sally Green

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green, published by Penguin on 3rd May 2018

Goodreads synopsis:
A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict.

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell.

As alliances shift and shatter, and old certainties are overturned, our four heroes find their past lives transformed and their futures inextricably linked by the unpredictable tides of magic and war. Who will rise and who will fall? And who will claim the ultimate prize?

'The Smoke Thieves' is the first book in Sally Green's new fantasy series, falling on from the success of her Half Blood trilogy. When I read the synopsis, I thought it sounded quite similar to Morgan Rhodes Falling Kingdoms series which I love, so I was really looking forward to reading it.  I'm always on the lookout for new YA fantasy novels, as I enjoy this genre a lot which meant that my hopes were quite high for this title.

The story is told from the perspective of five very different characters.  I have to say that my biggest issue with this book was the fact that the multiple character narration made it quite difficult to follow at times and some people were definitely more interesting than others.  My favourites were Princess Catherine and Tash who were both strong, female characters and although their situations in life made them polar opposites, they were intriguing and enjoyable to read about.  Unfortunately I wasn't as keen on some of the others, such as servant March, student Edyon and traitor Ambrose. I found myself getting impatient with their chapters and sneaking a peak ahead so I could see when the story was going to switch back to the females. I also found their stories slightly disjointed. Although I'm sure they will converge more as the series progresses, it was initially hard to see how they were all related to each other.  

The plot was slow to unfold and there were times when nothing really seemed to happen, which meant that it failed to hold my attention throughout. There are some exciting moments where the suspense just starts to build up and then it falls flat again.  This may be partly because Sally Green has to do a lot of world and character building in this opening instalment but I would have liked to have seen more action to keep me engaged. 

The ending definitely picked up and the story did finish on a high but I hope that there's more for the reader to get their teeth into in the follow-up.
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