Book Review: Purple Hearts (Michael Grant)

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

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 480

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s 1944, and it feels to everyone like the war will never end. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr and Rainiy Shulterman have all received accolades, been ‘heroes’, earned promotion – in short, they’ve all done ‘enough’ to allow them to leave this nightmare and go home. But they don’t.

D-Day, June 6th 1944. On that day, many still doubted the American soldier.

By June 7th no one did.

Review:

It doesn’t feel like long ago that I was first introduced to this series, and now I’ve read the final one. It’s been emotional!

Rainy, Rio and Frangie are all decorated war heroes now, but their battle is still raging on. Rainy is keen to see the war to an end after her torture in Italy, Rio is good at being a soldier and doesn’t know what she’d do if she went home, and Frangie wants to keep healing and helping her fellow soldiers.

All three girls are unrecognisable from the ones we started with, and I love that. Something like this really affects you as a person and it’s interesting to see how it’s affected each girl differently. To me, Rio changes the most: in this book she is so far from the sweet girl who left to fight a war that it starts to affect her realtionships. The tensions between her and Strand that started in the last book are ever present it was fascinating to see how that went down.

Frangie’s parts were the ones where I really felt the horror of the war. The things she treated, the wounds she saw, it all hammered home how truly horrific war is. She had another tough time in this book, with a moment that brought tears to my eyes.

Rainy’s position as a Jew in Nazi-occupied lands is really interesting, especially as she starts to embrace her heritage more. As the war comes to a close and the awful concentration camps are revealed, you can really feel the personal connection Rainy has to them and how awful it is to see her people persecuted like that. It’s even more terrible reading some of the events and knowing how true to real life they are.

On a lighter note, we finally have the mysterious narrator revealed! This was a big moment for me, and it didn’t disappoint. There a few hints throughout which I picked up on so it wasn’t a complete surprise, but it felt very fitting.

I liked that the book didn’t just end when the war did, and we got to see a bit of the character’s lives afterward. There’s a great bit at the end with obituaries for the soldiers who die later of old age, so we get a little snippet of what they did after the war.

I’ve really loved this series and I’m sad it’s ended now. It’s such a simple idea, wondering what would happen if women fought in WWII, but it’s made for an exciting and fascinating trilogy which I’d really recommend you read.

4

Book Review: Goodbye, Perfect (Sara Barnard)

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

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 384

Release Date: February 8th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

When 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.

Review:

I do love Sara Barnard’s ability to create complex, compelling and realistic characters. She really is the queen of contemporary YA right now! I’ve loved her previous books and this one was no exception!

When Eden’s steady, dependable best friend Bonnie runs away with a teacher, Eden is left to pick up the pieces. Secretly in touch with Bonnie, Eden has to decide whether her friend really is as happy as she says she is, or if she should tell the police where the runaways are hiding.

This was such a fascinating read and I loved that it was from Eden’s point of view rather than Bonnie’s. If it had been Bonnie’s, it would have been similar to Me & Mr. J, which is a fantastic book but I don’t want to read a rehashing of that. Having it as Eden’s point of view gave a whole different message and feeling.

Bonnie drove me nuts in this. I definitely have a different perspective on this, being an adult rather than a teen, but I just thought what she did was really selfish. I’m not exactly blaming her, as she was obviously groomed by her teacher, but I felt it was really unfair to put pressure on Eden to keep her whereabouts a secret. While I understood Eden’s need to be loyal to Bonnie, I did want to scream at her that she wasn’t helping by keeping her secret.

I love that this is another book that focuses on family and friendship rather than teen romance. Sure, Eden has a boyfriend and they have some great moments together, but it isn’t about them. It’s refreshing to see a YA book where someone’s in a stable relationship and nothing goes wrong! I felt the book tried to steer clear of the usual tropes like this: it was also great to see sisters who are adopted and happy in their adoptive family.

My favourite parts were the ones with Valerie, Eden’s adoptive older sister who she’s struggled to bond with. While we see Valerie through Eden’s eyes – smart, perfect, dull – it’s easy to see why they haven’t got on, but as the book goes on it’s clear there’s more to Valerie than Eden’s first assessment. I loved their arguments as well as their bonding and I think Valerie was just an overall amazing character to read.

This is a powerful, emotional read which tackles some difficult topics really well. I thought it got the message right while being true to the teenage characters and not be being patronising. It’s another hit from Sara Barnard and I can’t wait to see what she writes next!

4

Book Review: I Am Thunder (Muhammad Khan)

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

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 25th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem, who dreams of being a writer, struggles with controlling parents who only care about her studying to be a doctor. Forced to move to a new school in South London after her best friend is shamed in a scandal, Muzna realizes that the bullies will follow her wherever she goes. But deciding to stand and face them instead of fighting her instinct to disappear is harder than it looks when there’s prejudice everywhere you turn. Until the gorgeous and confident Arif shows an interest in her, encouraging Muzna to explore her freedom.

But Arif is hiding his own secrets and, along with his brother Jameel, he begins to influence Muzna with their extreme view of the world. As her new freedom starts to disappear, Muzna is forced to question everything around her and make a terrible choice – keep quiet and betray herself, or speak out and betray her heart?

Review:

Muzna is a British Muslim who struggles with her controlling parents and their conflicting ideas on what it is to be Muslim, to be Pakistani, to be a good daughter. It’s hard to be herself when that’s not who they want her to be. So when the best looking boy in school takes an interest in her and encourages to express herself in new ways, she’s only too happy to oblige, until it seems she’s swapped one set of extreme views for another.

This is a really fascinating read, especially given the current climate. I liked the forward from the author, where he pondered on the real-life story of western girls being radicalised and wondered what made them drop their lives here to join the IS. This book explores the ways that extremists can radicalise impressionable and vulnerable teens.

I loved the point the book made about differentiating between culture and religion, as people so often confuse the two. Similarly, it really hammered home the point that Muslims aren’t terrorists and highlighted the way we’re led to believe this by the media etc. IS may claim to do things in the name of Islam, but Islam is a religion of peace and love, not terrorism, and those few are the ones we should be blaming, not a whole religion.

Muzna goes on a real journey throughout the book, from a quiet teenager who is constantly pushed around by classmates and family, to someone who is brave enough to stand up for what she knows is right, even when it’s so difficult to do.

The radicalisation plot line was great for its subtleties. It showed how someone like targets those who are impressionable and more likely to be swayed by stronger personalities and views. It’s done by playing on their religious views and ideals, twisting them and using propaganda to persuade them to another way of thinking. It’s easy to see how Muzna was initially swayed.

I wasn’t really into the way the teenagers spoke, but I’ll put that down to age (as I know this isn’t aimed at someone my age) and regional differences (I think this is probably how London teenagers speak, not the West Midlands ones I know!) I do worry that while slang can appeal to teenager readers now, it might alienate future ones as slang ages so fast. And this is a book that should be around for a long time as it has a very important message.

This a thought-provoking, intense read that can really educate people on the differences between religion, culture, and radicalisation – adults as well as teenagers! Definitely one to watch out for this year.

Book Review: Bad Girls with Perfect Faces (Lynn Weingarten)

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

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 294

Release Date: January 11th 2018

Summary (From Goodreads):

No one is good enough for Xavier. Not according to Sasha, his best friend. There’s nothing Sasha wouldn’t do to protect Xavier from getting hurt, especially by his cheating ex Ivy, who’s suddenly slithered back into the picture. Worried that Xavier is ready to forgive and forget, Sasha decides to do a little catfishing. She poses as a hot guy online, to prove cheaters never change.

But Sasha’s plan goes wrong fast, and soon the lies lead down a path from which there’s no return . . .

Review:

This is my first book read in 2018 (although I did start a bit in 2017) and I really raced through it. Something about it kept me turning the pages even when I knew I should be going to bed.

Sasha is secretly in love with her best friend, Xazier, and when his heart-breaker ex-girlfriend Ivy comes back on the scene, she realises how far she’ll go to protect him.

This book is in two parts, a before and an after. The before gives the background of Sasha and Xavier’s relationship, and Xavier and Ivy’s relationship. It keeps hinting at something bad that’s going to come, and although I guessed a little about what that might be, I had no idea how events would play out in the ‘after’ section.

I loved Sasha and Xavier’s relationship. I’ve been there myself, with a best friend who’s so perfect with you that it turns into something more (spoiler alert, I married him 🙂 ) They felt so close to becoming a couple, and I could really feel Sasha’s longing for that, until Ivy walked back into their lives and spoiled things.

Ivy felt like a more realistic portrayal of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Sure, she’s cute and quirky and makes you see things differently – but she’s also unpredictable, hurtful and vanishes without a word sometimes. I didn’t really like her, although I wouldn’t wish what happened to her on anyone either!

I won’t say too much on the ‘after’ part for fear of spoilers, but safe to say things did not go the way I expected. Lynn Weingarten is the queen of unexpected twists and I really enjoyed the rollercoaster she took me on this time. If you’re looking to kick off the New Year with a fast-paced mystery then this is for you!

Book Review: Final 7 (Kerry Drewery)

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

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 224

Release Date: January 11th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Martha and Isaac have escaped, but are now on the run – the government has branded them rebels and a danger to the public. Despite the rewards being offered for turning them in, Martha and her friends are safe in The Rises, the area of the city full of the poor and the powerless. But then the Prime Minister orders a wall to be built around The Rises. Is it for the the safety or the poor – or is it to imprison them? Martha needs to act, and to act fast, in a tale of breathtaking treachery that reaches right to the heart of government…

 

Review:

It doesn’t seem too long ago that I was reading and reviewing  Day 7 and it’s weird to think this great series has come to an end now.

Final 7 picks up straight after the previous book, with Martha and an unconscious Isaac being driven to safety by a mysterious woman. Martha and her friends are blamed for the bombing at the Justice Building and are labelled the Rises 7. The media portrays them as a terrorist group and the government use this to further the separation between those in the city and those in the Rises by building a wall around the Rises.

The public believe Martha to be in prison so she spends a lot of this book sneaking around and in various disguises. Eve is arrested and taken to Old Bailey, which serves as a new death row with a historical twist. The chapters from her point of view were really grim and showed how badly the prisoners were treated. There’s a scene with her which I won’t go into because of spoilers, but it really brought a tear to my eye.

Max struggles to find his way in this book as he realises how far he will go to save his mum from death row. Martha faces a similar dilemma as she discovers which of her friends she can’t trust, and which of her enemies she can form alliances with.

The climax is intense and surprising and it kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t see any of it coming but I loved the way things turned out for everyone. My favourite part was definitely the aftermath when we see how the future might look for Martha, her friends and the whole of England. Have they really won, or have they traded one bad position for another? I’d love another book to find out!

This is a fascinating, extreme dystopian about corruption, privacy and the influence of the media. Although it seems a far cry from the system we have today, Drewery makes you question where we might be heading…

If you like a tense mystery-thriller with really compelling characters then I urge you to give this series a go.

4

Book Review: Unconventional (Maggie Harcourt)

Publisher: Usbourne Publishing

Pages: 464

Release Date: February 1st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lexi Angelo has grown up helping her dad with his events business. She likes to stay behind the scenes, planning and organizing…until author Aidan Green – messy haired and annoyingly arrogant – arrives unannounced at the first event of the year. Then Lexi’s life is thrown into disarray.

In a flurry of late-night conversations, mixed messages and butterflies, Lexi discovers that some things can’t be planned. Things like falling in love…

Review:

Lexi has grown up helping out at her Dad’s conventions and being super organised, but when an unexpected guest turns up in the green room that all starts going out the window.

This was a great story about falling in love and finding yourself. The book references and fangirling are perfect for YA fans and avid readers: I loved the nod to Melinda Salisbury especially.

The romance was a slow burner, but I loved that because it made it so much more believable than insta-love *shakes fist* Lexi’s annoyance with Aidan was perfect and they played off each other really well: it captures that mega crush you have where you just snark at each other to hide your true feelings.

This is a great read, with a romance that is cute without being too gooey, and a wonderful sense of discovering yourself and finding the people you belong with. It’s funny with a geeky charm and I’d recommend it for the reader in your life.

Book Review: Monster (Michael Grant)

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

Publisher: Egmont

Pages: 464

Release Date: October 19th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

When the dome came down, they thought it was the end of the troubles. Truth is, it was just the beginning.

Shade Darby witnessed events that day, with devastating consequences, and vowed never to feel that powerless again. Now, four years later, she gets her hands on a part of the meteor that began it all – and that’s when she changes.

Trouble is, Shade’s not the only one mutating, and the authorities cannot allow these superpowers to go unchecked . . .

Review:

Confession time: I’ve not read the Gone series by Michael Grant. I’ve seen the name around a few times as I’ve read some of his other books, but when this one dropped through my mailbox I didn’t realise it was the continuation of another series.

After reading this, I really need to read the Gone series. There’s something quite cool about reading something and finding out there are more books to read before this story takes place. I was really into this story and able to understand what was going on, but it’s nice to know that I can read in full all the previous events that were alluded to.

Shade Darby was there when the dome came up, a helpless child who saw her mother die in the chaos that followed. Now older and determined never to be helpless again, Shade has tracked down part of the meteor that began everything and is going to take matters and power into her own hands. But other people have come across parts too, and their intentions might not be as good as Shade’s.

This book does have some old characters from the previous series in it, and lots of references to what happened in those books, so I guess I was starting on the back foot a little with it, but I still really enjoyed it. It has a similar format to Grant’s Soldier Girl series, in that lots of different viewpoints and stories are covered, rather than seeing things from one protagonist’s point of view, and that helped show the scale of the problem as bits of the meteor landed and were discovered across the world (my particular favourite was the baby who used part of it as a teether in Scotland).

There’s a lot of graphic and gross descriptions in the book that made it feel very gritty and real. While there are lots of references to comic book superheroes, our characters are very different from the usual spandex-clad heroes. Their powers come with grim transformations: no one sounds graceful or beautiful, they’re all monsters in their own way.

The book deals with questions of power and responsibility, and what happens when great power like this gets into anyone’s hands: wrong or right, there’s always going to be consequences. Even with someone like Shade, who means well, good intentions often aren’t enough to stop you from making terrible decisions and hurting the ones you love.

This is an exciting, action-packed story that grips you from beginning to end. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next to these characters and the changing world they’re in, as well as reading the Gone series to see how it all started.

Book Review: No Shame (Anne Cassidy)

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

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 192

Release Date: September 21st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Stacey Woods has been raped and now she has to go through a different ordeal – the court trial. But nothing in life it seems is black and white and life is not always fair or just. Suddenly it seems that she may not be believed and that the man who attacked her may be found not guilty . . . if so Stacey will need to find a way to rebuild her life again . . .

Continue reading “Book Review: No Shame (Anne Cassidy)”

Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (Lauren James)

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

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 290

Release Date: September 7th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

Continue reading “Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (Lauren James)”

Book Review: Moonrise (Sarah Crossan)

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

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Pages: 400

Release Date: September 7th 2017

Summary (From Goodreads):

‘They think I hurt someone.
But I didn’t. You hear?
Coz people are gonna be telling you
all kinds of lies.
I need you to know the truth.’

Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row.

But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think …

From one-time winner and two-time Carnegie Medal shortlisted author Sarah Crossan, this poignant, stirring, huge-hearted novel asks big questions. What value do you place on life? What can you forgive? And just how do you say goodbye?

Continue reading “Book Review: Moonrise (Sarah Crossan)”