49 Followers
59 Following
sunsetxcocktail

sunsetxcocktail

Currently reading

Kiss of Midnight
Lara Adrian
Progress: 6 %
The Shining
Stephen King
Progress: 150/512 pages
Spindle Fire
Lexa Hillyer
Progress: 53 %
Dorothy Must Die
Danielle Paige
Progress: 45 %
The Disappearances
Emily Bain Murphy
Progress: 120/400 pages
Fireworks
Katie Cotugno
Progress: 30 %
Burned Deep: 100 Shades of Sin (Burned Deep Trilogy)
Calista Fox
Progress: 203/384 pages
By Your Side
Kasie West
Progress: 55 %
Blood Rose Rebellion
Rosalyn C. Eves
Progress: 25 %
Letters to the Lost
Brigid Kemmerer
Progress: 197/400 pages

Review: Seven Days of You

Seven Days of You - Cecilia Vinesse

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I sort of liked this one and I sort of didn’t. I’m somewhat torn on what to feel about this book. It’s somewhere between a 3 star and 2 star read for me. The Anna and the French Kiss comparison is what made it snag my interest. Sofia has spent the last few years of her life in Tokyo at an international school with her best friends David and Mika. She has a gigantic crush on David. Her mom is a professor at a university in Tokyo. Mom has been transferred back to the United States. Sofia, her older sister Alison and her mom are leaving in seven days. Sofia has seven days to pack up her room and say goodbye to her friends.

 

Most of this book is pretty much teenagers being teenagers. Sofia is supposed to be packing, but she hangs out with her friends, enjoying the delights of Tokyo, partying, karaoke, staying out way late and lying to your parents about where you are, and crashing at her friend’s house, arguing and making up. And to add to the drama the friend Sofia fell out with years ago, Jamie, is back in Tokyo. She really liked him, but he was jealous over her crush on David and said something he shouldn’t have creating an argument that cost their friendship. Jamie’s good friends with her BFF Mika, and Mika insists on dragging Jamie along on their escapes. Friday is Mika’s birthday and with Sofia’s going away so there is a huge party. Not helped either by the fact that David’s sort of girlfriend Caroline has attached herself to their group even though no one really likes her that much. Typical teen drama.

 

Unfortunately, I found David and Mika to be some of the most incredibly annoying characters I’ve come across in a while. David is loud and arrogant, and I just don’t understand Sofia’s obsession with him. He nicknames her “Sofa” which is stupid and irritated the hell out of me. Mika came across to me as selfish. She’s very loud and foul mouthed, with a decent creative streak, she had her moments, but there were plenty of incidents where she and David were really crappy friends to Sofia.  Which lead to Sofia being really hurt.

 

While at the same time all this friendship drama is going on, Sofia is having family drama with her older sister Alison. Their parents are divorced, their dad lives in Paris with his new wife and new family. Sofia is given the opportunity to go and live in Paris with him for her senior year rather than go back to the US with Alison and her mom. Which causes major drama between Alison and Sofia as something like this has happened before and it didn’t pan out. Sofia was hurt and never quiet dealt with it.

 

When friendship drama with Mika and David hits a sour note, Sofia finds herself turning to Jamie, even though they had a massive argument years ago, they seem to have been able to move past it and grow closer, Sofia realises her feelings for Jamie may or may not be stronger than friendship, and she may not be the only one who feels this way. Made all the worse by the fact that the clock is ticking down to her leaving time.

 

Jamie was a much more likeable love interest than David. He was a nice, considerate boy, who talked to Sofia like a real person, he had his own problems and secrets, and tried not to let the drama have much of an effect on him. He was almost bordering on shy when he came in to the novel, he came alive more and more as the novel developed and showed more of a personality, particularly when he was hanging out with Sofia and their friendship became something more.

 

Sofia had a believable tone of voice and was actually quite likeable. She could be very immature and irritating, for sure. But she had some very deep emotional moments as she dealt with her feelings over leaving Tokyo, returning to the states, working out her true feelings about her father’s flakiness and if she still wanted the dream of living in Paris. The hurt she experienced when her friendships fell apart, and the romance as it developed between her and Jamie.

The constant drama did get a bit annoying, and I really did not like David and Mika at all. I did like Sofia. And thought it had a decent ending, a believable one as well, given the dramatics of the novel.

 

I can’t say this is a contemporary I would read again, but I would definitely read something else by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Group for the review copy.

Review: We Come Apart

We Come Apart - Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I must admit I didn’t read the blurb properly on this book. It came through in a reader recommend thing from Netgalley on my email. I was at work at the time and just glanced it over, the premise was enough to peek my interest. So I put in a request. I didn’t actually read that it was a novel in verse.

 

I’m not a fan of novels in verse. I’ve never read one, the concept just holds no interest to me. While this was certainly a quick read, I read most of it during my lunch hour and finished it off at home, probably under two hours reading time in all. I can’t say I was blown away by the telling of a novel in verse. I find it distracting and annoying.

 

I can’t say I liked the story that much either. It’s a UK based novel, set in London.  I found the main character Jess very hard to have much sympathy for. Which makes me feel horrible because she comes from a really awful home situation. Very passive mother who has an absolute asshole of an abusive boyfriend who beats her and rules with an iron fist of fear and intimidation.

 

 It’s downright scary to read about. Especially must be awful for Jess who clearly loves her mum but can’t do anything about it.  Jess has a definite attitude problem and potty mouth, clearly puts a tough girl act on and has some bitchy tough girl friends. It’s not that I had no empathy for Jess, there were times when I felt terrible for what she was going through. Given her circumstances, her attitude is not at all surprising. But I just didn’t like her.

 

Jess finds herself arrested for shoplifting. Instead of juvenile detention she gets a community service sentence, clearing up trash in her local park.

 

The saving grace of this book was Nicu. I loved Nicu to pieces. He made reading this whole book worthwhile. Nicu’s family are Polish immigrants, looking to make money in the UK. They want to make some decent cash to take back home to their village to give Nicu a good start with a new wife, arranged by his parents and the parents of a girl from their village. Nicu gets no say in this. He has no interest in getting married at all.

 

He’s a decent boy, who in a stupid moment tried shop lifting and got caught. Because he’s an immigrant and because he doesn’t speak very good English, he gets caught and in trouble, but he’s given the same community service option given to Jess.  Nicu seems like a nice guy who generally tries to do the right thing. He just caved under pressure of a future he has no desire for and no options to really do something for himself. He made a bad decision and there were consequences for his action. Which he understands and takes responsibility for, by doing what is required of him. Unfortunately, this means attending English school too.

 

He meets Jess at the same community service programme. They have nothing to say to each other at first, but notice each other. And soon find ways of talking to each other. They also both go to the same school and of course notice each other there as well. Jess appears to be embarrassed to be seen talking to Nicu. Her friends are the popular kids, and they are bullies. Nicu suffers terrible bullying, and while Jess doesn’t take part in the name calling and pranks, she doesn’t exactly do anything to stop it either.

 

But Nicu has such a heart wrenching tone of voice, it’s solid and dependable, and as he struggles to cope with his situation he finds Jess to be his reason for going on. As far as he’s concerned the sun rises and sets on her. He’s completely infatuated. And she eventually starts to thaw, little pieces of her tough girl personality slipping aside as Nicu breaks through her layers of protection and starts to get to know a whole different side of Jess.

 

Of course given their respective parental situations, nothing is easy going. Jess’s friends don’t make I any easier, and neither do the boy bullies in their class. One bad decision leads to another and Nicu and Jess find themselves with a horrible choice to make.

 

While the novel certainly hit some rough emotional notes,

I didn’t really think much of the way it ended. While one character got a break, one didn’t. And…it just didn’t sit right with me, that one gets away clean and the other makes a huge sacrifice. They both should have got a new start.

(show spoiler)

 

I can’t say I will be reading another novel in verse any time soon. If either of the two authors wrote a contemporary YA that wasn’t in verse, I would be interested. This novel really didn’t work for me.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & AUS) for approving my request to view the title.

Review: The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I don’t really know what to say on this one. I was really looking forward to it as I absolutely loved the author’s debut, Everything Everything, which I just devoured. But I just couldn’t get into this one. It wasn’t a bad book really. The characters were delightfully diverse, the two leads, Daniel and Natasha had fantastic chemistry and a believable romance in a tough situation. I thought it was handled fairly realistically.

 

But…I just didn’t like it. It just didn’t work for me. The premise is an interesting one. Daniel comes from a Korean family who immigrated to America, his dad runs a pharmacy. His brother Charlie has always been the high achiever of the family, though has recently come home from college in disgrace. Daniel has always been in Charlie’s shadow. His parents have very high expectations of him. (Charlie is an absolute dick). Daniel is a more sensitive soul, he has a big university interview, he’s not sure what he wants to do with his life. He has a quirky, almost snarky tone of voice. He likes to write poetry.

 

Natasha’s family came over from Jamaica, her family all live in one small apartment, her dad had dreams of being an actor. He’s got great talent, but can’t seem to get a break, Natasha has a younger brother, and a hard working mom. Natasha herself is very smart and loves science. Her dad got drunk and wound up spilling their family history to a police officer, including telling the police they are illegal immigrants. And now Natasha and her family are twelve hours away from being deported.

 

Natasha is determined to make one last stab at saving her family from deportation by meeting with a lawyer who specialises in deportation cases. Stopping in a record store a chance meeting leads her to run into Daniel on the way to his interview.

 

They spark a great connection and start to get to know each other, despite the fact that both of them have places to be and a limited time, their connection is so…just there…they keep finding ways to keep the conversation going; Daniel is more optimistic and romantic. Natasha is a lot more practical and logical.

 

While they both have great voices, I think what really distracted from their story was random chapters from a whole other points of view. Various characters who have random interactions with both Natasha and Daniel, and whole chapters of random information about things that are relevant in the novel. Sometimes sciency things.

 

There was an almost quirky tone of voice to the while thing, but it felt to me like it was trying to be clever and funny, but it just came across as distracting from the main story. And by half way through these chapters were making my eyes roll more than anything. Even though they all had a part of play in the eventual story.

 

It did at least have a believable ending, which I did like, a realistic tone to it. I wouldn’t particularly read this book again, but I do love this this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

Review: A Million Junes

A Million Junes - Emily Henry

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read. I used some of my points to secure my copy of this one.  I have a weakness for Romeo & Juliet inspired stories, and that plus the promise of magical realism was what caught my eye about this title.

 

A little apprehensive as I tried to read the author’s debut novel and didn’t get very far at all with it, but I fell head over heels in love with this book almost right away. (And now I will have to go back and read that debut novel again).  

 

It’s almost impossible to recap the plot because that would be extremely spoilery. The basic premise is Jack “June” O’Donnell has lived in a mysterious little town her whole life, she knows there is a feudal history between her family and their neighbours, the Angerts. Something that has been going on for years and years and years. There’s deep history all connected to the strange little magical wonders that surround June’s house and an infamous tree in her family’s yard.

 

It all start to unravel when hanging out with her best friend Hannah one night, June’s neighbour, Saul Angert appears back in town after being gone for years. June knows that the last thing she should be doing is hanging out with an Angert. However, inevitably, June finds Saul knows one of her friends, and she finds herself hanging out with Saul more and more.

 

The writing is delicious, it’s superb. The novel elicits an incredibly emotional response.  It’s so amazingly written. It paints such a vivid picture and really made me feel engaged with the characters, and hooked on the story.

 

The relationship between June and Saul is wonderful, beautifully built, it has ups and downs, trust, friendship and romance. Both face hidden truths about their past and the secrets which caused the falling out between their families all those many years ago.

 

Also – bonus points for female friendship. June’s relationship with her best friend Hannah is everything you want in a BFF friendship. Trust, sticking up for each other, silliness, being there for each other, listening. It was just wonderful to see the dynamics between the two girls not overshadowed by boys or bitchiness.

 

All with a delightful touch of magical realism floating through the novel.

 

A brilliant story going easily from funny to cute to dramatic to romantic to gut-wrenching and back again. (The end made me cry). I absolutely loved everything about this book.

Review: Flame in the Mist

Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.

 

I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.

 

But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.

 

That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.

 

Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.

 

Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.

 

The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

 

Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

Review: Witchtown

Witchtown - Cory Putman Oakes

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

An enjoyable YA fantasy with a rather unique take on witches. In this novel witches have been living among humans forever, Natural witches, witches born with power, and Learned witches, those who become witches with training. The secret came out and there was wide spread panic, leading to the US government creating “havens” for witches. Towns just for witches where they can feel safe and be with their own kind.  There’s also a darker more mysterious kind of witch known as a Void witch. Little is known other than they’re bad news.

 

Most havens aren’t the best places in the world to live, someone came up with the idea of making a town better than all the other havens, a multi billionaire with big government influence created a spectacular, wealthy haven called Witchtown.

 

The novel starts with teen Macie and her mother Aubra arriving in Witchtown to start a new life. Only Aubra and Macie have a secret – they’re con artists and thieves there on a specific mission – to rob Witchtown.

 

Aubra is the latest addition to my Worst YA Parent list. She’s obnoxious right from the get go, Macie is clearly struggling with something that happened in the last Haven they conned, something to do with a boy she really liked, but right off there’s an impression it ended badly and the mother was to blame. She flat out ignores Macie’s obvious objections to being where they are now and heads off on her plan. Aubra is a very powerful Natural witch, Macie has a secret about her own power and Aubra often holds this against her to manipulate things to her advantage. She really is a horrible piece of work, but can be very charming when greasing the wheels.

 

Macie was much more likeable. I don’t usually con artist main characters and definitely not characters who are thieves. Though there is something quite sympathetic about Macie, that as a reader I found myself actually liking her as a character. She was a bit stubborn and sulky, under the circumstances this is quite understandable. She could be a bit of a bitch herself, but as the novel progresses, Macie shows some pretty impressive character growth over what she feels is right and wrong.

 

Aubra’s determined to go ahead with her plan to rob the town, and gets to know the right people. Macie finds herself fitting in more than she ever has anywhere and as she gets to know some of the other teens in town, she learns not everyone is what they first seem. There’s much more to people, and as she starts getting to know people and make friends she begins to think of a life without her mother’s overbearing presence.

 

Through flashbacks we learn a little bit of Macie’s history, what happened the last time she had a potential friend, and why she’s so reluctant when the kids she meets in Wichtown want to get to know her.

 

It goes to Macie’s character growth. Over the novel as Macie learns more about Witchtown and the people and discovers her own inner strengths, she also learns some pretty shocking secrets about herself and her own levels of power. And some pretty terrible deceptions on her mother’s part as well.

 

It’s a fun easy read with some great world building, and decent, well fleshed out characters, twisty secrets and some good friendships built, though not without a little drama thrown in. There’s also a little hint of romance but not the main focus of Macie’s attention. Macie shows a tremendous amount of strength and self-worth as her story is told. Also, a really interesting and different take on YA witches, something I’ve not seen before.

 

I would definitely read something by this author again.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.

Review: The Piper's Price

The Piper's Price (The Neverland Wars Book 2) - Audrey Greathouse

eArc review copy provided by author.

 

An enjoyable follow up to the Neverland Wars. Picking up shortly after where the first book left off, Gwen is now back in Neverland with Peter Pan and her beloved sister Rosemary, ready to aid Peter in his quest to find the Pied Piper.

 

There was a lot more action in this second instalment, much more of an actual plot, than focusing on Gwen torn between wanting to hang on to her childhood or be a grown up. While there was certainly a huge issue with Gwen still struggling with this problem, there was nowhere near so much philosophical waxing and waning over it.

 

Peter needs the Piper’s help to formulate a plan that will stop the adults in Reality attacking Neverland. Gwen is sent back into Reality to team up with a now grown up friend of Peter who can help solve the clues to find the means of attracting the Piper’s attention.

 

Tiger Lily makes an appearance in this one, as a grown adult woman, with friends of other adult women who have left Neverland and grown up, but still remember Peter and the allure of Neverland itself. It’s interesting to see how they cope with Gwen’s appearance and her strange requests. Though it pulls Gwen back into reality and a life she’s not sure if she wants to give up or not. The women hold a “book club” and there’s one rather poignant scene where they’re discussing a romance novel, “Tryst on the Thames” and later Gwen finds a copy wants to know what it’s about, she’s old enough to understand, but the lady who comes to her aid, Dawn, says rather bluntly if she’s still flying about with Peter Pan she’s not old enough to be discussing romance novels.

 

Kind of a bitter sweet but apt point to illuminate Gwen’s awkward positon. Gwen finds herself going on a shopping trip and getting a new hairdo and these normal teenage things help give her flying the happy boost. Things that would give a normal girl a happy, not something someone deep in magic and Neverland should be that fussed about. Just more of the awkwardness of a teenager dealing with Neverland.

 

And being back in reality brings Gwen back in touch with her potential love interest from the first book, Jay. I actually really like Jay as a character, he listens to Gwen, he likes her, he doesn’t think she’s nuts when she explains her predicament to him. He’s a nice, decent guy and I can see why Gwen confides in him. I like the way their friendship develops and hints that there could be something more between them, but Gwen of course is torn with her duty to Neverland.

 

Gwen has some interesting friendship developments in this one, bringing her to see the sides of adults who have been to Neverland and grown up, and then the more magical side of friendships with the Lost Children and the fairies and Lasiandra the mermaid.  The Piper himself is quite a dark and creepy character, and something of a jackass. (Though I also quite liked the Piper and the role he played later on in the novel). We also get to see some of the nastier side of the adults in reality and what they’re doing with the magic and beings stolen from Neverland.

 

Lots more action and some great character development on Gwen, though Peter Pan himself…I found him annoying really. An interesting ending, and I’m definitely looking forward to the final part in this trilogy.

DNF: Wayfarer

Wayfarer (Passenger) - Alexandra Bracken

I didn't like the first book in this series much, but this is one of my auto-buy authors, and I snagged a copy from Netgalley with my Hatchette Children's auto approval. And even bought a finished hardback (despite the fact that this is not a series I really like, the hardback is really pretty). Sometimes I've found second books better than first books. 

 

Unfortunately, I only made it 250 pages or so before calling it quits. Following on from Passenger, Nicholas and Etta are now separated and struggling to find each other and deal with the changes brought about by the events of the end of Passenger. More secrets are revealed, more plot twists. However, I just can't seem to get into this series at all. 

 

It's beautifully written, plus points for diversity in the characters, and there is clear attention to detail and a phenomenal amount of historical research must have gone into plotting the novel, but I just don't like it. It's long winded and boring and not capturing my interest at all. 

 

Not for me. 

Review: Last Seen Leaving

Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig

 

I snagged a copy of this one from Netgalley when it was a Read It Now title. I do rather enjoy YA mysteries. I’m a sucker particularly for missing person mysteries. The plot of this one drew me right in. The mystery aspect was what kept me reading.

 

Overall, I just didn’t like the main character Flynn much. I found him annoying and boarding on obnoxious. He had zero personality, and seemed kind of self-absorbed. Which is not exactly unusual behaviour for a teenage boy. He was so wrapped up in his own issues he barely noticed the problems his girlfriend January was having.  January had a friend at the toy shop she worked at, Kaz, who was a few years older. All of course the reader hears from Flynn in the beginning is what an ass Kaz is.

 

Kaz actually turned out to be my favourite character in the whole novel. Who is nothing like Flynn first assumes. As the novel progresses I found as a reader I had a lot of empathy for January, who has lived most of her life in the same town, has the same friends as Flynn, and then her mom married some up and coming Congressman who was fabulously rich and had a certain image to maintain and an asshole of a wayward son of his own, Anson. January was forced to move from her comfortable existence into this new world of fabulous rich political people where January and her mom were supposed to dress and act a certain way. While her mom lapped it up, January not so much.

 

As the novel progresses through flashbacks of conversations and moments that happened between January and Flynn, the reader learns about some of the problems that January was having with her situation, the ones that she told Flynn about. As Flynn starts looking deeper into January’s disappearance himself, he learns about a side of her he never really knew. Which makes him feel confused and guilty.

 

There are lots of questions and very little answers and information and everything new Flynn learns is something surprising. Flynn’s other major conflict throughout the novel is he’s gay and struggling to deal with it. He doesn’t seem to want to really accept it. Kaz is a big help here, and part of what makes Kaz such a wonderful character. He was a voice of reason and someone who really seemed to want to help Flynn and cared about him.

 

While Flynn himself…urg. I just found Flynn dull and boring and hard to connect with. He seemed very two dimensional.

 

The mystery of what happened to January was enough to keep my interest to the end of the novel, and to be fair, I didn’t guess who the bad guy was. There was a twist at the end – which was kind of a bit unbelievable to me, but left a possible question hovering.

 

Just an okay one for this reader.

Review: The Edge of Everything

The Edge of Everything - Jeff Giles

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I think this was something I requested on a whim. It was quite some time ago, I remember only glancing at the synopsis on Netgalley. Admittedly I went into this one remembering nothing on what it was about. I had it in my mind for some reason it was a dystopian.

 

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this one. Starts off with teen Zoe at home at the start of a snow storm looking for her younger brother who’s gone out to play with their two dogs. But he doesn’t appear to be answering her calls to come inside before the storm really gets going. The storm is getting worse by the minute so Zoe goes out looking for him. During her search Zoe stumbles into the path of nasty piece of work Stan who is robbing their neighbour’s house. The neighbours having died recently. The confrontation is bad. Warning – Stan really hurts the two dogs. It’s brutal and unpleasant.

 

Zoe and her brother are rescued by a mysterious figure who arrives and kicks the crap out of Stan. The mysterious benefactor is hell bent on destroying Stan for his evil deeds and seems to have some sort of superpowers. But of course nothing goes quite so smoothly. Not once he starts actually interacting with Zoe.

 

The figure, who later becomes known as X has come from a sort of hell dimension known as The Lowlands and is a bounty hunter sent to reap souls of evil doers. Stan is his target. Though Zoe’s interaction with him is brief, he learns something of mercy. Which sets in motion a big ass chain of events.

 

X has very little concept of how to interact with Zoe. Not completing his mission has left him in dire-straights and great pain until the job is done. He collapses in a nearby house –which just happens to be Zoe’s. With the help of Zoe, her mom and her younger brother they help X pull himself together.

X’s dialogue is quite stilted and almost boarding on cheesy, but there’s something quite fascinating about how he copes with Zoe. He’s grown up in this hell dimension with only other damaged souls to guide him, so has very little sense of morality or anything.

 

While Zoe is your average teenager – she lives with her mom and younger brother and is struggling to cope with the recent death of her father. Zoe’s mom is one of the more likeable, believable adults of YA fiction. She’s involved without being over the top involved, and seems to know when to back off. The mom has some secrets which come out later on in the novel, while it’s not of the pleasant nature, it’s doesn’t actually make her any less likeable as a character, I thought the twists added dimension and believability to the mom character.

 

Zoe herself is an immensely likeable character, there was something delightful about the way she was written that made me as a reader connect with her immediately. I liked her tone of voice and her dialogue.

 

She handled the increasingly weird situation very well. Her relationship with X grows, and as they became equality fascinated and enamoured with each other can be described as instalovey, although the novel is so well written and both characters are so interesting – it’s instalove but instalove that actually works.

 

And they’re both smart enough to know there will be consequences for their actions. X has to deal with the Lowlands and the consequences of revealing his secrets and not completing his mission. There appears to be a hierarchy of demons or “Lords” who are the rulers and X has royally pissed off one of the worst who is determined to make an example of him. This particular Lord is a real asshole and his actions and dialogue is so over the top in the vain of I’m so evil and you’re so crap and you must suffer because I say so. It’s almost like a cartoon villain and kind of ridiculous but at the same time kind of amusing in a weird way.

 

Zoe learns some uncomfortable truths about her father’s past and certain things she was never meant to know. It’s quite emotional. Her dad was a caver and taught her how, and there’s an incredibly moving scene where she goes caving with a friend as a result of some of the secrets she learns. Exceptinonally moving and very tense in parts.

 

A wonderful mix of action and romance, a very unique plot and not at all what I was expecting. I really loved this one.  I loved this one so much I bought a finished hardback.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & ANZ).

Review: Dead Souls

Dead Souls: A Novel - J. Lincoln Fenn

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Almost a week after finishing this book, I’m still not sure I really know what to make of it. I sort of liked it. Certainly an interesting read. A supernatural horror story telling the story of Fiona who thinks her boyfriend is cheating on her, gets drunk at a bar and winds up chatting with a stranger and winds up selling her soul to the devil. The following morning is a boatload of regrets – but oh fuck, it actually happened.

 

Fiona is not a particularly likable character. She has a huge chip on her shoulder thanks to a bad childhood, growing up with drug addict parents who shoved her out the door at seventeen to make her own way in the world. Which she did, she moved to New York, and made herself a successful marketing career. She’s obnoxious, blunt and kind of a massive bitch. Though she has a very direct manner of saying what she thinks regardless of what anyone else may think. Amusing, but gets a little tiring after a while.  

 

The concept of the novel was an interesting one, after a drunken night and chatting with a guy calling himself Scratch, Fiona realises it’s not just a big con after all, he’s left a card – one favour to be called in at any time in exchange for the gift she requested in selling her soul. To make things worse, she gets a big shock when she finds out what her boyfriend was really up to. Nothing like what she thought and now she’s sold her soul and the devil can get her do any sort of “favour” when he feels like.

 

Though Fiona finds out she’s not the only one who sold her soul, and there’s a group of them, calling themselves “Dead Souls” others who are waiting for their favours to be called in. The discussion that obviously comes up – is there a way out of this deal? And the rest of the novel focuses on Fiona figuring out a way to double cross the devil to save herself and her boyfriend.

 

Fiona’s marketing skills come in handy in quite an interesting way, it’s quite fascinating as she figures it out, using a marketing degree in how to get one over on the devil. Of course, nothing is as it appears and the favours start coming in one by one and really gruesome things start happening.

 

It’s pretty grim stuff. But kind of addictive in the way that even though I didn’t really like hardly any of the characters in the book (with maybe the exception of Fiona’s boyfriend Justin, who was actually a pretty good guy and put up with a hell of a lot of shit from her) I still wanted to know what happened, and if Fiona was able to pull off the plan she put in motion.

 

But of course, when you’re dealing with the devil nothing is ever straightforward or simple. It all got rather gory and weird towards the end. I was with the plot until the very last chapter. I reread it twice before I got it, and admittedly it did kind of make me grin in a morbid way.

 

Don’t think I would read this again, but would definitely read another book by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books for approving my request to view the title.

Review: The Witch's Tears

The Witch's Tears: (Sequel to The Witch's Kiss) - Katharine Corr, Elizabeth Fernando Corr

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A delightful follow up to the Witch’s Kiss. A few months later witch in training Merry and her brother Leo are still trying to process the evens of the first book. It’s the summer holidays, no school. Merry is focused on her witch training. Leo has become moody and withdrawn.

 

Merry’s witch training isn’t going quite as well as she would like, she’s got much more power than anyone seems to realize, and she can do things that there aren’t written instructions for. I really like the way witchcraft works in the novel, the way the spells are performed and the history surrounding it. Though it’s a little surprising while there’s a big coven there seems to be so few teenage daughters. Only one other teen besides Merry shows up in the novel. That aside, the coven working together aspect is pretty interesting.

 

Though it’s not surprising that for Merry it can get incredibly frustrating because all these women are trained witches and grownups to boot. So when Merry accidentally stumbles on a file in her grandmother’s house about a women who turns out to have been murdered, and was a witch as well…it’s a new mystery to solve. Of course Merry is told to leave it alone.

 

Merry’s prophetic-like dreams are back as well, this time telling of a fairy-tale monster. But is there something more to this?

 

On top of this Merry’s grandmother has disappeared, more dead witches are turning up, Leo is becoming more withdrawn. Two different new boys turns up, one a drifter who camps in the woods near the Black Lake strikes up a friendship with Leo, which has potential to turn into something more, and the other shows up at Merry’s grandmother’s house around the time Gran goes missing. Both have secrets and mysteries about them.

 

The story telling is as a top notch as the first book, Merry is an incredibly likeable main character. I enjoy her voice immensely. She still manages to be sassy, and snarky, sensible, though not without faults. Her magic for one – still difficult to control and comes out at inopportune moments, especially when she’s pissed off – which happens a few times, leading to a few plot twists.

 

Didn’t like Leo quite as much in this book, he’s pulled away from Merry and has become quite stubborn and moody, he’s struggled to cope with a certain death from the first book, so it’s sort of understandable, but at the same time, his secretive attitude is annoying. He’s not outright mean to Merry or anything, but he’s got a definite chip on his shoulder attitude, and being secretive and shutting her out, which is sad considering how close they were in the first book. At least we get Leo’s point of view, so the reader does get a bit more insight into his character. Plus, Leo gets a romance in this installment, so yay for that.

 

An intriguing mystery to solve and new characters to unravel and get to know. And one hell of a cliff-hanger at the end! I really hope there is another installment ASAP.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins UK, Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

 

Story Sprites Round 6 Wrap Up

 

And another board completed.

 

Pink Path

MG Book With Divorce: It’s Not the End of the World by Judy Blume (4 stars)

Story Regarding Anxiety: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (5 stars)

MG Book with Female Author: Clean Break by Jacqueline Wilson (4 stars)

Story with A Family Feud: The Weight of Feathers by Anna Marie McLemore (2 stars)

 

Yellow Path

M/M Romance Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (5 stars)

Chosen One Trope: Mark of the Witch by Maggie Shayne (Five stars)

Male M/C with female best friend/sidekick: Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner (5 stars)

Wizards and Witches: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by JK Rowling (5 stars)

 

Green Path

Book with Multiple POVs: Rebel Springs (Falling Kingdoms

#2) by Morgan Rhodes (4 stars)

Mostly Yellow Cover: The Bourbon Kings by JR Ward (5 stars)

Dark Contemporary: Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (4 stars)

Strong Independent Female Lead: Frostblood by Elly Blake ( 5 Stars)

 

Blue Path

A Retelling: Blackhearts (Blackhearts #1) By Nicole Castroman (3 stars)

A Science Fiction Novel: Beyond the Red (Beyond the Red #1) By Ava Jae (4 stars)

Mostly Blue Cover: Carve the Mark (Carve the Mark #1) By Veronica Roth (3 stars)

Wolf/Lupine Element: Hemlock (Hemlock #1) by Kathleen Peacock (4 stars)

 

Purple Path

Diverse Author: A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2) By Saaba Tahir (4 stars)

Story Centred Around Social Issues: How To Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (5 stars)

PoC Main Character: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (4 stars)

Book Addressing Socioeconomic Issues: Something In Between by Melissa De La Cruz (3 stars)

 

You can see my Goodreads shelf here which has dates read and some reviews.

 

And a huge thanks to Great Imaginations’ Kara for helping me find titles for the Middle Grade with divorce books (I’m not really a Middle Grade reader I’ve bought about five MG books from the lists provided).

 

Lots of really great books this time round, particular favourites were The Bourbon Kings, How To Make a Wish, Frostblood, Beyond The Read, Written in the Stars, Rebel Springs, Aristotle and Dante, Mark of the Witch.

 

The only truly terrible thing I read was Moon Called by PC Cast for the Chosen One trop which was so awful I DNFed after 20 pages, but I did find something else I really liked.

Reading progress update: I've read 3 out of 818 pages.

Alexander Hamilton - Ron Chernow

Obsesssed with the .musical? Check! I have tickets for Hamilton London next February so I'm determined to have this read by then.

Bad Blood

Bad Blood - Demitria Lunetta

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I pre ordered this ages before I requested a review copy from Netgalley. I must admit I pre ordered based on cover and the fact that the title is Taylor Swift song. I probably read the blurb at some point and forgot what it was about.

 

And to my immense surprise my Netgalley request was actually approved.

 

Possible trigger warnings for self-harm.

 

This was a fun book about a girl who’s visiting relatives in Scotland while at the same time having strange dreams about twin girls in the time of the Scottish Witch Trials. (I usually don’t like books where the characters have the same name as myself, but thankfully this was a first person novel so it didn’t grate on me too much). The main character Heather has some disturbing compulsions that make her carve intricate designs into her skin, which make her bleed.

 

At the start of the novel she’s been caught by her parents and been sent to a Wellness Centre for recovery. Which at least seems to be working, she’s taking meds, talking to a therapist and come home, and been allowed to go on to her annual vacation to visit her Aunt Abbie in Scotland.  With check ins with her parents and on line Skye sessions with her therapist.

 

Only the need to carve the weird designs into her skin haven’t really gone away. She’s got it under control enough to fool the grownups into thinking she’s okay when she’s really not. To be fair though, she knows she’s doing something wrong, there is something unexplainable about the way the sudden compulsion over comes her. But she can’t cope or do anything until the design is carved into her skin. It’s a weird intricate knot type design.

 

There’s a historical element to the novel telling the story of twin sisters Prudence and Primrose who lived in the 1700s. Their story starts with one of them being burned as witch. Their history is revealed to Heather in the modern day through her dreams. Once loving sisters learning the healing craft of their ancestors with the mother, things turn sour turning the twins into bitter rivals going deeper into magic they should not be messing with.

 

All this is having a big effect on Heather in the modern day. In Edinburgh with her aunt Abbie, Heather gets some bad news about her aunt, and also has to deal with the fact that her grandmother has dementia and has been put into a home. Not fun on top of increasingly frightening nightmares starring Prudence and Primrose.

 

Having been to Scotland every summer for years and years Heather has made some really good friends with some of the other teens in town. She gets to see them in the summer. They’re all quite excited to be together again, though initially Heather is a little disappointed the older boy she likes isn’t there that summer, just his brother Robby who she’s known forever is. They’re good friends, but there’s a definite spark between them that everyone but Heather seems to see.   

 

As the dreams get worse and worse, and a few visits to grandma reveal some surprising information, talk of witches in the family, something bad involving using blood for spells, Heather does some digging. And discovers some home truths she never knew.

 

It’s a good story with a great historical and some really good mystical elements. Some good teen angst added in and with an inevitable romance. My only real issue with this which is why it was a four star rather than a five star read was I found most of the characters very two dimensional. They were all likeable, but I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from any of them really.

 

The novel was exceptionally well written, so it didn’t really matter that the characters were a little flat, the history and mythology worked well, and the magic elements were well done and quite unique. There’s also a really good sense of place, the Scottish setting is brilliantly done. I really enjoyed the descriptions of Edinburgh and the Scottish countryside. Both modern day and historical it felt really authentic, beautifully written and easy to picture.

 

Despite a few flaws, it was a really good read and definitely something I would read again.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Random House Children’s for approving my request to view this title   

Review: How To Make a Wish

How to Make a Wish - Ashley Herring Blake

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A gut wrencher of an emotional ride. This novel tells the story of Grace who lives with her flighty mom who goes through strings of bad relationships. Grace only has one real friend, Luca, who looks out for her. When new girl Eva comes to town and moves in with Luca and his mom, she begins a friendship with Grace that slowly turns into something more. All the while things with Grace’s mom go from bad to worse, all the while Grace claiming she’s coping with it all and she’s “fine”. But is she?

 

The novel was deeply moving and very emotional and made me cry more than a few times as Grace struggles to keep her head above water. Her mom is a new contender for one of the worst YA parents. Her dad has never been in the picture, her mom has always followed her “creative” side, flitting from place to place and relationship to relationship, with seemingly little care to how all of this affects Grace. Mom also drinks. 

 

At the start of the novel Grace’s mom has moved in with a new boyfriend, Pete, who happens to be the dad of one of Grace’s ex boyfriends, Jay, who was an asshole when they broke up. Pete actually turned out to be a pretty nice guy. Jay, who was big dick through most of the novel even stepped up to the plate and turned out to be surprising.

 

Grace and Eva start to bond and get to know each other, and it’s a delightful slow burn sizzle as things progress between them. Eva’s dealing with the death of her mom, (I can’t remember why her dad wasn’t in the picture). Grace sort of doesn’t know how to handle that. The more time they spent together the closer they become and it turns into a much deeper relationship. Eva’s completely comfortable and aware of her own sexuality - she makes it plain she likes girls. Grace is struggling - she likes both boys and girls and does eventually come to the conclusion she’s bisexual. Bisexual representation was handled really well. And there were some lovely romantic scenes between Grace and Eva. 

 

But all the while Grace’s mom is flitting about, things start to go missing from Pete’s house.  While Grace is mortified, mom’s like, oh it’s no big deal. Then Mom starts cooing over Eva, focusing most of her attention on helping Eva deal with her grief, which is pissing Grace off to no end.

 

Grace had a bit of a loner complex about her, though she had her BFF Luca, Luca had a new girlfriend Kimber, who was taking up a lot of his time, and while she and Grace got along, they weren’t exactly on the BFF train. More for Grace to deal with. She had a snarky attitude about her, and given her circumstances, it’s understandable, she’s had to deal with some tough situations where her mom is concerned. Grace has always been the responsible one, taking care of her mother, dragging her out of seedy bars, making sure rent and bills are paid. Basically having to grow up way too fast.

 

Though Grace has a dream of being a concert pianist. She’s got the talent, and even has an audition for a fancy music school in Manhattan. Though reality gets in the way and she’s struggling with the idea of leaving mom to cope on her own. Mom never seems to listen Grace. Mom’s been telling her they’ll make a day of it for Grace’s audition and go spend some time together in New York, and Grace seems to be clinging to the hope this of this idea. Yet, part of her isn’t entirely sure of whether or not it will happen due to circumstances in the novel. It’s gut-wrenching to read about Grace agonising over this. 

 

Grace has comforting relief in Eva as their relationship takes a deeper turn, but with mom’s involvement in fawning over Eva, it’s not helping. Grace is pushing her anger and resentment back again and again and there’s only so much of this anyone can take before it inevitably explodes.

 

When it goes wrong, it goes wrong fast and hard and it’s painful to read. It was very emotional in parts, very raw and cut deep. I really wanted to slap the mother and hug Grace a lot.  Grace handled a lot of things with immense maturity, even though she had (and was more than entitled to) a few stroppy moments.

 

While her mom was awful, the saving light adult in the novel came from Luca’s mom Emmy, who was there throughout when Grace needed someone, and really came through like a beacon when things got to the really tough stage. Emmy was the mom Grace really deserved. Though while her own was awful, at the same time, you can understand Grace’s attachment and reluctance to leave her to it, even when things got bad. Until they reached boiling point. 

 

A beautifully, lyrically written novel, though can be very tough. I loved it. 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title.