Book Review: Catwalk Criminal (Sarah Sky)

Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 320
Release Date: June 4th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):Models, spies and lipstick gadgets in this fast-paced teen series. Jessica Cole has been recruited to Westwood, MI6’s secret division of supermodel spies. Her first official mission seems simple at first, until it turns into the biggest cyber-attack ever known, threatening the security of the whole country. Then it emerges there is a traitor in the midst at MI6 – and suddenly Jessica herself is being accused. With no one believing her innocence, and the country on the verge of chaos, Jessica has no choice but to take matters of national security into her own hands and catch the culprit – fresh from the catwalk.

Review:
I was lucky enough to win a set of the Jessica Cole books in a competition, so big thanks to Scholastic and Faye Rogers for my set.This is the third book in the Model Spy series. As usual, it plunges straight into the action, this time in the middle of a mission, as Jessica has finally joined Westwood, a secret MI6 division of supermodel spies. It was great to see Jessica on the official team, rather than off on her own one-off kind of mission.

Unfortunately for Jessica this doesn’t last long. My favourite thing about this book was that she didn’t have a lot going for her this time: no Nathan to fall back on, her gadgets mostly confiscated, and limited access to technology. I loved the idea of the cyber attack and being unable to access Oyster cards and money and having to avoid security cameras and such. It really highlighted how much we depend on digital technology, and how stuck we are when that’s suddenly taken away from us.

The mystery was even better this time: I feel like each book is getting more intriguing, which is brilliant. The technology aspect felt very relevant for today’s world, and the way the odds were so stacked against Jessica made it hard to see a way out.

Once again, I wasn’t really a fan of the Jamie parts: he just doesn’t interest me very much, and as such I didn’t feel much sympathy when they hit difficulties. I feel this romance might be better off for the teen audiences, which is obviously great as that’s who the books are aimed at (instead of old/jaded people like me!).

I was, however, a big fan of new guy Zak, and the way he and Jessica interacted with each other was brilliant. You can really see the tension spark there, and I’ll be interested to see him in future books (fingers crossed!). Similarly, I’d love to see Kat make another appearance soon as I did miss her in this book. She’s a great kind of frenemy for Jessica and I’m really interested to see where her character will go.

This is another awesome installment in the Model Spy series. It’s great to see a UKYA spy book with a female lead, and I look forward to joining Jessica on her next mission.

My Verdict:
 
 

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: Fashion Assassin (Sarah Sky)

 

Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 320
Release Date: January 1st 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):

Models, spies and lipstick gadgets in this fast-paced teen series. Supermodel Jessica Cole has no intention of ever spying again after she was nearly killed by an embittered ex-model and a rogue MI6 agent. That is until she’s blackmailed into posing undercover as bodyguard to a very rich fellow model. What seems like a simple job aboard a luxurious yacht in Monaco soon turns into a deadly mission to stop the most dangerous weapon in the world falling into the wrong hands. Jessica will need every gadget in her make-up bag if she wants to get out of this one alive.
Review:
I was lucky enough to win a set of the Jessica Cole books in a competition, so big thanks to Scholastic and Faye Rogers for my set.This is the second book in the Model Spy series. I found it easier to get into than the first one, as the premise already there: unbelievable as it sounds, Jessica Cole is a school girl and a model and spy, all in one.

The beginning was really captivating, with an expensive necklace being stolen right off someone’s neck in the middle of an awards ceremony, with no sign at all of the culprit. It’s a genuinely intriguing mystery that keeps you guessing the whole way through the novel.

This book Jessica has Kat to contend with, a spoilt brat of a Russian model who is incredibly annoying but does have a softer side (and also a surprisingly conniving one!) There’s also a return of some old favourites, both friendly faces and some old enemies who rear their ugly heads again.

I had some difficulty with some of Jessica’s personal struggles: I didn’t feel like we saw enough of her relationship with Jamie to really understand how she was feeling. I just didn’t feel the connection between them, and found I was more interested in all the awesome spy stuff rather than a boyfriend we don’t get to see much.

This was a great follow up to Code Red Lipstick and I really enjoyed puzzling out the mystery on this one.

My Verdict:
 
 

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: Code Red Lipstick (Sarah Sky)

 

Publisher: Scholastic
Pages: 336
Release Date: June 5th 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):

Models, spies and lipstick gadgets… When Jessica’s father, a former spy, vanishes mysteriously, Jessica takes matters into her own hands. She’s not just a daddy’s girl who’s good at striking a pose; she’s a trained spook who knows how to take on MI6 and beat them at their own game.
Review:
I was lucky enough to win a set of the Jessica Cole books in a competition, so big thanks to Scholastic and Faye Rogers for my set.I’ve heard great things about these books, but I was a little wary: as an older Young Adult reader, I was worried I’d be a little too old for this series. I’m also not really very interested in fashion and modelling and such so I wasn’t sure it would be my cup of tea.

I am, however, a fan of spies and mysteries and kick ass female characters, so there was definitely something there for me to enjoy.

When I was the age this book is targeted at, I read the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz and really enjoyed the mystery and gadgets and quick wit in the books. These books reminded me a lot of those, only slightly more modern and with a fashion twist. Jessica could give Alex a run for his money – she could be his awesome, distant cousin or something.

The premise of the book required some suspension of disbelief: a fourteen year old schoolgirl/super model/spy does seem a little far-fetched, but once you’ve suspended your disbelief and got your head around that you soon get lost in the action.

The mystery was a good one to ease you into the story and characters, but I found some things a little obvious (but I won’t mention – no spoilers here!). The villain of the story had some really twisted ideas and I found their evil plan really disturbing – it was pretty twisted!

Overall, this is a really fun and easy read that will have you racing through to then end. While the mystery is solved, there’s still plenty left open for the sequel, which I’m looking forward to getting stuck into.

My Verdict:
 
 

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

 

#RandomReads July Announcement

 

Hello and welcome back to #RandomReads with Stacie and Maia. If this is your first time joining us, this is where we randomly pick a theme each month and nominate a book for the other to read. We review the books and then have a bit of a discussion about them as well – feel free to join in with us by commenting/posting your own reviews in the comments and using #RandomReads on Twitter.
If you saw last month’s #RandomReads then welcome again and thanks for sticking with us!
And now, without further ado, the theme for July is…
(drum roll)
Plays 

I was super excited when this was picked as our theme for July, as I had the perfect play in mind for Stacie. I studied theatre at school and then at university for four years, so I’ve read my fair share of plays – not all of them have been to my taste, but the one I’ve picked has been my favourite by far, and here it is…
(another drum roll)

 

The Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Neilson

I think this is fun to read as well as perform (and I’ve done both!) and I hope Stacie will have a good laugh reading it, as well as finding it thought provoking. I think the second half may split opinion a little (it often does with audience/readers) but I really hope she enjoys it.
If you’d like to see what Stacie has picked for me then hop over to her blog to read her post.
Check back next week and the week after to see our reviews, and at the end of the month we’ll have our usual discussion posts.

Book Review: The One (Kiera Cass)

 

 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 323
Release Date: May 6th 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):
The time has come for one winner to be crowned.

When she was chosen to compete in the Selection, America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon’s heart. But as the end of the competition approaches, and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she’ll have to fight for the future she wants.

 

Review:
I really don’t know why I like these books so much. There’s a lot to dislike about them, not least being America, the main character who is incredibly irritating and, to be honest, didn’t really do a lot towards the climax of this book. But somehow, they’ve hooked me in, and the nearly two month wait I had to get this on NetGalley (I know I could have bought it, but I’m very poor…) was torture.
Once again, I raced through this book, even though I was pretty sure I knew where it was going: I’ve already read a bit if The Heir so I knew who won the Selection, and it was kind of obvious from the start really, wasn’t it?
Still there were some surprises along the way. I really liked the lengths the King went to trying to manipulate America and make her do things she didn’t want to. It was such an awkward position to be in, I really didn’t know what she was going to do, or what I would have done in her place.
There was plenty of heartbreak in this book too, and one of them was quite surprising – a death near the end took me by surprise, not only within the plot, but I was surprised I cared so much as well. A lot of characters have changed since the beginning of the books: be prepared for your feelings to change.
I was a little concerned that it got very close to the end of the book and America still hadn’t told Maxon about Aspen. I thought maybe he wouldn’t find out, which would have been a terrible basis for their relationship. I knew he’d have to find out, but I dreaded it too, as I didn’t know how they’d recover from that.
The book was full of the usual America/Maxon ups and downs, which were super frustrating and I just wanted to bang both their heads together and tell them to get on with it. In a loving way, of course.
As mentioned before, I think the only thing that let this book down was the ending, as America is basically whisked off to a safe room and spends the climax there. A lot of stuff goes down while she cries and hits a metal door: it’s a shame she couldn’t be more involved in what was going on.
This was a fast paced, exciting end to the series (or this part of it anyway) with some great curve balls thrown in, even if everyone really knows how it will end. I’m looking forward to getting stuck into The Heir really soon.
My Verdict:
 
 
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: Lying Out Loud (Kody Keplinger)

 

 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
Publisher: Hatchette Children’s Books
Pages: 309
Release Date: July 2nd 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):
Sonny Ardmore is an excellent liar. She lies about her dad being in prison. She lies about her mom kicking her out. And she lies about sneaking into her best friend’s house every night because she has nowhere else to go.

Amy Rush might be the only person Sonny shares everything with— secrets, clothes, even a nemesis named Ryder Cross.
Ryder’s the new kid at Hamilton High and everything Sonny and Amy can’t stand—a prep-school snob. But Ryder has a weakness: Amy. So when Ryder emails Amy asking her out, the friends see it as a prank opportunity not to be missed.
But without meaning to, Sonny ends up talking to Ryder all night online. And to her horror, she realizes that she might actually like him. Only there’s one small catch: he thinks he’s been talking to Amy. So Sonny comes up with an elaborate scheme to help Ryder realize that she’s the girl he’s really wanted all along. Can Sonny lie her way to the truth, or will all her lies end up costing her both Ryder and Amy?
Review:
I was actually quite surprised how much I enjoyed this book.
 
I read The Duff a few months back and enjoyed it but was not wowed by it – some of it was a little cheesy for me and I didn’t always connect well with Bianca.
I preferred this companion book a lot more. I felt really connected with Sonny, despite her being a massive liar. Her friendship with Amy was really touching and it I did wish that would take centre stage a little more, rather than the romance. But I guess that was kind of the point of the book…
The misunderstanding that starts everything off was really smooth – I didn’t see it coming, but once it happened it was totally obvious. And it was easy to see how it continued at first: how one lie leads to another and suddenly you’re caught up in something that”s getting out of control.
But after a certain point, anyone could see that the lying had to stop – but Sonny carried on. That’s when I started to disconnect a little. I know it was for the plot, but it just made it become less and less believable, especially as she had so many chances to tell the truth.
The relationship between Ryder and Sonny was really sweet and I loved watching it develop. There was obviously such a connection there, it’s strange how he couldn’t tell it was really her and not Amy talking to him after a while. I did find myself liking Sonny a little less as the book when on and she kept using Amy to get Ryder, or ditching Amy for Ryder. It’s sad to see someone jeopardise a great friendship over some boy they barely know.
This was a quick, easy read and an enjoyable one that I’d recommend for any fans of The Duff – especially as Bianca and Wesley make a few guest appearances.
My Verdict:
 
 
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!If you enjoyed this, you might like The Duff, also by Kody Keplinger

Soundtrack Saturday: The Accident Season (Moira Fowley-Doyle)

 

Soundtrack Saturday is a weekly meme created and run by Erin at The Hardcover Lover.

Last week I chose to make a soundtrack for Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway.

This week I decided to do one for The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle. This was a really magical book with such vivid descriptions and I just loved it. There were some moments when I was reading and listening to music and the songs just lined up perfectly, so I knew it would be my next soundtrack.
23346358Shake It Out – Florence + The Machine


Regrets collect like old friends
Hard to relive your darkest moments
I can see no way, I can see no way
And all of the ghouls come out to play
And every demon wants his pound of flesh
But I like to keep some things to myself
I like to keep my issues drawn
It’s always darkest before the dawn

24 – Emmy the Great


They say one man is the accident
The other is the hand that stops the blood
And I am looking for the other one
For a hand to stop the blood.

Wait It Out – Imogen Heap


Where do we go from here?
How do we carry on?
I can’t get beyond the questions
Clambering for the scraps
In the shatter of us collapsed
It cuts me with every could-have-been
Pain on pain on play repeating
With the backup makeshift life in waiting

Under the Influence – Elle King


Just another morning
With shaky hands, pounding head
Guess I did it again
Try to leave but I can’t stand
Start to think that I’m better off dead
I’m sick if this condition
Your kiss is my addiction
I can tell you cast a spell that knows no moderation
It’s dangerous, the things we do…

Wake Me Up When September Ends – Green Day


(It would have been so perfect if it was October!)


Here comes the rain again
Falling from the stars
Drenched in my pain again
Becoming who we are
As my memory rest
But never forgets what I lost
Wake me up when September ends.

Falling – The Civil Wars


Haven’t you seen me sleep walking?
‘Cause I’ve been holding your hand
Haven’t you noticed me drifting?
Oh, let me tell you, I am
Tell me it’s nothing
Try to convince me
That I’m not drowning
Oh, let me tell you, I am.

Blood I Bled – The Staves


Calm the quickening feet that fall
Hide behind you
Calm the gathering rain
Suffering as I suffer
Will be tied in the river
You when you speak of pain
If I was, if I am, if I did, if I have.

#RandomReads June Discussion

 

For the final post in June’s Random Reads, I’m going to be chatting about this month’s two Random Reads books in a bit more detail.
Our theme for this month was the contemporary genre. I’ve read quite a lot of contemporary this year, but before that it was something I avoided, to be honest. I was so hooked on fantasy I thought anything set in the real world must be a little bit boring. I’m fully prepared to say that was silly of me and I enjoy a lot of contemporary now, and this months reads were interesting choices.
I wanted to chat a little about characters, because I feel that both books this month had some truly wonderful characters.
My choice for Stacie was If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch. I absolutely loved this when I read it a few months back, and while it was an interesting story, it was really the characters that made it. I have honestly never fallen in love with characters the way I did with Carey and Jenessa. They are absolutely my favourite fictional sisters: I loved how much Carey cared for Nessa and what she would do to keep her sister happy and safe. I feel that way about my sisters (though thankfully I don’t have to look after them the way Carey does) and I really related to that pure sibling love.
Stacie’s choice for me was Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I’d heard of this book before (mostly because of the film that came out a while back) and I didn’t really think it was my cup of tea. I was right – for me it’s a little too slow/romance heavy – but one thing I really did love was Jacob’s character, particularly when we see him as an old man.
Jacob’s confusion and irritation really affected me as I read this – it made me see things from my grandparents perspective, just a little bit. My 90 year old Grandma lives with me and my Nan and Grandad live in a care home like Jacob does. Both the women have varying forms of dementia and my Grandad, although still sharp as a tack, is almost completely deaf. I know they get confused at times and it can be really hard to know how to do what’s right for them. And, though it’s not nice to admit, it’s easy to get frustrated with them as well. I felt it was really good to be able to read Jacob’s story and put myself in their shoes for a little while.
This month’s books were very different for me, but I liked reading out of my comfort zone, and I’ll be passing Water for Elephants over to my sister as I think she’ll enjoy it.
I’m really excited to see what next month has in store for us!
See Stacie talk about If You Find Me in more depth over at her blog.

Book Review: The Accident Season (Moira Fowley-Doyle)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

 

Publisher: Corgi Childrens

Pages: 323

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara’s family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items – but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?

Review:

I was completely intrigued by the idea of this book – the accident season, the one month in the year when one family is suddenly plagued with falls down the stairs, bumps to the head, and some more serious accidents too.

The story is incredibly well crafted: all the different plot lines laced together well, and everything felt plausible, despite the idea the accident curse. But what really drove the book was the relationships. I enjoyed the romance ones as they were delicate and real (and awkward in some cases) with no insta-love to be found. But I loved that at the heart of it were the siblings and their relationships with each other.

While we’re on the relationships, I did find one (I won’t name it, but you’ll understand when you read it) a little odd and awkward at first, but the way it was written was so touching and tender that I was completely rooting for them to get together, despite the obvious barriers.

This book was recommended to me after mentioning I liked to see LGBTQ+ relationships and characters in stories that aren’t all about ‘coming out’ – don’t get me wrong, I think those kind of stories are important, especially within YA, but I love it when those types of characters are in a story and it isn’t all about their sexuality: that’s just part of who they are, rather than what the story is about. And that’s what happened in this story, and I really appreciated it.

There was a bit of a mystery feel to this as Cara tried to find the elusive Elsie, and I loved how everything tied together towards the end in a way I didn’t expect and was also very satisfying. Some of the scenes were just spectacularly written: the party scene in particular felt like a perfect depiction of that drunk feeling where nothing seems to happen in the right order and everything moves too fast.

The magical elements of the story were a little odd to me at times. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy them, and some of it certainly added a creepy feeling to the proceedings, but it was the kind of thing I didn’t want to overthink too much, as if trying to analyse it would just confuse me.

This is a wonderful story with some of the most beautifully crafted characters I have read in a while, and I can’t recommend that you read it enough.

My Verdict:

4

Top Five… Fathers and Father Figures

 

Since I did a post on my favourite mothers/mother figures a while back, it seemd only fair to do the same with fathers/father figures, and when better to do it than around Father’s Day? I’ve realised a lot more this time are the figure kind ratehr than the actual fatehr kind, but sometimes these are the best.

 

5.

Markus Zusak
Hans was easily my favourite thing about The Book Thief. His quiet solidness and love for Liesel is just inspiring, as are his attempts to do what’s right in the face of so much evil. He’s the kind of dad that you just want to hug you and neer let you go.
4.
23711685
Papa S (Seed)
Lisa Heathfield
Controversial one here! I don’t think he’s a good guy, I don’t like him at all (in fact, he creeps the hell out of me) but Papa S is a one of a kind father figure. When you think about how Pearl feels about him at the beginning of the story, it reminds me of a young child’s all encompassing worship of a parent. 

3.

Sirius Black (The Harry Potter series)
J. K. Rowling
Not only is Sirius Black Harry’s dad’s best friend, he’s Harry’s godfather and a damn fine fatehr figure to Harry (after that whole ‘I think he wants to kill me’ stuff is over, naturally). I always find it so sad when Harry thinks he’s going to be able to live with Sirius and then it’s all snatched from him before it’s begun. 

2.

Mr Benskin (If You Find Me)
Emily Murdoch
His partner Melissa made it into my mothers post, and now Mr Benskin is here as one of my favourite father figures. I didn’t expect him to be as wonderful as he was and he was just what the girls deserved. I loved how much he took to Nessa, even though she wasn’t his own child: it just didn’t matter to him.
1.23652426

Pearl’s Dad (The Year of the Rat)
Clare Furniss
This relationship just breaks my heart, and I think it’s all the more because he’s not Pearl’s real dad, but sometimes a step dad is as good as, or better. I love that, even though Pearl tries to push him away in her grief, he’s still there for her and is trying to keep everything together for her and Rose (aka the Rat).

 

 

Happy Father’s Day to all real and fictional fatehrs and fatehr figures out there!