For review

I’ve decided to compile a list of books that I will be reviewing (books in bold are of highest priority). I will remove books as they are read and reviewed, adding to the list as appropriate. Continue reading

countless

Countless by Karen Gregory

Received from NetGalley for review.

Countless is a heart-breaking story; it ripped my heart out and didn’t entirely put it back. It tells the story of a very troubled girl, seventeen-year-old Hedda, who has been in and out of hospital most of her life for anorexia and now finds herself pregnant. I imagine it’s hard enough being pregnant without being so young, living in a grubby flat because your parents don’t want your ‘corrupting influence’ on your younger sister, and being in the throes of a mental illness that doesn’t want to let go. It’s not a pleasant story but it is an important one that doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities of mental illness and teen pregnancy.

I felt so deeply for Hedda – she’s young, angry at the world, defensive, and missing her best friend, all whilst dealing with mental illness and pregnancy. She finds out she’s pregnant (nearly five months) following a one night stand and decides to follow through with the pregnancy, intending to have the baby adopted. She makes a deal with anorexia, which she personifies as ‘Nia’, to eat just enough until the baby has been born and then continue as she was. She has so much to deal with but I found it admirable that she tried to put aside her issues to nourish her baby – it’s not all sunshine and daisies but she really tries, and it reminded me that there’s always something more to a person than we can see and to not judge so fast.

The book really shows the horrible way eating disorders can work – you know it’s causing problems, and you try to pull yourself out of it, but it’s your normal, it’s your control, and there’s a comfort in that, even if it’s not healthy. Anorexia is Hedda’s normal, something she’s dealt with most of her life, and even though it’s damaged her relationship with her family, her body, and her education, it’s something that’s always been there with her. Through the narrative we get insights into her time on the wards and what she thought was ‘good’ and ‘bad’ about it – Hedda slowly realises that there were aspects of life of life on the unit that she enjoyed and missed, and gradually realises things about her battle with anorexia that she had always refused to see.

Although I found this book overwhelmingly sad, there is hope – I won’t go into too much detail but the ending does give a glimmer of hope, which is much needed after the heart wrenching events of the novel. Some might find this book too much – too much sadness and hardship – but that is reality; life is hard and mental illness is harder, and a seventeen-year-old who is suffering from anorexia and pregnant is not going to have an overwhelmingly happy story. I personally found it to be incredibly realistic and honest (something that was reinforced in the Author’s Note at the end), and I was glad that it didn’t end with a ‘happily ever after’ scenario, as those generally do only belong in fairy tales.

Read: February 13th 2017

4/5 stars

the-mesmerist

The Mesmerist by Ronald L. Smith

Received from NetGalley for review.

We are the League of Ravens, and we are seeking evil where it sleeps.

The Mesmerist can pretty much be summed up with that quote. It’s a little cheesy, a little cliché, a little bit fun, but a little bit like everything you’ve read before. I was initially drawn in by the setting of Victorian London and the idea of a young girl being able to communicate with the dead (something both awesome and spooky) despite being something that’s been done A LOT in literature, but the actual story didn’t quite deliver – not for me at least.

The story is based around Jessamine – a thirteen-year-old who helps her mother conduct fake séances until it’s discovered she’s a mesmerist who really can communicate with the dead. So far, so good. Jess and her mother then head to London to see the mysterious Balthazar who will know what’s going on. Now, it was here when everything started getting a bit silly for me. The reveals come thick and fast with Jess’ heritage, her parents past, and the whole messy business of Mephisto and the League of Ravens. It was just too much, too many different plotlines and weird happenings going on for the story to be anything other than ridiculous. I wanted to scream at the book ‘pick a plotline!’ because using Fae, ghouls, spiritualists, the Plague, children with strange abilities, a big bad guy with a pale face and red eyes (sound familiar?), and a super league of super humans, needs serious skill to pull off in 270 pages.

It wasn’t all bad, though. The story itself is quite fun and fast-paced when not taken too seriously; I wanted a lot more depth and development, but for a middle-grade supernatural romp, it really isn’t a bad little story. I enjoyed the setting of Victorian London – always a winner for me – and found it to be incredibly atmospheric, transporting me into Balthazar’s lush mansion and the grimy, poverty ridden streets with ease. Jess was an interesting character as although she started off a proper young lady, concerned with etiquette and appearance, she soon developed into a badass young lady, concerned with doing what was right and not relying on some dashing young man to sweep in and save the day (yay for lack of romance!). Those who were there to assist, however, where wonderful supporting characters and I probably liked Emily and Gabriel more than Jess.

This is definitely a book that doesn’t transcend its middle-grade label. I can imagine many younger readers really enjoying this slightly wild tale, though, and rightly so, but I would advise older and more advanced readers to give this a miss.

February 4th-11th 2017

3/5 stars

one-of-us-is-lying

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Received from NetGalley for review.

Originally I wasn’t going to read One of Us is Lying until much closer to its publication date (June 1st) but when I read the blurb – think The Breakfast Club with murder thrown in – and a few lines and I was immediately intrigued. I love The Breakfast Club and McManus’ take on it sounded so interesting that I couldn’t resist. I wanted to know (read: had to know) how the story unfolded and I wasn’t willing to wait until later in the year. And let me tell you, it was worth it. This book is fantastic – a masterful mix of young adult, contemporary, murder mystery, and romance, all tied up into a thrilling debut.

The blurb already tells us what happens when five students enter detention but only four leave:

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

But the mystery surrounding Simon’s death is relentless and consumed my mind when I wasn’t reading the book. For some three hundred pages we are taken on a wild ride, constantly wondering who is telling the truth, who is lying, and how the story will unfold, especially as each of the protagonists had something to hide. I had so many theories about Simon’s death but I didn’t see the truth coming at all, which is probably the highest praise I can give to a murder mystery.

It probably goes without saying but I loved the characters. Although the blurb could make it seem like they were one dimensional stereotypes, they were anything but. McManus has crafted four multi-dimensional and well-rounded characters and I can honestly say that I loved every single one of them by the end of the book (finding out more about Simon was fascinating as well although I can’t say I loved him at any point in the novel). All show great character development and growth, especially Addy and Cooper who, I feel, had the biggest fall out from their secrets being revealed. They are all badass in their own way and I loved that the book was told from each of their perspectives; I really enjoy split narratives and it worked exceptionally well here.

Obviously I haven’t said too much in this review, as the gradual reveals and build up to finding out what actually happened to Simon are what makes the novel so interesting, but I highly recommend people to seek this out when it’s published – I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed if you do.

Read: January 31st-February 2nd 2017

4/5 stars

big-mushy-happy-lump

Big Mushy Happy Lump by Sarah Andersen

Received from NetGalley for review.

I think we all need a bit of relatability sometimes and that is exactly what I find in Sarah Andersen’s hilarious illustrations. I love that this particular collection is called Big Mushy Happy Lump because that is totally what I aspire to be (chronic depression and anxiety mess up the ‘happy’ part for me a lot, though), and I really love that Andersen uses her own experiences of anxiety and the big bad world to create drawings that actually represent life for so many people – not the sugar coated, everything is awesome life, but the curling on the sofa and not moving at all life.

The focus on self-love, the importance of friendship, the shittiness of anxiety and depression and self-doubt, the greatness of books and caffeine are all things that appear regularly in Andersen’s illustrations, and at the risk of being repetitive they are so relatable because of it. Life is hard, people are mean, hormones are evil, but there are silver linings – books, hot cups of tea, stealing your partner’s warmth, puppies – that make things a little bit easier sometimes. Coincidentally, Sarah Andersen’s simple black and white drawings are one of those silver linings for me, and they never fail to make me smile.

Most people with a brain cell or two know that life isn’t always brilliant, especially with everything currently going wrong in the world, but this collection – and everything that Andersen draws, I feel – puts a funny spin on it all, a ‘things are terrible but let’s laugh, just for a minute’ spin on it. Let’s face it, most of us laugh and use humour so that we don’t cry or spiral down some abyss of loathing, and that is the beauty of this collection. Anyone who has never been exposed to ‘Sarah’s Scribbles’ should go and get themselves some exposure, and anyone who already loves it should go and get this new book when it’s released.

We should all try to be big mushy happy lumps, and accept that sometimes stuff sucks and life is hard, but at the end of the day we are all majestic goddesses (and gods) who deserve a giggle.

Read: January 22nd 2017

4/5 stars

buzz-books-2017

Buzz Books 2017: Young Adult Spring/Summer by Publishers Lunch

Received from NetGalley for review.

I love the Buzz Books collection from Publishers Lunch – there is always a wonderfully diverse collection of upcoming releases, in this instance for the young adult and middle grade market. Although this particular collection didn’t hold as many books that piqued my interest as the previous two collections I’ve read, I know that many people will benefit from getting a sneak peek at some forthcoming novels.

My can’t wait for books:

1.  Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

2. Piper Perish by Kayla Cagan

3. Roar by Cora Carmack. This could be wonderful or terrible, I’m hoping for the former.

4. The Black Witch by Laurie Forest

5. Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

Read: January 15th 2017

3/5 stars

the-memory-book

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Received from NetGalley for review. 

I think this is a case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’, because my interest in this book completely nosedived early on when Sam started getting all starry-eyed over Stuart, and I definitely seem to be in the minority. Either that or this book is simply not good enough to cure my strange book slump. I’ll admit I pretty much gave up around page eighty and skimmed afterwards, but here are some of the things I did like:

– The sensitive but funny was Avery has dealt with a serious illness, Niemann-Pick C, which is essentially described as being like dementia (memory loss, hallucinations, leads to death). Sam writes in a diary to her future self in order to remember things that she will inevitably forget, and it is written in such a way that you feel incredibly sad for her situation whilst still being able to laugh at the things that she says.
– Sam’s reaction to her diagnosis; she’s aware of the impact NPC will have on her life but it seems to make her all the more determined to live as fully as possible, with the positive side effect of making her realise you can’t always plan ahead but need to live in the moment as well.
– Sam’s personality; some would say she’s quirky but I just liked her and found her relatable. She’s academically intelligent, debates fiercely about social injustice, and loves to read. Winner. Her narrative is hilarious for the most part, and easy to read, which I always appreciate.

And the thing I didn’t like so much:

– Sam’s internal monologue about Stuart Shah. I get it, you find him attractive and intelligent and have had a crush forever, but I just don’t care. It’s not that I disliked Stuart as such, I just found him a bit bland and two dimensional, although that could have been because I didn’t read much of it properly. I was much more interested in learning about Sam and the way she was dealing with NPC outside of having a love interest. I love a good romance but the beginnings of this one left me feeling cold.

Loads of people seem to love the book though, so I guess give it a go? I genuinely don’t think there’s anything wrong with the book or the way it’s been written, it simply didn’t work for me at this moment in my life. I may give it another go in the future, who knows.

Read: January 10th 2017

2/5 stars

the-blue-hour

The Blue Hour by Isabelle Simler

Received from NetGalley for review.

The day ends.
The night falls.
And in between…
there is the blue hour.

The Blue Hour is gorgeous children’s book that celebrates the beauty of nature at one of the lesser thought of times of the day – dusk. The words are simple yet so calming and the illustrations are beautiful. It would be perfect as a bedtime story, or just to enjoy as a calming moment with your children.

The blue hour settles in, and nature becomes still.

The story is that of an in-between time, when the day is ending and night is falling. It tells of all the things that different animals (and nature) in varying shades of blue are doing at that time, from the blue-silver sardines of the ocean to collections of wildflowers. The writing is fairly simple and effectively reads like a list, but there’s something about the relaxing rhythm of the words and calming images they conjure that make it a delightful reading experience.

The illustrations are enchanting. As with the words the pictures are simple yet beautiful, without losing any finer details; they bring the world and its night-time wonders to life, utilising the colour blue in all its wonderful variety. I love how Simler has explored animals from all over the globe, as it makes this book not only soothing but a great tool for creating interest in the world, in animals and nature – something that I think is massively important within children’s book. Highly recommended.

They wait for this moment every evening, silently…and the night softly wraps them in its quiet.

Read: January 8th 2017

4/5 stars