Book Review: Secrets of a Teenage Heiress (Katy Birchall)

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

Publisher: Egmont Publishing

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 11th 2018

Summary (from Goodreads):

Flick’s family have owned The Royale – one of London’s most prestigious hotels – for generations. But Flick isn’t that interested. She is interested in the newest guest – superstar celebrity Skylar Chase, and Sky’s mega-famous group of friends, including dreamy YouTube star, Ethan Duke. But just as Flick gets the chance to join their glittering squad, she gets grounded following an unfortunate incident involving a prince, a wardrobe and a selfie stick (it could have happened to anyone!). With only her Instagram star pet dachshund, Fritz, for company, will Flick find a way to escape The Royale and join the fame game?

Review:

Flick lives in Hotel Royale, London’s most prestigious hotel, and where pop sensation Skylar Chase is staying. Against the odds, Flick gets the chance to hang out with Skylar and her celebrity friends, just as she gets grounded.

I was craving an easy and fun read and I knew this wouldn’t let me down. Like Katy Birchall’s It Girl series, this was funny and happy and packed full of jokes and fun friendships.

I wasn’t too keen on Flick at first. She’s a bit spoilt and entitled and bratty and some of the things she said really annoyed me, especially the way she treated some of the hotel workers: I’ve been in that kind of job and I would not have liked a girl like her! Luckily she grows throughout the book and comes to realise how much work goes into running the hotel.

Flick really came into her own at the end when she put together a special event for Skylar, organising the whole thing and using her newfound knowledge of the hotel and staff to make things run smoothly. It really showed how much she’d changed and grown.

I really liked Cal and his relationship with Flick, even if she did mistreat him a lot. He felt real, while Flick often had her head in the clouds. Grace was another wonderful character, a true friend to Flick when she needed it and just a good laugh overall. Also loved the little mentions of Anna and her family from the IT Girl series!

This was a really fun read with a lot of character growth and I’m interested to see where Flick will go next. I passed the book on to my eleven-year-old cousin, who read it in two days and loved it. This is a perfect fun read for young teens.

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: Another Beginning (Lauren James)

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 55

Release Date: July 29th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

A short story set in the world of Lauren James’ Next Together series.

Featuring the much-loved protagonists Clove and Ella, Another Beginning is a companion story to The Last Beginning, set during the siege of Carlisle in 1745.

“Elenore Walker, ancient literature thief. It makes an odd sort of sense, actually,” Clove said.

Clove is working as a maid in the Finchley household while she spies on Katherine Finchley and Matthew Galloway. But her mission is briefly interrupted when fellow maid Ella persuades her to help steal a valuable historical document from the main defence in the city – the castle. The two girls embark on a risky adventure involving scaling castle walls and hiding in the most unlikely of places!

Review:

I do love Clove and Ella, so it was great to have a short story for the two of them. It just made me want to read The Last Beginning all over again!

The two are adorable together, as ever, and also up to mischief again. They’re definitely my favourite time-travelling queer couple and I think everyone should read The Last Beginning if you haven’t already.

This is a very quick read, just a short story that gives you another snippet of the two together, this time stealing a valuable historical document in 1745. I found I wasn’t overly bothered by what they were doing, especially as I couldn’t quite place it in the timeline of the series (my fault as I haven’t read The Last Beginning for a while) but I just enjoyed seeing the two of them play off each other.

If you’ve enjoyed the series then do give this a read – if not then catch up on the series and get on this one!

4

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: The Lie Tree (Frances Hardinge)

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Release Date: October 20th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen.

Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father’s journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith’s search for the tree leads her into great danger – for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . .

Review:

Frances Hardinge’s writing is just painfully beautiful, and this book is no exception. I love reading her books, but it makes me despair too, as I know I can never have that magical way with words that she has.

Faith has a secret thirst for knowledge that she starts to satisfy when she reads her father’s journals and uncovers his greatest discovery: a tree fed on lies that can tell you truths. But each lie she tells has real life consequences – are the truths revealed worth the price she may have to pay?

I loved the idea of the story and especially loved Faith’s character. She was quiet and plain and smart and brave and everything I want in a heroine. I was fascinated by the lie tree and just wanted to read more about it: Hardinge could publish a history of the plant and I would devour it.

This book also defies the stereotype of boring, passive women in period pieces. Women can be intelligent and strong and even villains (!) no matter what time period you’re in. I loved the realisation Faith had at the end, so much that I’m going to quote it here:

Faith had always told herself she was not like other ladies. But neither, it seemed, were other ladies.

That to me is the final say on the ‘not like other girls’ trope and it’s perfect.

This edition also has beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell. They’re so intricate and detailed it took me twice as long to read this as it should have because I kept staring at the pictures.

This is definitely a modern classic and one that should be taught in schools to show young people the sheer joy of reading beautiful language. I loved it and I hope you will too.

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: Wild Fire (Anna McKerrow)

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

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 530

Release Date: November 14th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

The last book in the Greenworld trilogy follows Sadie, Roach’s daughter and Danny’s former girlfriend, as she finds a new identity as the third branded witch along with Danny and Melz. Sadie, a natural healer, is training to be a witch in Tintagel, Cornwall, as well as trying to deal with her own difficult past. Plus, she’s fallen in love with Melz, but Demelza Hawthorne is a tortured soul. Can Sadie’s love bring Melz back into the light, or will she be lost altogether?

Meanwhile, a global network of resistance is forming against the corrupt, dystopian Redworld governments. Sadie travels by accident through the portal to Mount Shasta, home to a Native American tribe, who indicate that they too are holding out against the Redworld. The war for fuel is over, and new solutions have to be found fast. But in Tintagel, Lowenna Hawthorne, Head Witch of the Greenworld, is in denial about the need for change.

In the final dramatic climax to the trilogy, the Greenworld witches have to do something more difficult than they ever have, but saving the world means refusing to be separate anymore. Can they join with others, despite their differences, and usher in a brave new world? Or will the Greenworld disappear altogether?

Review:

I remember finishing Red Witch and being so excited for the next book, and theorising who would be telling the final part of the story. I can now confirm that – hey, I was right, it’s Sadie’s turn!

Sadie is the third branded witch, along with Danny and Melz and this new generation has plenty to deal with. As well as dealing with the fallout of the actions of their parents, the Greenworld is filling with refugees from the Redworld. The war is over there but the troubles are far from solved. To add to all that, Sadie has to deal with massive crush she’s developed on Melz.

I loved seeing Sadie’s story. I don’t think we’ve seen much of her yet, and it was great to get to know a new witch, especially one who wasn’t as born into it as Danny and Melz were. She has a lot of bottled up emotions from her past – the actions of her abusive father, Roach, the terrible act her mother committed in the previous book – and it’s interesting to see how she deals with them as the book progresses.

The situation with the Greenworld and Redworld is fascinating. While at first glance the Greenworld might seem like a protected utopia, it soon becomes clear that separation is not sustainable and another solution will need to be found. Not everyone is open to change though, and Sadie and Melz have to make some tough decisions in the interest of the Greenworld.

I still have a soft spot for Melz and it was great to see a resolution of her story. Hers has definitely been the most complex and emotional across the three books and she’s got a special place in my heart now. I loved the relationship that slowly blossomed between her and Sadie and it was great to see her finally let herself be loved and be happy.

This didn’t go the way I expected to and I was happily surprised with the progression of events. The ending is beautifully hopeful and gave me an embarrassingly gooey feeling inside, without being too twee. This is a fantastic trilogy and I’d really recommend picking it up if you haven’t yet.

4

Book Review: Chasing the Stars (Malorie Blackman)

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Pages: 496

Release Date: April 21st 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Olivia and her twin brother Aidan are heading alone back to Earth following the virus that wiped out the rest of their crew, and their family, in its entirety.

Nathan is part of a community heading in the opposite direction. But on their journey, Nathan’s ship is attacked and most of the community killed. Only a few survive.

Their lives unexpectedly collided, Nathan and Olivia are instantly attracted to each other, deeply, head-over-heels – like nothing they have ever experienced. But not everyone is pleased.

Surrounded by rumours, deception, even murder, is it possible to live out a happy ever after . . . ?

 

Review:

I was so excited when I heard about this and I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it. I read an amazing space YA in The Loneliest Girl in the Universe and had high expectations for this.

Unfortunately, I found this a bit of a letdown.

The characters felt rather one dimensional and it committed one of my biggest book faux-pas:  insta-love. Pretty much as soon as Vee and Nathan saw each other they were in love and their relationship went hurtling at light speed. And I just couldn’t buy it. No matter how many moments or nice conversations they had, no matter how lonely Vee had been before, I couldn’t see their relationship as real.

I called the big twist pretty early on too, and although I felt it was obvious, it was quite a cool idea. I liked the world building and was intrigued by the Mazons and the Authority and wished I could have a story about them rather than a space romance.

Then came the inevitable relationship breakdown as Vee succumbs to suggestions that Nathan is unfaithful and grows paranoid about his actions. I just couldn’t bring myself to care at this point. None of it was subtle and I lost respect for Vee for falling for it all so easily.

I understand this is a retelling of Othello so that’s where the basis of the plot came from but I don’t think the romance was strong enough to hang it all on. It’s hard to say I’m disappointed by a Malorie Blackman book but it just didn’t live up to expectations. I still enjoyed some aspects of it but I don’t think it’s one I’ll be re-visiting.

I’m off to re-read Noughts and Crosses to remind myself how wonderful Malorie Blackman is.

 

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: We See Everything (William Sutcliffe)

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

Publisher: Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Pages: 304

Release Date: September 21st 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Lex lives on The Strip – the overcrowded, closed-off, bombed-out shell of London. He’s used to the watchful enemy drones that buzz in the air above him.

Alan’s talent as a gamer has landed him the job of his dreams. At a military base in a secret location, he is about to start work as a drone pilot.

These two young men will never meet, but their lives are destined to collide. Because Alan has just been assigned a high-profile target. Alan knows him only as #K622. But Lex calls him Dad.

Review:

This is a short novel that packs a big punch and expertly shows two different sides to the same story.

Lex lives on The Strip, what remains of London after bombs have ruined it. His dad works for a group that rebels against the oppressors who watch over them through drones in the sky. This makes him and his family well respected in The Strip. It also makes him a target.

Alan has just landed a dream job as a drone pilot. He watches over his target day in day out, waiting for the day the order will be given to assassinate #K622 – Lex’s dad.

Lex and Alan are complete opposites in character: Lex is a nice guy who cares for his family, treats the girl he falls for well and wants to do what he can to help his dad and the rebellion. Alan is rude to his mother and treats his job the same as he does a computer game: the targets to him aren’t living breathing people, just something on a screen to be destroyed at the touch of a button.

I didn’t dislike Alan as much as everyone else seems to. I understand that he thinks he’s doing a good job and protecting the world from terrorists. He does behave badly towards a girl but at least shows some remorse for it. And when it comes to crunch time, he falters.

Lex was a little bland for me and I was so annoyed how he disobeyed his Dad’s orders, which were so obviously meant to keep him safe. I know that’s what kids do but it’s annoying when they put themselves in danger just to get laid!

I loved the 1984 feel to the story, with drones watching everything that people do from the sky, the feeling of never being safe, of nothing being private. The picture of this hollow shell of London was beautifully painted, with the references to real places making it easy to picture. I did want to know more about what happened and how they got to that stage as the background is a little lacking.

The ending felt a bit odd to me: it all felt very rushed, then suddenly very slow as it covered a long period of time after the main events of the book. On the one hand, it was kind of cool to see how the characters lives went on afterward, but it just felt a strange way to end things.

This is a quick read, a kind of cautionary tale for where we could be headed and will be sure to delight any fans of 1984, or Malorie Blackman.

4