Tag Archives: ya fiction

Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella

27823777I haven’t specifically reviewed any Sophie Kinsella books on this blog before (although I’ve read a lot of them), so you might not have realised that I really enjoy her books. She’s written lots of really funny fiction about women getting into incredibly awkward and also hilarious situations, but in a way that’s both true to life and terribly endearing. Everything I’ve read of Sophie Kinsella’s has been verging on the ridiculous, but in a way that makes me accept it, as she writes with such humour and warmth that her books leave me feeling really warm and fuzzy inside.

Finding Audrey is her first foray into YA fiction, where previously she’s written adult books. I picked it up a few weeks ago, because I wanted to see if her humour translates into YA books. Good news! It totally does!

Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella

From the bestselling author of the Shopaholic series comes a story of humour, heart and heartache. Finding Audrey is Sophie Kinsella’s first novel for teens, sure to appeal to her legions of adult and young adult fans all over the world.

Audrey can’t leave the house. she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you . . .

I was a little wary about this one. I wasn’t sure if Kinsella’s humour would transfer to YA, or else I was worried that it would tackle a relatively serious subject – Audrey’s anxiety – with too much levity. I wasn’t sure that it would be able to strike a balance between serious and light-hearted, and would take the shine off my normal enjoyment of Kinsella’s books.

I was wrong to worry, though. Finding Audrey was, for me, perfectly pitched, that it dealt with Audrey and her struggles with enough humour to keep it light-hearted, and enough gravitas to stop it seeming frivolous. Audrey’s mother, in particular, was a Daily Mail-reading panic-stricken overthinker who made me laugh out loud several times.

The format of the book was interesting – the chapters were very short, and interspersed with screenplay excerpts. Audrey’s gradual development over the course of the book as she prepared to start school again was nicely documented through the development of her film as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Audrey as a main character was so easy to relate to, and her budding relationship with Linus was filled with all the bittersweet feelings of first teenage love. Not too serious but not saccharine sweet, Finding Audrey was a winner for me.

Four Stars
****

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All The Bright Places – not a mood-booster

23357458So I learned a life lesson from All The Bright Places the other day. When you are stressed out and miserable, and all you want to do is get home and curl up with a good book, it is not a good idea to read the end of this book on a crowded tube home, when you have no tissues. It is a sob-fest. No other explanation needed.

And in case you were wondering, no it didn’t make me feel better. It just made my nose run for the entire 60-minute commute. It turns out I had no tissues. I was not prepared for this book.

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The cover of the copy I have says that this is the next Fault in Our Stars. Now, I didn’t really love The Fault in Our Stars (although I did sob my eyes out at it), so I don’t think that would be the greatest accolade for me. But it did give me something of a heads up about what direction this book might take.

So this is a really lovely book, in general. It’s about Violet and Finch, both of whom are struggling when they meet on the ledge of the bell-tower at school. Why would a school have a bell-tower? I don’t know. It’s never really explained. Violet has recently lost her sister, and is struggling to cope. Finch can’t stop thinking of ways to die, and is struggling to cope. But between the two of them, and a shared Geography project, they start to go about finding a way to live, and a way to stay in the present.

This book is really quite beautiful. It’s about falling in love, about struggling as a teenager, about coping with loss, about finding someone you can be yourself with, and about accepting people the way they are. It’s about finding a way to move forward and a way to connect with people even in the face of how hard life can be. It’s full of beautiful imagery and two messed-up, sad, lonely people who find a way to make each others’ worlds a little bit brighter.

I really did enjoy this book. I don’t recommend reading it in public places, though. And I did have one major complaint. The last thirty or forty pages of the book were a sampler of Jennifer Niven’s next book – Holding up the Universe. I’ve actually already read that, so I was pretty disappointed, as I thought there was still a fair chunk of story left to go. I wish books which have sample chapters at the end would make that clear from the beginning, so that I wouldn’t be left wanting more, just from the thickness of the pages I have left.

Still though – a lovely book, with lots of really lovely moments in it about love, life, and struggling, and how to find one small good thing to keep going.

Four Stars
****

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Free Verse – about One and Two

AKA Do They Have To Be About Twins?
Also AKA One – Sarah Crossan

AN78152238OneThis year’s YA Book Prize winner, One, is by Sarah Crossan, and is a widely-acclaimed bestseller which follows the lives of conjoined twins Grace and Tippi. Written in free verse, the whole book is a series of poems which describe the lives of the two girls as they venture out of their home-schooled bubble and into the (frankly, terrifying) world of the American high school.

Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

From Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this moving and beautifully crafted novel about identity, sisterhood and love ultimately asks one question: what does it mean to want and have a soulmate?

Funnily enough, One isn’t the first free verse book I’ve ever read. It’s actually the second. And that other free verse book I read – Identical, by Ellen Hopkins – was also about twins. Although admittedly, they were identical, not conjoined, twins. Even still. Do all free verse books have to be about twins?

I didn’t really enjoy One. Having thought about it for a few days, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not a style which works for me. I think the story, characterisation, etc of One would have been much more effective, for me personally, if it had been written in prose, not free verse. But I think that does actually just mean that I’m judgemental. I also didn’t like Identical.

Beyond the free verse element of One, there was one other big thing I didn’t like – specifically, that I found the plot predictable. I saw from the beginning where it was going, and therefore went through the whole book with the expectation that this would happen, which rather marred my enjoyment of the story as it developed. I was always waiting for the plot to get to where I assumed (correctly) it was going. Again, that might be my fault.

Even with my dislike of free verse, and my disdain for the predictability of the story, it packed a powerful punch. Perhaps it was because it was about sisters. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m close to my sisters, enjoy reading books about sisters, and am affected badly by emotional books about sisters (The Alphabet Sisters, which I have read several times, never fails to make me bawl ugly tears). For that reason, One did manage to still pack an emotional thrust that left me crying as my boyfriend looked at me in bemusement.

Even with that, though, this wasn’t a book that I’d go back to. It has won numerous awards and accolades, but it absolutely didn’t do it for me. I do think, though, that it was mostly down to my own personal reactions, and it’s still a very powerful book.

Three Stars
***

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Frost and Fury

I realised last week, as I finished off Frostblood, that it was the third book I had read within the space of about a month (although not within a calendar month, admittedly) that featured frost and snow prominently. So I thought then, why not group them together and have a little post about all three of them. Some competition, one might say!

So! Here are the competitors:

Snow Like AshesStealing Snow, and Frostblood

The covers:

A little bit about each book:

Snow Like Ashes – Sara Raasch
The first in a trilogy. It follows the story of Meira, one of the last survivors of the massacre of her country, Winter. Raised in hiding with the rest of her fellow countrymen, Meira longs to be able to fight and protect her lost country against the forces which orphaned her and forced her out of her home. Desperately in love with her best friend, the future king, Mather, she embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue half of the locket which will bring power back to her country – discovering things about herself along the way.
Snow Like Ashes and the sequel, Ice Like Fire, are both already out. Frost Like Night, the third in the series, is due to be published in September.
Three Stars. ***

Stealing Snow – Danielle Paige
Also the first in a series (I think a trilogy as well, but definitely at least two). Snow, a seventeen-year-old inmate of a high-security mental facility, has been there since she was five years old. She has known no other life. So when a strange boy appears from her dreams and helps her to escape, she jumps at the chance. She finds herself in icy Algid, a land covered in snow and frost, and her true home. She discovers that she is the long-lost princess of Algid, and the key to stopping – or keeping forever – the winter that has trapped her subjects. River witches, thieves, shape-shifters and magic combine as she tries to navigate her way to making the choices which will shape not only her future, but that of her whole country. Presented as a retelling of The Snow Queen, this reads to me more like Wicked – the story of the villain(ess) and how she came to be.
Stealing Snow will be published in October this year, with the as yet untitled sequel slated for 2017.
Three Stars
***

Frostblood – Elly Blake
Yet another first in a series, Frostblood tells the story of Ruby. A fireblood, with the ability to manipulate heat and light, she is on a quest for revenge against the ruling Frostbloods for the murder of her mother. Helped by rebel Frostbloods, Ruby must learn to control her gift and make her choices – not least about the icy young man she has come to care about. In a world where frost and flame are deadly enemies, affairs between Fire and Frost rarely end well.
Frostblood is published in January 2017, and the sequels (Fireblood and as yet unnamed) will follow.
Four Stars
****
I had a big quibble about the blurb of Frostblood though – one of the things it mentions doesn’t actually happen until more than 200 pages into the book. I felt like it was too big a reveal for the blurb.

In any case, now that you know a little bit about each of the books, let’s get into the competition!

Best Cover

This was a tough one. I had to think for a while whether I should use the proof covers which I actually read of Stealing Snow and Frostblood, or the officially-released cover art. But when I went looking at the art of Frostblood, I knew I couldn’t leave that out, and the broken mirror in Stealing Snow is so atmospheric, so I had to include them. I love that the cover of Snow Like Ashes has Meira’s chakram on it, and icy white of Stealing Snow is really eye-catching. But in the end, I was sucked in by the beautiful frosted petals of Frostblood!

Best Use of Snow

The MC in Frostblood is actually a fireblood, so all the use of snow and frost is by other characters, but they do lots with it – fighting enemies, picking locks, smashing chains! Very little snow magic is in Snow Like Ashes until near the end of the book, although Winter is a country of eternal Winter (shockingly…), similarly to Algid. Stealing Snow, however, has not only ice tornadoes and snowstorms, but also an eternal winter, and Snow Beasts, as well as freezing people and snow projectiles, so for sheer versatility (and snow-on-snow battles), Stealing Snow takes this crown!

Best Main Character

Ruby’s hot-headedness gives her a tendency to run off and make decisions without thinking, while Snow’s general cluelessness (although not really her fault) makes her incredibly frustrating to read. Meira, on the other hand, is not only tough and a great fighter, but also resourceful and clever, and she embraces her heritage and love for her country with panache, so this round goes to Snow Like Ashes!

Best Love Interest

There were so many options to choose from here. Frostblood provides the enigmatic and icy Arcus, while Meira has been in love with her future king Mather since forever. But the entry of the Crown Prince of Cordell, Theron, throws an extra choice and mystery into the game. Snow, on the other hand, has not one, not two, but THREE separate love interests. There’s Kai, the mysterious and cranky boy mentioned in the blurb (so that’s a big sign that he’ll be important), and Bale, the boy she travels to Algid to rescue, as well as Jagger, the literal man of her dreams. I know Snow has led a sheltered life, living in a secure facility, but come on, can’t she interact with a boy without kissing him?? For me, the winner of this category has to be the icy-hearted Arcus, who slowly warms to Ruby’s fiery appeal, and may be far more than he originally seems… So the winner here is Frostblood!

Best Blurb

I already mentioned above that I really didn’t like the blurb of Frostblood, because of major spoilers, so that knocks that one out of the running. Stealing Snow’s blurb annoyed me because it framed the book as a retelling of The Snow Queen, and it’s really more of a prequel, so the winner of this category by default (although it is an intriguing blurb!) is Snow Like Ashes.

So after five tense questions, Snow Like Ashes and Frostblood are neck and neck. Snow Like Ashes has the main character, but Frostblood has the love interest and that truly beautiful cover. Snow Like Ashes is pulling you in with that blurb though. That means it’s time for a …

Tie-Breaker!

So I was going to go with ‘If both books were caught up in a fire, which would you save?’, but then I realised that Winterian magic would put out the fire, and Firebloods can’t get burnt, so I had to go back and think some more.

My second thought was flipping a coin, but then I forgot to assign a book to each side, so I just ended up with a coin on the floor and no idea what it meant.

So my third idea (third time’s the charm!) was to ask myself the question: if I could only buy the sequel to ONE of these books, which would it be? And then my answer was clear to myself.

Which means, that after a protracted battle of ice and snow, the winner is…

Frostblood!

 

 

 

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Nothing Tastes As Good – Claire Hennessy

^ This has to be one of the longest blog post titles I’ve written in years.

2016-07-14 18.58.15Claire Hennessy is an Irish author who’s been on my radar since I was quite young. Roughly the same age as my older sister, Hennessy’s first books were written and published before she left school (the first, I believe, was written when she was still in primary school!), meaning that they were published before I left school, too. I hadn’t read any of her stuff in years, but saw last year that she had been picked up by Hot Key books to make her UK debut. That came in the form of this – Nothing Tastes As Good.

Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?

As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them.

I had a lot of thoughts about this book – I thought the structure was pretty interesting. The idea of an afterlife where you act as a spiritual guide to troubled people is an interesting one – a little bit like that tv show Teen Angel which used to be on the Disney Channel. After messing up your own life, you get the chance to help someone with their life. Except, of course, Teen Angel was mostly about Marty messing up his friend’s life, whereas Annabel doesn’t know Julia, and is trying to help her in order to get a chance at redemption.

The premise of the book was good. The topic was good. It tackled eating disorders from an unswervingly honest perspective – they can, and do, kill, and have that insidious effect of making the sufferer feel like they’re not actually unwell, but rather that everyone trying to help them is wrong.

NTAG was, I felt, a really good book, but not a brilliant book. It tackled tough issues with an unflinching, honest approach, and came from a grounded feminist perspective. I really liked Julia and her driven, obsessive nature, her struggles with the pressures of school and her extracurriculars, and the details which came out slowly over the course of the book about her life before Annabel appeared. I also liked Annabel and her attitude, her stubborn insistence that the way to help Julia was to make her thin.

And yet. There was something missing, for me, from this book. It was missing something like the punch which underlines every word you read in Asking For It, or the unsettling feeling which lingered about me after I finished reading Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Ansdersen. It felt, to me, from the first page, that this was a redemption story. I knew from the moment we met Annabel that she would slowly realise over the course of the book that she was sick, and she needed to accept that, and it resulted in her death, and Julia was just a background story to help Annabel come to this realisation. By the end of the book, everything felt like it had been wrapped up neatly with a little bow, and happily ever afters would ensue. Except, of course, that Annabel was still dead, but even that felt a little unreal.

I don’t know quite why I felt like the book missed that impact factor. On the surface, it should have had it. The stark reality which hits you from the first page, that Annabel died from her disordered eating, should have been enough to make this an important book in the same way I think that Asking For It is important, and Wintergirls is important – even the way I think All The Rage by Courtney Summers and Speak, also by Laurie Halse Anderson, are important. I don’t know what it was. Perhaps it’s that eating disorders have never been a topic that resonates with me the way that Asking For It and All the Rage did.

That said, though, NTAG is still a very good book. It’s strongly drawn and the characters leap off the page. There was a lot that I identified with, and I really enjoy reading books which are set in Ireland and written by Irish authors. This is a book which will resonate with many, and it’s easy to read, engaging, and even sometimes fun. It’s a good book, it really is. It’s just not quite up there as a brilliant book.

Four Stars
****

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Birdy – Jess Vallance

birdyWhen checking out this month’s ARCs from Hot Key Books, I was instantly struck by the synopsis of Birdy. It really sounded like something that I’d like, especially given how much I really enjoyed Dangerous Girls and Far From You.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to review Dangerous Girls yet, but just know that I loved it, and have recommended it to a few people already.

In any case, for me, Birdy looked like a winner, given that it deals with the same kind of close female friendship that plays such a prominent role in Dangerous Girls and Far From You, one which verges on obsession. Thus, when I got it, and tore through it in two days, I was far from disappointed.

Birdy – Jess Vallance

A darkly compulsive tale of friendship and obsession.

Frances Bird has been a loner for so long that she’s given up on ever finding real friendship. But then she’s asked to show a new girl around school, and she begins to think her luck could finally be changing.
Eccentric, talkative and just a little bit posh, Alberta is not at all how Frances imagined a best friend could be. But the two girls click immediately, and it’s not long before they are inseparable. Frances could not be happier.
As the weeks go on, Frances finds out more about her new best friend – her past, her secrets, her plans for the future – and she starts to examine their friendship more closely. Is it, perhaps, just too good to be true?

I seriously enjoyed this book. I knew I would, from the synopsis, as I enjoy the darkly gritty examination of where friendship crosses the line into something more sinister than that, so when I sat down with Birdy on the tube one morning last week, I had pretty high expectations. But they were met.

To read that this is Jess Vallance’s first novel was a little surprising, because the skill and depth of writing is immensely satisfying to read. Birdy and Bertie’s friendship is intense, compelling, and incredibly realistic – I can remember being a teenage girl and developing that same kind of incredibly strong bond which you think nothing will ever sever.

Vallance’s depiction of the English high school is also satisfyingly accurate, with the resonating descriptions of being the nothing girl on the sidelines resonating strongly in my heart, before depicting the heady thrill of having a best friend who you think really connects with you in every way that matters.

Birdy as a narrator was unreliable and reassuring at the same time in a way which I really enjoyed in Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and Dangerous Girls – as the novel rushed toward its spine-chilling climax, I was eagerly turning pages to see if I had pegged who was behind the increasingly cruel tricks, and the disastrous consequences.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, from its quiet, unassuming beginning through its increasingly intense middle, and up to its obsessive climax and startlingly cold finale – Birdy and Bertie were two really well-written, if not always enjoyable or likeable characters, and the feeling of really being inside Birdy’s head was one which I couldn’t help but enjoy.

A tense, creepy, and thoroughly enjoyable account of the intense and unsettling nature of teenage friendships and obsessions, I thoroughly recommend Birdy.

Four Stars
****

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Book #154 – The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer

11408650This is my last book review from 2014, I think. Since we’re now almost two weeks into January, I’ve decided to not bother review the rest of the books on my list (most of which were chick-lit borrowed from my mother, or re-reads) and start moving on to review the books I’ve read this year (which, admittedly, have been all chick-lit or re-reads, but, uh, that’s different. Somehow).
Thus, my last review from the 2014 list! This was a Christmas present from my little sister, which I read in the space in a day, because I was left all alone on a plane while my two sisters and brother-in-law sat together across the aisle from me. Nobody would sit with me, I had three seats all to myself. Tragic.
Anyways. This book, yes, it was a Christmas present from my sister, although I’ve been meaning to read the trilogy for a while, since I saw Girl in the Pages‘ review of it. Anyways. I got it eventually, and consumed it on that lonely plane ride. The next two will be read before too long, I assure you.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodgkin

Mara Dyer doesn’t think life can get any stranger. She wakes from a coma in hospital with no memory of how she got there or of the bizarre accident that caused the deaths of her best friends and her boyfriend, yet left her mysteriously unharmed. The doctors suggest that starting over in a new city, a new school, would be good for her and just to let the memories gradually come back on their own.

But Mara’s new start is anything but comforting. She sees the faces of her dead friends everywhere, and when she suddenly begins to see other people’s deaths right before they happen, Mara wonders whether she’s going crazy! And if dealing with all this wasn’t enough, Noah Shaw, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen can’t seem to leave her alone… but as her life unravels around her, Mara can’t help but wonder if Noah has another agenda altogether…

I don’t know what it was that drew me to this book – maybe the strange cover, with a floaty girl with no head. Maybe the idea of an amnesiac heroine, which I quite enjoyed in What Alice Forgot, at the start of 2014, or maybe the rave reviews it’s gotten on other blogs. Whatever it was, I knew I wanted to read this, so I was pleased when it showed up under my Christmas tree, and I had it finished before the year was out.

It’s a weird and sort of eerie-feeling atmosphere throughout the book, as the protagonist struggles with PTSD, moving to a new area, settling into a new school, and all of the usual teenage drama which everyone has to deal with. Throughout the book I was wondering whether or not it was a paranormal thriller or a psychological thriller, and you were kept guessing until quite near the end.
The character of Noah wasn’t, for me, a swoon-worthy hero, but perhaps I’m just not romantic enough for that kind of reaction, since I never seem to have it. Oh well. He was certainly interesting, and there was, eventually, justification for why he instantly took a shine to the loner new girl at his school.
Jamie, the best friend, seemed to me like a walking cliché, thrown in for the sake of some diversity, although it was done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that I’d nearly forgive that.

The book doesn’t really conclude, though, rather just setting itself up for the rest of the trilogy. Although a frequently-employed plot device for selling more books, it never fails to get my heckles up, and was the thing which caused me to drop this book from a five-star rating to a four-star. It won’t stop me getting the second and third in the trilogy, though.

Four Stars
****

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Book #153 – The Spell Book of Listen Taylor

6652532 Sinéad has a habit, over the course of the last few years, of buying me books for Christmas and birthdays based on the fact that she thinks she’d like them. That’s how I got The Testing last Christmas (and, to be fair, she was spot on, I did like it) and The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (review forthcoming, the last from the 2014 list) this Christmas. The second book I got off Sinéad this Christmas was this one, The Spell Book of Listen Taylor. It’s a rewrite of Moriarty’s adult book, I Have a Bed Made of Buttermilk Pancakes, aimed at a more YA audience. I love Moriarty’s other YA books – her Brookfield/Ashbury epistolary novels are definitely some of my favourites, so I was going into this with high hopes.

Since Listen Taylor’s dad started dating a Zing, her life has gone from unusual to downright weird. The Zing family live in a world of unexplained projects, coded conversations and start-of-the-art surveillance equipment – all designed to protect the Zing family secret, a secret so huge it draws them all to the garden shed every Friday night. And Listen isn’t invited. Listen herself has things she’d rather keep hidden, including an unconventional spell book that might just be the answer to her problems . . .

This book follows a diverse cast of (seemingly) unconnected characters in a suburb in Australia, including Listen Taylor, her dad, his girlfriend, her sisters and parents, her niece, and her niece’s school teacher. It’s aimed at a YA audience but, to be honest, it doesn’t read a lot like YA. Listen might be the titular character, but she’s not where the plot focuses, really – this book is far more centred on the adult characters.

Moriarty writes with her usual distinctive, quirky style, full of interjections and little notes to self which, while not as good as the truly epistolary Brookfield/Ashbury novels, still add a nice flavour to the book, and her characterisation is zany, at times hilarious, but often wonderfully real, too.

Listen Taylor doesn’t, I think, really fit as a YA book. It still reads like an adult book to me. It would be interesting to read Buttermilk Pancakes, and see how much of a change there was during the editorial process, and what was removed or changed or added to make the audience change.

Besides the slightly odd classifications, though, Listen Taylor is full of Moriarty’s zany, quirky, hugely loveable characters and the human feelings which always resonate so strongly through her writing.

I mentioned at the start of these reviews, when I read a few books by Liane Moriarty, that I preferred Jaclyn of the two sisters, and this book has only reiterated those feelings. A wonderfully zany, genre-defying, magical, heart-warming book which I’ve passed on to Sinéad, and would happily recommend to anyone else, too.

Four Stars
****

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Book #150 – Far From You

20517739Sinéad sent me a link to this months ago, as she thought I might like it – and also thought she might like it, but that’s by the by – and I have to say, I agreed. Look at that cover! Doesn’t it remind you a lot of the Gone Girl cover? And the other Gillian Flynn books, too. Thus, given how much I enjoyed them, and the similar-looking cover, I was sold on this one. Plus, the blurb was pretty awesome-sounding. Sign me up! Far From You – Tess Sharpe

Nine months. Two weeks. Six days.

That’s how long recovering addict Sophie’s been drug-free. Four months ago her best friend, Mina, died in what everyone believes was a drug deal gone wrong – a deal they think Sophie set up. Only Sophie knows the truth. She and Mina shared a secret, but there was no drug deal. Mina was deliberately murdered.

Forced into rehab for an addiction she’d already beaten, Sophie’s finally out and on the trail of the killer – but can she track them down before they come for her?

I enjoyed this book a lot – it had two separate but related stories, really – one of Sophie and Mina’s relationship, and one of the hunt for Mina’s killer. The interaction between the two was, at times, choppy. The book plays out through a series of flashbacks which paint the story of Sophie’s accident, struggle with subsequent addiction, blossoming feelings for others and the struggle all the characters face with the extraordinary circumstances they all shared. Nothing about the murder, though – that’s all in the present day, as Sophie and Trevor (Mina’s brother) try to piece together the story of why Mina was killed, which, predictably, ends up pissing off all the wrong people and putting them in grave danger themselves.

There’s a lot going on in this book, and most of it is done quite well – it was a lot of balls to juggle, but I was engrossed for most of it. There were a few moments which jarred for me, and sometimes the characters were a little unbelievable – why, exactly, was everyone in love with Sophie, when she was a cranky drug addict, for example – but for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.

Four Stars
****

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Book #151 – Say Her Name

18621200Hot Key Books, who sent me The Door That Led to Where shortly before Christmas, gave away two free iBooks around the same time. Not one to turn down a free book, this was one of them. The other is Dawn O’Porter’s Goose, which is the second in her Paper Aeroplanes series, so I haven’t read that yet – I hate coming in at the wrong point, so I’ll need to get the first, first.
In any case, Say Her Name is a rejigging of the Bloody Mary horror story, set in a boarding school in England.

Say Her Name – James Dawson

Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of ‘Bloody Mary’: say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear… But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?

Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror… five days… but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before… A truly spine-chilling yet witty horror from shortlisted ‘Queen of Teen’ author James Dawson.

Say Her Name is, as I’ve said, a Bloody Mary story. It has all the ingredients for a totally clichéd story – boarding school, teenage girls, common horror theme, ridiculously cute boy, check, check, check. But it cleverly avoids all of the possible pitfalls and presents itself as an entertaining and certainly creepy horror story with a few twists and turns along the way.
I wasn’t expecting a whole lot out of this book, especially since horror isn’t really my genre of choice, but I was pleasantly surprised. The characterisation was good (I really liked Bobbie as a character and the mystery of Bloody Mary kept me guessing for quite a while), the horror elements psychologically creepy, with each victim experiencing different parts of Bloody Mary’s experience, the romance plausible, and the ending satisfyingly wrapped up, with a few extra elements which I didn’t see coming. Plus, the book had some really witty moments, which made me look like a loon, laughing on a train. Such is the struggle of the book reader.

I’ve never read anything by James Dawson before, although ‘This Book is Gay’ has gotten rave reviews – perhaps I need to check out some more of his stuff. Say Her Name is certainly a good example of a YA horror book!

Four Stars
****

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