Thursday, 24 May 2018

Clean by Juno Dawson

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 399
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books 
Released: 5th of April 2018 

I can feel it swimming through my veins like glitter ... it's liquid gold.

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she's hit rock bottom.

She's wrong. Rock bottom is when she's forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all ... 

It's a dirty business getting clean ... 

What I Have to Say 

With every book she writes, Juno Dawson reaches new heights. She's long been one of the top writers in the UK YA book scene, but every time I pick up a book by her, she surprises me with just how amazing her writing is. Hers are books that sweep you away and take you on adventures that can be so far removed, but also extremely relatable to your own life. And even while anticipating the thrill of reading her latest book, nothing prepares you for what you'll encounter. 

Clean was a gritty, relatable and an extremely wild ride. Dawson pulled no punches in describing everything awful about recovery and drug addiction, but also introduced us to a sensitive and lost girl, who just needs to find her place in the world. The layers of Lexi's personality, from spoilt, drug-addicted heiress to the determined, caring girl beneath were detailed and constantly surprising. From not thinking I would like Lexi much, I found that I was rooting for her withing a few chapters. Because it is impossible not to want this girl to succeed. 

I loved the range of other characters as well. The exclusive rehab island offered up a lot of potential for different characters there for different types of therapy and treatment, from all types of addiction to bullimia and anorexia. It gave the background cast of Lexi's story life and diversity and a small glimpse of other issues. 

It would be great to have a sequel. I want to see what becomes of Lexi after the ending of the book. It would perhaps be interesting to delve into the story of a different person on the island receiving treatment and have Lexi as a background character. 

Whether there's any more Lexi in our future or not, I cannot wait to see what Juno brings us next. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Quercus for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 21 May 2018

Charmcaster by Sebastien de Castell

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 17th of May 2018 

'I was getting almost as good at running away from enemies as I was at making them in the first place. Turns out, I wasn't running nearly fast enough.'

Kellen has begun to master his spellslinging and the Argosi tricks for staying alive, and he and Reichis have found a career that suits them both: taking down mercenary mages who make people's lives miserable. But Ferius is concerned that Kellen is courting 
disaster . . .

What I Have to Say 

I could easily read a million of books in this series without tiring of them. There's always something more to explore, something new that Kellen and the others have to face and more secrets to reveal. I love all the characters and how various people pop up on Kellen's path who he's met or knew before. This book brings back a few names we thought we'd never see again in completely unexpected ways. 

The future however seems to be heating up for Kellen. While I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, I do feel that it might be nearing a conclusion. All good things come to an end and all that. I'm sad to think of never hearing from Kellen and Ferius and Reichis again, but then there is so much more to explore in the world, so maybe there'll be stories from the other people living in his world. 

That is possibly the only letdown in this series is that because of the nature of Kellen's path, we never stay in one country or city long enough to really explore it or the culture. It's a shame but it's the nature of the books. 

I can't wait to see what happens next for Kellen and the gang. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X.R. Pan

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 480 
Publisher: Orion's Children's Books 
Released: 22nd of March 2018 

Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: 'I want you to remember'. Leigh doesn't know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time.

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died - leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn't home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life.

Overwhelmed by grief, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember.

What I Have to Say 

A beautiful moving book about family and the past, a vivid picture of Taiwanese culture and at least 50% of the reason I decided to learn Mandarin, this book is something truly, truly special. It showed the grieving process that Leigh goes through and the impact of her mother's suicide in a very real way but without making it overwhelming or triggering for the reader. Painting it with colours and isolation and the magical realism of the bird. 

The way that Leigh's grief is painted turns it to more of an adventure, chasing the bird and exploring her family and Tawainese heritage. It doesn't hide the harsh realities any more than Leigh's grief does, bringing them crashing down on her and her families head, as is always inevitable. 

It's very hard to truly express how very special this book is, but it is definitely on list of books to push on everyone I know. 

My thanks go to Orion Children's Books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

In Search of Us by Ava Dellaira

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 389 
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 6th of March 2018 

Marilyn is in search of freedom. She grew up as a child actor, her mother's meal ticket out of mediocrity. But it's been a long time since she booked a job, and she and her mother have no choice but to move in with her volatile uncle. Marilyn is counting down the days until she can escape to college, and the promise of her own future. That is, until she falls in love with James, the boy downstairs, who shows her that her life is worth living in the present. At 17, Marilyn is about to learn that everything can change in an instant.

Angie is in search of answers. She is mixed race and has never met her father, but she knows she looks and thinks a lot like him. Though Angie grew up with her devoted mother, Marilyn, she's always felt the absence of the man she never knew. But after discovering that her mother has been lying to her, Angie sets off on a road trip to Los Angeles, in search of an unknown uncle - and maybe even her dad. At 17, she hopes to finally find out the truth about where she came from so she can discover who she truly is.

What I Have to Say 

This was a fascinating story about the longing for identity and the secrets of the past. The only thing was that every time I got into a thread of the story, it switched back to the other thread. Though I liked both of the threads and Marilyn and Angie were both great characters, it just jarred me every time it switched. 

I got into it more as I got further into the book though and it felt less jarring. The best thing about it was the romance. Marilyn's relationship with James felt so very real, which is something that I don't find often with book romance. And Marilyn as a character was so great and vivid. She felt like someone I just wanted to know more and more about. 

Angie felt less detailed, but what I liked about her story was the sense of loss she felt at never knowing her father, never knowing anything about her father. Throughout the book she was searching for an identity that was so lacking throughout her childhood and was emphasised to her every time someone pointed out she didn't look like her mother. 

I look forward to reading more of Dellaira's books. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Storm-wake by Lucy Christopher

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 352
Publisher: Chicken House 
Released: 5th of April 2018

Moss has grown up on the strangest and most magical of islands. Her father has a plan to control the tempestuous weather that wracks the shores. But the island seems to have a plan of its own once Callan -- a wild boy her age -- appears on its beaches. Her complex feelings for Callan shift with every tide, while her love for the island, and her father, are thrown into doubt...

And when one fateful day, a young man from the outside world washes up on the beach, speaking of the Old World, nothing will ever be the same.

What I Have to Say 

Lucy Christopher's beautiful writing, combined with her imaginative retake of The Tempest make a beautiful book that's perfect for anyone looking to escape to a beautiful island full of dark secrets. I loved the characters, so connected to their Shakespearean counterparts but also so unique and full of life. 

I loved the close friendship between Moss and Callan, the way they were so close that they belonged to each other in a way that if there had been other children around, probably wouldn't have been the case. It was a unique relationship and so interesting to explore, especially when other people are added to the picture. 

This is the kind of book that makes you want to read it a few times. There's so much detail in the book and so many secrets that come out, meaning that there's so much more to pick up on in the second reading. I'm looking forward to a second and maybe even a third reading. 

My thanks go to the Chicken House for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 12 May 2018

The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 266
Publisher: Candlewick Press 
Released: 8th of May 2018 

i am the girl manny loves. the girl who writes our story in the book of flying. i am alice.

Alice is fifteen, with hair as red as fire and skin as pale as bone. Something inside Alice is broken: she remembers words, but struggles to speak them. Still, Alice knows that words are for sharing, so she pins them to posters in tucked-away places: railway waiting rooms, fish-and-chips shops, quiet corners. Manny is sixteen, with a scar from shoulder to elbow. Something inside Manny is broken, too: he once was a child soldier, forced to do terrible, violent things. But in a new land with people who care for him, Manny explores the small town on foot. And in his pocket, he carries a poem he scooped up, a poem whose words he knows by heart. The relationship between Alice and Manny will be the beginning of love and healing. And for these two young souls, perhaps, that will be good enough.

What I Have to Say 

It took me a while to get into this. Alice's voice was very interesting and I liked her use of words, but especially in the first few chapters and the poems were hard to understand, but after I got into it, it became much easier. It was definitely a unique voice, with a playful use of words that really showed Alice's character, that despite her struggles with words being a result of her brain injury, she has found a way to own it and make it her unique way of speaking. 

 I felt that the story was a bit lacking through most of the book. The fact that Manny and Alice didn't even meet properly until quite a way through the book meant that the first half was just them wondering about one another and not much really happened. 

I really got into the book by the end though and the finale was very good and quite gripping. I only wish that the rest of the book could have been as satisfying plot wise. 

My thanks goes to Netgalley and Candlewick Press for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Bookish Boyfriends: A Date With Darcy by Tiffany Schmidt

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 400
Publisher: Amulet Paperbacks 
Released: 1st of May 2018 

Boys are so much better in books. At least according to Merrilee Campbell, fifteen, who thinks real-life chivalry is dead and there’d be nothing more romantic than having a guy woo her like the heroes in classic stories. Then she, her best friend, Eliza, and her younger sister, Rory, transfer to Reginald R. Hero Prep—where all the boys look like they've stepped off the pages of a romance novel. Merri can hardly walk across the quad without running into someone who reminds her of Romeo. 

When the brooding and complicated Monroe Stratford scales Merri’s trellis in an effort to make her his, she thinks she might be Juliet incarnate. But as she works her way through her literature curriculum under the guidance of an enigmatic teacher, Merri’s tale begins to unfold in ways she couldn’t have imagined. Merri soon realizes that only she is in charge of her story. And it is a truth universally acknowledged that first impressions can be deceiving . . . 

What I Have to Say 

This was just the book I was in the mood to read. It was a nice light contemporary filled with boy drama and bookish daydreams. It explored different types of romance and the realities of book romance versus how it works in real life, showing that dramatic gestures that are made in books are often over the top and just plain embarrassing in real life. 

I found the characters all very interesting and very quickly grew to love Merrilee, her friends and her sisters very much. I can't wait to read more in this story. I want to know about some of the stories that were hinted at during the book and I hope that we can learn more about Trent and Lilly in the next book and how they met as well as Rory'story which I definitely want to find out about. 

The only criticism I have is that for a character who is supposed to read all the time and be obsessed with book romance, not only had she not read Pride and Prejudice before (let alone not even knowing the story, especially since Darcy is one of the most talked about love interests, which Merrilee knew nothing about), but she didn't read much at all through the whole book. For a girl who started off not being able to put her book down for long enough to get dress, she then barely read anything that wasn't for school for the rest of the book. 

Still, I'm really looking forward to the next book. I want a whole series of people being steered towards their stories. It's a wonderful idea. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and ABRAMS kids for providing me with this copy for review.