About Me

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United Kingdom
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 dedicated mainly to my addiction to YA fiction but you will also find some adult and non-fiction book reviews as well.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Review: See How They Lie - Sue Wallman

See How They Lie by Sue Wallman, published by Scholastic on 2nd March 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
If you got to live in a luxury hotel with world-class cuisine, a state-of-the-art sports centre and the latest spa treatments, would you say ‘yes please’?
Well, that’s kind of what Hummingbird Creek is like. No wonder Mae feels lucky to be there. It’s meant as a rich-kid’s sanatorium, but she isn’t sick. Her dad is the top psychiatrist there. But one day Mae breaks a rule. NOT a good idea. This place is all about rules – and breaking them can hurt you…



Review:
'See How They Lie' is the second book by Sue Wallman and in my opinion, much better than her debut YA novel.  This is a psychological thriller set at a wellness centre for psychiatric and troubled teens.  Although Hummingbird Creek sounds amazing and appears to have everything you could ever possibly want, the residents of the centre have no access to the outside world and restrictions are placed on what they eat, when they sleep, how much exercise they get and a hundred other things, including heavily filtered access to the internet.  Instead of sounding like a perfect paradise, it ended up resembling something more like a prison.

The main character Mae, lives with her mother and Doctor father at Hummingbird Creek.  It's the only home she has ever really known and she has very few memories of life out in the real world.  Mae has a close friendship with one of the other residents, Drew and together the two of them revel in tiny acts of rebellion which make them feel like they are living, rather than being kept prisoner. 

As the story unfolds, Mae begins to suspect that everything may not be quite as it seems.  Her teacher, Mrs Ray, is worried about he gaps in Mae's education.  Mae herself, begins to suspect that the vitamins she is given on a regular basis, may not be quite so innocent after all and her mother exhibits worrying behaviour that leads her to investigate what is really going on.

I loved following Mae's journey to discovery and found myself gripped by multiple revelations.  My only real disappointment with this book was the last few chapters, when everything was wrapped up really quickly.  I would have liked more of a big finale and I was waiting for something a little more spectacular to happen.  After drawing out the threads of the big reveal, it seemed like everything was concluded much too quickly.  That aside, I enjoyed 'See How They Lie' a lot and found it a quick and intriguing read.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review: Gilded Cage - Vic James

Gilded Cage by Vic James, published by Pan Macmillan on 26th January 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
Our world belongs to the Equals—aristocrats with magical gifts—and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world.

Abi is a servant to England's most powerful family, but her spirit is free. So when she falls for one of the noble-born sons, Abi faces a terrible choice. Uncovering the family's secrets might win her liberty, but will her heart pay the price?

Abi's brother, Luke, is enslaved in a brutal factory town. Far from his family and cruelly oppressed, he makes friends whose ideals could cost him everything. Now Luke has discovered there may be a power even greater than magic: revolution.


Review:
I thought that this book was brilliant!  It really took me by surprise and swept me away to a modern Britain where slavery still exists and where magic runs in the air. It was an unusual mix of historical and urban fantasy genres but it blended together so well.

The premise of 'Gilded Cage' is that there is a magical aristocracy that all commoners have to serve for ten years of their life.  The story follows one family, the Hadleys, who all agree to serve their ten years together at the beck and call of one of the most ruthless magical family of all - the Jardines. However, while Abi and Daisy end up with their parents, their sibling Luke is taken away to Millmoor, a slave factory town.

I initially found the book slightly confusing because nearly every chapter is alternatively told from a different characters' perspective.  In the first ten chapters alone, there are six different points of view.  What made all the difference was when the characters began to grow on the page and I developed a picture of them in my mind.  It was then much easier to visualise them and their stories.  My favourite chapters were at Kyneston with the majority of the Hadley family. The magical element of the book was so unusual that I found everything that happened absolutely fascinating. 

The Jardines themselves were also incredibly interesting.  There is brutal Gavar who I couldn't decide if I liked or hated, middle brother Jenner who I immediately wanted to see more of and younger brother Silyen who is the most mysterious one of them all.  He has a dark skill that may change the world but was incredibly enigmatic and mercurial.

I'm not always a big fan of fantasy books but this was definitely my cup of tea.  It had a really intriguing and original plot which had me hooked.  I loved the whole concept for the series and I'm dying now to read the next in the Dark Gifts trilogy.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Review: The Scarecrow Queen - Melinda Salisbury

The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury, published by Scholastic on 2nd March 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .




Review:
The eagerly awaited finale to the series is finally here!  There was no stopping me after I got my hands on this book and I couldn't wait to dive straight in.  This was a fitting end to a superb series which did not disappoint.

Although I thought that the previous book, 'The Sleeping Prince' had suffered a little bit from middle book syndrome, Melinda Salisbury held nothing back in 'The Scarecrow Queen' which was an exciting and explosive read. 

Twylla and Errin may have been separated and their forces divided, but they are by no means defeated yet, as we see them preparing to do battle against the Sleeping Prince.  The book alternates between their two perspectives as each has their own challenges to face in the final show down.  I actually ended up enjoying the parts of the story told by Errin the most, as she quite literally has to extricate herself from under Aurek's control.  He was very creepy and such a great villain in the story.  Errin has an ally in Merek and desperately wants to save Silas too but her situation is precarious.  Twylla meanwhile is attempting to bring together a band of rebels as the time for battle draws near.  I enjoyed seeing all of the characters and the threads of everyone's' stories gradually coming together

The story was fast-paced and gripping and there were some incredible twists and turns lying in wait.  I couldn't have guessed how the story was going to be concluded but it was genuine brilliance.   

A perfect example of a YA fantasy series that knocks your socks off!  I loved it and can't wait to read more by Melinda Salisbury in the future. 

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Review: See You in the Cosmos - Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, published by Puffin on 2nd March 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan-named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he'll uncover-from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


Review:
I hadn't heard of this title before reading it, so I started it not having any particular expectations of the content.  I found myself instantly drawn into Alex's story and ultimately found 'See You In The Cosmos' to be a delightful and entrancing read.

It reminded me a bit of 'Wonder' by R.J. Palacio in the way that I was drawn to the main character of Alex.  He is an incredible individual and for an eleven year old boy is both brave and true and very inspirational.  When he embarks upon a journey with his dog Carl Sagan, to launch his own rocket into space, he meets an eclectic group of individuals along the way and learns some hard truths about his own family history.

Each chapter is structured like a dialogue by Alex about his journey.  His voice is true and authentic and made me love him even more.  There should be more characters like him in middle-grade fiction. 

The book deals with some serious issues such as mental illness and the affect it can have on a family but the overall message is one of positivity and hope and made me believe that Alex would be alright in the end. 

This is a word of mouth treat that is sure to be a big hit in 2017.  It most definitely won me over!

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Review: All About Mia - Lisa Williamson

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson, published by David Fickling Books on 2nd February 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
From no. 1 Bestselling YA author Lisa Williamson, comes another insightful and unputdownable teen drama - All About Mia. A brilliant look into the mind of a teenager stuck in the middle.




Review:
‘All About Mia’ was a really fun and entertaining contemporary YA read. I finished it in one sitting because once I’d turned the first page, I was utterly absorbed into the story. I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it actually but I think it was exactly the sort of book I was looking for at the time.

The story is about three sisters and is narrated by middle-sister Mia. At the start of the book, her older sister Grace is coming home early from her gap year travels, while her younger sister Audrey is focused on school and swimming. Mia falls in the middle and this is precisely where she doesn’t want to be. She is the rebel of the family and is always the one pushing the limits with her mum and dad. She does stupid things and she can be pretty wild at times but as we get to know Mia we see that a lot of her behaviour is just a defence she puts up. She doesn’t always know where she fits in and what her niche is and this often causes problems, particularly with Grace who has always been the perfect daughter. 

I loved this book because the story was so relatable. I don’t have sisters but I do have two siblings and I am a middle child and while I can’t claim to be anything like Mia at all, I could identify with her in a lot of ways. Lisa Williamson’s writing and characterisations are spot on too and I really enjoyed seeing how the family dynamics changed and evolved in the book. 

Audrey was my favourite sister and I’m glad she got a bit more page time in the second half of the story. She is always trying to keep the peace between her older siblings and sometimes gets forgotten because she’s not always the loudest or the liveliest. I thought she was a very sweet character though and I liked her focus and determination.

A brilliant read about love and family and fitting in. I would highly recommend.      

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Review: Dramarama - E. Lockhart

Dramarama by E. Lockhart, published by Hot Key Books on 9th February 2017


Goodreads synopsis:
Two theater-mad, self-invented, fabulositon Ohio teenagers.

One boy, one girl.
One gay, one straight.
One black, one white.

And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP.






Review:
‘Dramarama’ sounded like a fun and entertaining read, incorporating one of my favourite things…the theatre! The story is about two friends who get accepted into a drama summer school. We see them on their journey there with dreams, hopes and aspirations of becoming big stars and escaping their small town lives. The narrative unfolds from the perspective of Sarah, or Sayde as she likes to be known. She has always felt that she is destined for bigger and greater things and through her love of the theatre she believes that she has a chance at becoming something more. Her best friend Demi is quite a character and comes across as thoroughly flamboyant and over the top. I wasn’t sure that he ever really grew on me throughout the book and some of his actions near the end of the story were questionable.

What I loved the most about this title were all the theatre references to shows and stars that I’ve seen, enjoyed and loved myself. I couldn’t identify with the longing to become a star in front of the curtain but I could identify with the pleasure and enjoyment that Sayde feels for an amazing song or a well-choreographed routine. It made me want to rush out immediately and buy a ticket to go and see something. The author states that she attended a summer drama school herself when she was younger and I think this probably helped to make the experience in the book more authentic.

I can’t say however, that the story itself particularly resonated with me. It was light, it was fluffy and apart from one or two scenes in the book, it stayed that way for the most part. I felt that the plot was a bit flat and I kept waiting for something more to happen. I wasn’t hugely keen on the ending either which I felt didn’t have enough drama. It was a quick read which I finished in one evening but it’s not a book that I’ll want to come back to in the future.   

Monday, 13 February 2017

Review: The Mystery of the Painted Dragon - Katherine Woodfine

The Mystery of the Painted Dragon by Katherine Woodfine, published by Egmont on 9th February 2017

Goodreads synopsis:
When a priceless painting is stolen, our dauntless heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves faced with forgery, trickery and deceit on all sides!

Be amazed as the brave duo pit their wits against this perilous puzzle! Marvel at their cunning plan to unmask the villain and prove themselves detectives to be reckoned with – no matter what dangers lie ahead . . .

It’s their most perilous adventure yet!



Review:
'The Mystery of the Painted Dragon' is the third book in the Sinclair's Mysteries series about friends Sophie and Lil who repeatedly find themselves embroiled in mystery and mayhem.  The series is in a similar vein to Robin Stevens's Murder Most Unladylike books, although this is aimed at a middle grade readership.  I haven't actually read the previous two books about the intrepid duo but I don't think it really mattered as the story was standalone and the characters were easy to get to know.  I do now want to get my hands on them though because this was such an enjoyable read that I'm sure the first two books are equally as good.    

The story finds Lil and Sophie investigating the theft of a painting called 'The Green Dragon'. This throws them into the path of another young female and a budding artist called Leo.  As the girls follow a series of puzzling clues and suspicion is cast on a number of different characters, it becomes clear that danger lies in wait around every corner.  They also have the shadowy figure of the 'Baron' to contend with.  Ooh, I love a good baddie!

I adored the historical setting of the book, with the story being set in 1909.  It's a time when girls are trying to follow their dreams but society is still geared towards the advancement of men.  Leo is a prime example of this as she tries to pursue a career in the arts, while also appeasing her family. 

This was a fab read with a great mystery, fun adventure and lovely characters.  I've wanted to read this series for ages and I wasn't disappointed.  The next in the series is published in October and will be called 'The Mystery Peacock'.  That gives me plenty of time to acquaint myself with the first two books about Lil and Sophie and the beginning of their adventures together.
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