Going Viral – Amy Alward

I read and enjoyed the first two Potion Diaries books last year, mentioning that they’re a fun and fantasy-laden adventure through the delights of a world where smartphones go hand in hand with magic, and our heroine is a potionista who just happens to be best friends with a princess.

The third book, Going Viral, finishes up the trilogy, and was released earlier this year. Before I actually bought it, I noticed that it was on my local library’s ebook app, so read it over the course of a day or two as I commuted. It’s every bit as fun and flashy as the previous instalments, and a satisfying conclusion to a light and not terribly taxing trilogy.

Going Viral – Amy Alward

33573083Having managed to find her great-grandmother’s potion diary, escape Emilia Thoth, save her grandfather’s memories AND become a Master Alchemist, surely it’s time for Sam to have a good, long rest? And maybe, just maybe, a date with her boyfriend Zain?

But now that Evelyn is married and showing symptoms of the Gergon illness, it looks as though Sam’s adventures are just beginning…

I don’t really have any complaints about Going Viral. It was fun, it was fluffy, it was enjoyable. It branched out into more of the world around Sam Kemi’s adventures, this time going to the home of alchemy, the place where her ancestors were born, and meeting master alchemists from around the world (even if just via video calling).

I really liked that this book introduced the phoenix, after having seen the unicorn and the dragon in the previous two books. It’s like the holy trinity of mythical animals was complete. Sam’s relationship with her best friend, her sister, and her boyfriend were all well drawn and believable, and the additional element of social media and filming a television show added a degree of realism to this fantasy fun.

I don’t feel like the potion diaries trilogy as a whole is in any way taxing, nor will it linger in my mind overlong, but it was certainly fun, and I enjoyed reading all three books. If Alward starts up another series when I’m looking for something light and enjoyable, I certainly won’t be averse to reading it.

Plus, all three covers are spectacular, in a really cute and girly way.

Three Stars
***

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White Bodies – Jane Robins

I received a NetGalley copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Although the NetGalley email I received for this book made it sound really great, once I actually picked it up, it wasn’t quite what it had been advertised as, and I was less impressed than I thought I would be, sadly.

White Bodies – Jane Robins

32920301.jpgFelix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?

White Bodies was an interesting concept, with a great vibe running through it. Twins Tilda and Callie both have serious issues and this darkly serious book has a lot of twists and turns. With Callie getting sucked into a website that may be more than it seems, and Tilda seeming to fall deeper and deeper into the clutches of her sinister and controlling husband, the tension in the book built up deliciously towards the climax of Felix’s death.
However, after that, it all seemed to go a bit flat, and I felt like a lot of the tension was lost. While Callie was certainly mixed up in something more than she had bargained for, the book’s latter half lost the eerie, creepy feeling that had been building up in the beginning, and I was left plodding through the ending, unsurprised and unimpressed by the final reveals. Some great moments in this book, but ultimately, I don’t think it will stick in my mind.

Three Stars
***

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Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty

I’ve read a lot of Liane Moriarty’s books – almost all of them, I think, at this stage. But I seem to have been going about things backwards, as Three Wishes is her debut, but it’s the second-to-last that I’ve read. I have only The Hypnotist’s Love Story left to go and I’ll have read everything of hers (everything adult, at least). Perhaps because it was her debut, or perhaps because it was an audiobook, or just perhaps because I’ve read a few of her books, some of the structure and pacing felt a tiny bit flat, but only a tiny bit.

Three Wishes – Liane Moriarty

28531300Lyn, Cat, and Gemma Kettle, beautiful thirty-three-year-old triplets, seem to attract attention everywhere they go. Whenever they’re together, laughter, drama, and mayhem seem to follow. But apart, each is very much her own woman, dealing with her own share ofups and downs. Lyn has organized her life into one big checklist, juggling the many balls of work, marriage, and motherhood with expert precision, but is she as together as her datebook would have her seem? Cat has just learned a startling secret about her marriage — can she bring another life into her very precarious world? And can free-spirited Gemma, who bolts every time a relationship hits the six-month mark, ever hope to find lasting love?

In this wise, witty, hilarious new novel, we follow the Kettle sisters through their thirty-third-year, as they struggle to survive their divorced parents’ dating each other, their technologically savvy grandmother, a cheating husband, champagne hangovers, and the fabulous, frustrating life of forever being part of a threesome. A family comedy about sibling rivalry, “Three Wishes is an assured and warmhearted debut.

I listened to the Audible version of this book, narrated by Gemma Lee. I have to say, Gemma Lee did an incredibly good job. Even with the three main characters being triplets, she had such distinct ways of voicing them that I had no trouble telling them apart. Also, Maddie, the 18-month old terror, was voiced with such jubilance and mischief that I found myself laughing almost every time she was on air (on the page? On screen? I don’t know what the appropriate ‘on’ is for an audiobook!)

Three Wishes was written with Liane Moriarty’s typical humour, with serious issues dealt with deftly, but lightened by delightful insights and ridiculous asides. The relationship between the three Kettle triplets felt so real, so loving, so full of hatred and frustration and joy, that I was absolutely captivated by it.

I had only two proper issues with this book. The first was that I’m a tiny bit sick of opening with a melodramatic scene and then circling back so that we can see the buildup to it. It was done in Big Little Lies, it was done in Truly, Madly Guilty, and even though this was written before either of them, because I read it after, it’s Three Wishes that feels the force of my boredom with this structure.
The second issue I had, and I think this was in part because of the audiobook structure, was that I had some issues with the narrative jumping between characters. Although I had little trouble telling the difference between the three triplets, the book was interspersed with unnamed characters telling stories about the Kettle triplets. I’m assuming that in the print version, this change of perspective was obvious through paragraph breaks, page breaks, or some other visual cue, but this wasn’t really the case in the audiobook. Especially in the prologue, which switches between several characters describing a birthday night out in a restaurant, it was far from clear when the characters were switching voices, and this continued throughout the book.

But on the whole, I really, really enjoyed Three Wishes. It was funny, it was warm, it was a lovely portrait of three women who each think the others have it made, and the frustrations and tensions between three sisters. There were some farcical moments in the book which made me roll my eyes, but the explanation given for some character linkages was actually somewhat believable, and mostly I just rolled with it.

Sweet, but with a certain degree of bite, Three Wishes is certainly a strong entry in Liane Moriarty’s catalogue.

Four Stars
****

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Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard

I received a copy of this book on NetGalley from the publisher.

Sara Barnard’s A Quiet Kind of Thunder is my Q book for this year, and was massively enjoyable. I also have Beautiful Broken Things sitting in my teetering TBR pile (or one of the three piles), patiently waiting for me to get around to it. Barnard’s third offering, Goodbye, Perfect, tells the story of Eden, and her keeping secrets for her best friend after Bonnie runs away with their music teacher. Although the Galley I got had some formatting issues which made aspects of it very hard to read, there’s a good chance I’ll be picking this up when it’s published. Those covers, and how shiny they are – how could I not want all of them on my shelf??

Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard

35495848When I was wild, you were steady . . .
Now you are wild – what am I? 

Eden McKinley knows she can’t count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with the boyfriend Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. Especially when the police arrive on her doorstep and Eden finds out that the boyfriend is actually their music teacher, Mr Cohn.

Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie’s location, and that’s the way it has to stay. There’s no way she’s betraying her best friend. Not even when she’s faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts.

As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

 

Sara Barnard does it again. Goodbye, Perfect was perfectly pitched, a story of sisters and best friends, discovering who you are and who the people around you are. I loved Eden’s fierce, unstoppable love for her younger sister Daisy, and her bewildered and angry begrudging of her older sister Violet. Achingly real in how it’s drawn, it was wonderful to have a main character with a boyfriend who’s supportive and interesting, more than just a YA dreamboat, and actually essential in developing the story of the book. Together with that bizarre feeling of realising that you don’t know your best friend half as well as you thought you did, and set against the backdrop of GCSE week, Goodbye, Perfect was that unusual kind of book where the main character isn’t the bookish, studious character gone wild, but her already troubled best friend, bewildered at how she’s ended up left behind in the dark. Debating the lines of loyalty to your friends against the insistence of all those around you that you need to break that trust, Eden’s development over that week in the early summer was enthralling to read. I particularly loved her fragile, fractured relationship with Violet, the older sister whose family she invaded without invitation, without giving Violet a choice in the matter, and how it develops over those days of Bonnie’s jaunt off with her teacher.
Set against the backdrop of the seediest of relationships, a fifteen year old who’s been groomed by her teacher to run away so that they can be together, Eden was a wonderful companion along this journey, and I ended up standing in the middle of the pavement after getting off the bus so that I could finish the final pages of this. Barnard is quickly becoming a leading voice in UKYA, and her pitch-perfect depiction of those awkward and frustrating teenage years where everyone looks at you like you’ll grow up and learn how wrong you were soon is more relatable than I know what to do with.

Four Stars
****

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October Roundup

 

October has been a great month for reading for me. I started a new job three days a week which has put me back on the tube for an hour each way. In the morning I travel with my dad, and we compete to see who can do the crossword faster (it’s ALWAYS him), but in the evenings I can get in some uninterrupted reading time. I’m also trying to get more audiobooks playing when I’m doing things other than driving. As well as that, I’ve been just hanging around and reading at home since I don’t need to dedicate my spare time to jobhunting any more (or feeling guilty about not jobhunting). All in all, October has gone pretty well.

Books

  1. The Riddle – Alison Croggon
  2. More Than This – Patrick Ness
  3. There’s Someone Inside Your House – Stephanie Perkins
  4. The Taste of Blue Light – Lydia Ruffles
  5. Hekla’s Children – James Brogden
  6. Just Haven’t Met You Yet – Cate Woods
  7. Windfall – Jennifer E Smith
  8. One Perfect Summer – Paige Toon
  9. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  10. The Memory Game – Nicci French
  11. Fortunately, The Milk – Neil Gaiman
  12. The Deviants – CJ Skuse
  13. A Thousand Pieces of You – Claudia Gray
  14. The Ice Dragon – George RR Martin
  15. Going Viral – Amy Alward
  16. Havoc – Xavier Neal
  17. Ten Thousand Skies Above You – Claudia Gray
  18. It Only Happens In The Movies – Holly Bourne
  19. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  20. Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard

Short Stories

  • One Perfect Christmas – Paige Toon

Cover Art

 

Favourite Book This Month

Gosh, tough one. I had two five-star rated books this month – Fortunately, The Milk, and It Only Happens In The Movies. They were both brilliant in totally different ways, and I found it really hard to pick between them. I’ve plumped for Fortunately, The Milk as my favourite book simply because I wasn’t expecting it to be as funny as it was. I kind of expected IOHITM to be amazing. Is that unfair on Holly Bourne? Can they both be my favourite books of the month?

Least Favourite Book This Month

So easy. I really, really didn’t enjoy Havoc, for many, many reasons, all of which I enumerated in the blog post itself. Avoid, avoid, avoid.

Favourite cover art

Joint award this month, to both of the Firebird books. Those covers are gorgeous, and the third in the series is just as incredible. I’m kind of upset that I’ve listened to audiobooks of these, because they would look superb on my shelves!

 

 

 

Other…

I’m only one book away from being able to shrug off my self-imposed book buying ban (which I mostly ignored anyway, only refraining from buying hard copies), and I’m now utterly torn about what I should get myself when I permit the purchasing of books again. I want Tower of Dawn and King’s Cage, because I need to continue the serieseses I’ve been collecting, but I also want La Belle Sauvage, because hello, new Lyra’s world? I also think I’ll reread His Dark Materials next month, in preparation for La Belle Sauvage – have to ensure that I’m ready to go back to those worlds! Exciting times.

 

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It Only Happens In The Movies – Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne is an author I’ve seen so much about in the last few years, but have never actually managed to pick up one of her books.
The first chapter of It Only Happens In the Movies was one of the samplers I picked up at YALC, and I was definitely interested in reading it. So when I saw on Twitter that it was only 99p on Kindle and iBooks, I was on it like a car bonnet, and snapped it up as soon as I could.

It Only Happens in The Movies – Holly Bourne

34564400Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

 

This book was… basically perfect. It was funny, it was real, it had characters who were so believable and far from perfect. It had realistic sibling relationships and friendships that are strong enough to withstand one member acting like a knob for months. It had dissections of movie tropes and a romance that felt so real, so achingly real, that I was swept up in it.

I have very little negative to say about this book. I might have enjoyed it more if I were more of a film buff, because I really didn’t know half the time what was a real film and what was a fake film in the book. Cinema Paradiso was discussed, and I know that’s real, but Dicky Curtisfield is clearly a pisstake of Richard Curtis. And yet Love, Actually was mentioned, so Richard Curtis clearly also exists in this universe? I was slightly bewildered by that.

But that is a minor, minor quibble in a book which I really very thoroughly enjoyed. I would have liked more of Audrey’s friendships to shine through, as I’ve heard that’s something Holly Bourne does very well, but I guess that just means I’m going to have to read the Spinster Club books.

Also, there were zombies in this book. Who doesn’t like a few zombies to spice things up!

It Only Happens In The Movies is *still* only 99p on Amazon and iBooks, and honestly, if you’re not buying it right now, you are missing out.

Five Stars
*****

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Fortunately, The Milk – Neil Gaiman

Screen-Shot-2013-08-14-at-3_11_39-PM-640x451I haven’t waxed lyrical on here about the joys of BorrowBox yet. My local library has signed up to a shared scheme with two other London boroughs which means that I can have library access to ebooks and audiobooks held in all three boroughs. It’s a great system, which means that I don’t have to go into the library to get books, and hello, free books? I can’t praise it enough – BorrowBox has made my audiobook library much bigger!

Last weekend, I downloaded and listened to Neil Gaiman’s Fortunately, The Milk, and loved it. Read by Gaiman himself, it was a short, massively entertaining, wild ride with pirates, aliens, a scientific stegosaurus, and two very sceptical kids.

Fortunately, The Milk – Neil Gaiman

You know what it’s like when your mum goes away on a business trip and Dad’s in charge. She leaves a really, really long list of what he’s got to do. And the most important thing is DON’T FORGET TO GET THE MILK. Unfortunately, Dad forgets. So the next morning, before breakfast, he has to go to the corner shop, and this is the story of why it takes him a very, very long time to get back.

Featuring: Professor Steg (a time-travelling dinosaur), some green globby things, the Queen of the Pirates, the famed jewel that is the Eye of Splod, some wumpires, and a perfectly normal but very important carton of milk.

This was probably one of my favourite Neil Gaiman books. Good humour, good storytelling, time loops, and catastrophic, world-ending consequences of touching the milk made for a funny and endearing tale of Dad’s trip home littered with insertions from the kids and the fourth wall breaking that ensued from that.

The audiobook was read with Gaiman’s characteristic good humour and soothing voice, and with inflections which made the whole thing massively more interesting.

The physical versions are illustrated, with Chris Riddell providing the UK edition’s additions, and Skottie Young the US counterpart. I’m very tempted to go and pick up a copy to have a look at the typesetting and an alternative production of a hugely entertaining story.

Five Stars
*****

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Havoc – Xavier Neal

I thought that Nutshell would be my least liked book this year, which I read solely for the purpose of being able to cross off another initial from my challenge list. I distinctly disliked Nutshell, not enjoying the experience of reading it at all. But Nutshell had a few things going for it. It actually had a plot, for example. It was also written by someone who has appreciable skill at writing. Havoc, another book which was chosen solely because of the initial of the author, had neither of those saving graces. It was, frankly, the worst book I’ve read so far this year.

Havoc – Xavier Neal

23340845When Clint “Grim” Walker, started Operation: Save Haven Davenport, the beaten, bruised girl who fell into his life, he had no idea it would turn him into an unbalanced, enraged, insecure idiot.

The mission objectives seemed simple:
Make her feel safe in his home. Fail.
Protect her from the neighborhood playboy. Fail.
Shelter her from the ex girlfriend. Fail.
Not fall in love with her. Epic fail.

And while Clint could learn to live with those failures, there’s one he can’t. And that’s the objective that matters most. More than his side duties of making amends with his father, more than accepting motherly love from his meddling neighbor, and more than attempting to relate to his brother’s in arms off the field.

That objective is life or death.

I bought this book entirely because the author’s first name starts with an X. I spent no money on this book, because it’s currently free on Kindle. I still feel like I wasted money on this. The time I spent reading it was a waste of my time, and I wish I could have it back, to be honest. If X wasn’t such an unusual initial, I would have abandoned this book and found another instead, because I didn’t enjoy a single page of this. It is 312 pages of dross, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone go anywhere near it. Not even if it was the last book on earth.

Several of my issues with this book were issues which could be solved by a decent editor. It’s poorly structured – Clint’s backstory, Haven’s background, Clint’s fractured relationship with his father and the strange codependent neighbourly relationship he seems to have are all hinted at, but never explained, simply thrown in to make this feel like it’s a story which has depth. I’m assuming that these are more fully explained in later installments in the series, but there wasn’t enough in this intro to satisfy.

Secondly, it’s really, really poorly proofread and edited. Syntax issues run rife throughout the book. Synonyms and homonyms appear with regularity. Simple spelling mistakes litter the pages.

Thirdly, the structure of the book was set up so that it ended on a cliffhanger. This was obviously a tactical decision to get readers to buy the second in the series, but for me it was a complete failure. There was an absolute lack of development leading up to this moment, which meant that it fell totally flat for me. Who cares about what happened in the end of the book when you haven’t actually learned to care for the characters in the first 99%? Certainly not me.

Finally, the chapter structure – each chapter is headed with a countdown of number of days ’til deployment. I’m fine with books that have countdowns, and also fine with books that continue their storyline past the end of the countdown – Looking for Alaska and the Gone series all do this, and it’s very effective. However, finishing the book with 30-odd days still to go on the countdown was a bizarre decision which I couldn’t get on board with.

The three issues above could have been solved by a decent editor, however. So if they were the only issues, I might have been more willing to give this book a chance. But they’re actually minor quibbles when compared to my complaints about the actual book.

Firstly, Clint is an awful main character. He’s totally unbelievable and utterly dull. Tragic backstory meaning that he tries to shut off his feelings, and this is all changed by the appearance of a beautiful, damaged young woman. Yawn. Clint is supposed to be smart – he’s 21 and a Marine, for Christ’s sake. He’s heading for special ops. And yet he doesn’t seem to understand what feelings are, and wonders what it means when his stomach feels funny as Haven looks at him. Butterflies in his stomach is, apparently, something entirely unknown to him.

Beyond that, Clint is incredibly misogynistic. His assessment of women essentially falls into whores and Haven. Every female character who we see through his eyes is discussed only in terms of her physical attributes, her mode of dress, and her level of makeup. They’re also referred to as ‘females’ at all times. I actually stopped midway through this book to check if the author was a man or a woman, because I couldn’t believe that a woman writer would be able to stomach writing this way about her fellow women. And to my surprise, Xavier Neal is a woman, and yet still only seems capable of writing about other women as sex objects and cheap tarts.

Besides being ignorant and sexist, Clint is also deeply problematic in terms of his behaviour. A fractured relationship with his father gives him some explanation for his uncommunicative and surly nature, but his tendency towards violence and inexplicable hatred of his own best friends didn’t endear me to him as a character.

Haven is no better. Presented only as a traumatised, vulnerable, perfect young woman, she becomes, a mere 20 days into the book, a desperate sex kitten, eager to please and seduce Clint, with no sign of the apparent years of physical, sexual, and psychological torment wreaked on her before she reached the age of  adulthood. A few weeks with Clint and she’s eager to rip his clothes off – but not in a way which might suggest that she’s bearing scars, the way many victims of child sexual abuse display hypersexuality. No, Haven is apparently healed, and it was all Clint’s doing.

Clint and Haven’s relationship is deeply unbelievable. Clint, the unfeeling, unthinking, emotionless military man, apparently turns into goo at the mere sight of this woman, and is able to forge a deep and lasting love connection with her – before he even knows her name. He constantly refers to her as his ‘angel’, before he knows anything about her, and treats her as some almost-divine presence, more than human, and failing entirely to understand or appreciate her very human needs.

Haven’s part in this relationship? Well, who knows. Passively silent, she plays almost no role in this book, except to conveniently get into trouble when it’s needed, so that Clint can ‘develop’ somewhat.

Plot-wise, I got no satisfaction out of this book. It’s not the story of the slow recovery of a woman who escaped a traumatic past. It’s not a love story of two damaged people finding each other and helping each other to heal. It’s not a revenge story. It’s not anything. It’s a crapheap of loose plot threads that are dangled and unresolved, clearly setting up for a second book, but without any appeal to drag me onto the next installment.

Avoid avoid avoid.

Generally, even when I absolutely hated a book, I can appreciate that someone else might like it. I cannot think why anyone would ever want to read this book. There are so much better romances out there. There are better love stories out there. There are better abuse survivor stories out there. I’m sure there are better military romances out there (even though I’ve never read any). There are many books out there which can actually resolve their plotlines, rather than truncating the book to pull in readers.

Havoc was three hours of dross, and hours I’ll never get back. I cannot think of a single redeeming point about it, and wouldn’t recommend people read it even if they were paid to.

Goodreads won’t let me give no stars, so it has one star on there.

But here on my blog, I can rate whatever I want.

NO STARS.

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The Deviants – CJ Skuse

This was one of the stacks of books that I actually bought at YALC, and it has taken me several months to get around to reading it. I guess that’s what happens when you obtain forty new books in a single weekend because you have no self-control.

In any case, I was hooked on this tale of revenge – with the strapline ‘before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves’ had me certain that this psychological thriller was going to drag me in and refuse to let me go, and I was dead right!
The Deviants – CJ Skuse

23126437When you set out for revenge, dig two graves

Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.

When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

I very much enjoyed this book. Once again, reading it late at night, I was unwilling to put it down and go to sleep, as I wanted to see where the story went. Ella, traumatised and angry, is trying to come to terms with her past, and can only do that by going back to what happened when they were thirteen.

The anger and friendship in this book are almost palpable – they practically leap off the page at you, and Ella is a great main character. The supporting cast are almost all as strong as her, with the exception of Max, who feels like a plot device more than a person.

For the most part, the story was excellent, with good development, and some twists I didn’t see coming. Very enjoyable indeed.

Near the end, about eighty to ninety percent of the way through, there’s an abrupt change in tone and tense, which jarred with me. Although, once I had gotten used to it, it was still a very powerful section of the book, the transition between the two sections was, I felt, poorly done.

Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed The Deviants, and will look out for more from this author in the future!

Four Stars
****

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr

35608668I read this one months ago, as it was a YALC proof, and I was quite excited about it. But I ended up sorely disappointed, and didn’t want to review it for a while, as I really wanted to think about whether the disappointment was merited.
It’s been a good few weeks now, and Ella Black has sat in the back of my mind. It’s now available on Amazon, and the hard copy will be available in January of next year, but I don’t think I’ll be recommending this one very heavily.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr

Ella Black seems to live the life most other seventeen-year-olds would kill for . . .

Until one day, telling her nothing, her parents whisk her off to Rio de Janeiro. Determined to find out why, Ella takes her chance and searches through their things.

And realises her life has been a lie.

Her mother and father aren’t hers at all. Unable to comprehend the truth, Ella runs away, to the one place they’ll never think to look – the favelas.

But there she learns a terrible secret – the truth about her real parents and their past. And the truth about a mother, desperate for a daughter taken from her seventeen years ago . . .

So the proof copy of this that I got presented a totally different story to what was in the blurb which is now on Amazon. The back of the proof copy talks about Ella’s alternate person in her head, Bella, bad Ella, and the things she makes Ella do. But the majority of the story is actually what’s set out in the blurb here, that Ella is mysteriously whisked off to Rio, and when she discovers a dark secret about her past, she runs away.

This is set against the backdrop of a love story so improbable as to be farcical, and Ella’s journey of discovering who she is and how she can find her place in the world. Plus, of course, the truth of who her birth parents were.
There was so much going on in this book, and I didn’t really connect with any of it. If the story had been about Ella coming to terms with who she is as a person and what ‘Bella’ does, then I might’ve been more of a fan of it. Equally, if the story had been about Ella and how she dealt with the revelations about her past and what her parents had kept from her, I might’ve been a fan of that. Thirdly, if the story had been about Ella falling in love in Rio and how she deals with how far away that is from her home, and everything she’s known, I could’ve liked that story too. But this was a mish-mash of all three of those things, and I wasn’t really able to connect with any of them.

There were some admirable parts of this book, though. There was a really funny scene with a waiter in Brazil, while Ella apologised for not being able to speak Spanish, and the cover art is absolutely beautiful.

But I couldn’t get on board with the melodrama at the end of the book, I didn’t believe the love story, I wasn’t impressed with Ella’s resolution of her relationship with her parents, and I left this book feeling pretty flat.
Not as terrible as this review makes it sound, I did find The Truth and Lies of Ella Black to be perfectly acceptable to read, but certainly not something I’d be raving about or recommending over other wonderful books from this year’s YALC.

Three Stars
***

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