Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Published 5th January 2017 by Walker Books.

25909375Goodreads Synopsis: With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.


My Review: This book has been gaining so much attention pre-publication – I first picked up some postcards at YALC last year, and was immediately excited even if it wasn’t being published for half a year. When a review copy arrived, I was so eager to start it! This was my last read of 2016 and I couldn’t have picked a better one.

Webber’s debut centres around Wing, a high schooler in 1995 America, who deals with a recent family disaster by taking up running – which she’s surprisingly talented at. Running becomes Wing’s coping method, but it also turns into an opportunity for her to support her family.

Even though books about sports aren’t exactly my thing, I became so swept up in this – because it’s about so much more than Wing’s running. The story is a profound blend of tragedy, hope, family and determination. I adored it. At many points, the plot was completely unexpected. It deals with some heartbreaking issues – a member of Wing’s family is hospitalised, and the reason for it causes people to resent the Joneses, and plunges them into a difficult situation. It felt frighteningly real, as though I was in the situation myself.

What I enjoyed the most about Wing Jones was how diverse its characters were – I don’t think any of the main characters were white, and there’s a really sweet same sex relationship between two minor characters. A large issue Wing’s dealing with is bullying, from a resentful student who insults her because she is mixed race, with Chinese and African-American descent. Wing’s identity plays a huge part in her life, as she lives with both her grandmothers, and I loved how the story talked about this in great detail, exploring the grandmother’s characters as well as Wing’s. The family felt so real three-dimensional and I became so attached!

I can tell that Wing Jones is going to be a hugely talked about, well-loved book, because it just has all of the right things. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve read something so heartfelt, poignant and emotional – and witty in all the right places. I’m not 100% sure on how I feel about the ending – it’s satisfying, but I did wish there had been even more of a build up to it, if that makes sense.

Overall, I definitely recommend you read Wing Jones asap, because it’s truly a wonderful story no matter what your reading tastes are. You’ll fall in love with the characters, with the unforgettable family, and you’ll be rooting for Wing the whole way through as she discovers her talent. It’s incredibly sad in places, but so uplifting too.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of Wing Jones from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis

Related posts: Blog Tour: Lisa Selin Davis on the novels that inspired her

Published 16th October 2016 by Hot Key Books.

31328363Goodreads Synopsis: In the aftermath of her older sister’s death, sixteen-year-old Carrie is taken under the wings of her sister’s friends, and finds herself forsaking the science nerds of her former life and slipping into a daze of cheap beer and recreational drugs. Carrie – a talented guitar player and obsessive tracker of the coming Vira comet – is partying hard and fooling around with boys she doesn’t even like, even though she’s desperate for a boyfriend.
Her mother, enveloped by grief at the loss of her eldest child, has retreated to a monastery in the Catskills that requires a vow of silence. With her family splintered apart, Carrie is overcome at times by uncontrollable rages and her father decides to send her to a boot camp for wayward teens. Compounding the shame, and to her horror, she is forced to wear work boots and a hard hat – boy poison.
Then she meets Dean, a fellow musician and refugee from his own dark past. Throughout the summer Carrie learns more about Dean, about her sister’s death, about her own family’s past, and about herself…as well as about the Bee Gees, disco and the difference between wood and sheet-rock screws. Through love, music and her precious comet – and no small help from Lou Reed – Carrie fumbles her way through the complex web of tragedies and misunderstandings, to the heart of who she is and who she wants to be.

My Review: First things first – I read this book at the wrong time. It was a really great story, and I did enjoy it very much, but I stupidly started reading it as my mock exams started. It took me nearly a month to find the time to finish it! So, maybe, I would have loved it even more if I had read the book in one go: it’s definitely a book you can get completely immersed in.

What I loved the most about Lost Stars was the characters. They were so wonderful and real-feeling. They’re still in my head, long after I put the book down. I quite liked Carrie and how complex her character was – the story is centred around her anger issues, and how her mother’s absence has played into it. I did tear up a little at the resolution.

The gang of teenagers Carrie hangs out with were my favourite. I loved how Selin Davis takes the time to explore Soo, who I could’ve read a whole book about! The love story… I didn’t enjoy so much. I don’t know why. Maybe I’m just really cynical.

Another aspect of the book I adored was the setting. Selin Davis’ debut is such a fantastic trip back to a few decades. I love books set in the 70s-90s – the atmosphere is just so great and nostalgic even if I’m a millennial. I loved all of the pop culture references, and the frequent mentions of iconic songs. It just made the book.

I do think I would’ve been able to enjoy Lost Stars even more if I’d read it at a better time, but I also think it has quite a few similarities to books that were already favourites of mine. It seemed very much in the same vein as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Love Letters to the Dead, in terms of the atmosphere and the similar topics of grief. It reminded me of those books a lot in places, but that’s not to say it’s not really original and compelling itself. I’m sure fans of those two books would adore Lost Stars.

Overall, this was a really enjoyable book and quite a fantastic debut novel. Lisa Selin Davis is definitely an author to look out for – I would love to read more from her in the future. Lost Stars intertwines grief, hope and love into a really thought-provoking and poignant story. I’d definitely recommend it to contemporary fans!

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of Lost Stars from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Reasons to Read: Unboxed by Non Pratt

Published 15th August 2016 by Barrington Stoke.

I thought I’d make today’s post in an infographic form! I’ve been in a bit of a blogging rut recently (school, life, lack of motivation to do anything but binge netflix and sleep) and although I could write so much about this book, I wanted to summarise it really briefly and give it a pretty looking post. I mean, look at that cover! Isn’t it gorgeous?

Unboxed unexpectedly moved me to tears. It’s an incredible book, and I haven’t been completely able to stop thinking about the characters. I cannot recommend it enough.

unboxed

Book Review: The Diabolic by SJ Kincaid

Published 1st November 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

30542863Goodreads Synopsis: Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.
When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

My Review: This book arrived as a complete surprise – I hadn’t even heard that SJ Kincaid had written a new book – so I absolutely hit the roof when I opened the package! I was so excited to start it; SJ’s INSIGNIA trilogy is one of my favourite series ever, and SJ’s debut novel was one of the first review copies I read (and also quoted in whoop whoop). Needless to say, I was excited to get stuck into another inventive Sci-Fi world.

Once I’d started it, I didn’t want to put it down – a cliche phrase maybe, but an apt one. I absolutely adored the concept – it takes the much used idea of humanoid characters created to serve people, and puts a fantastic new twist on it. It’s original and captivating. ‘Diabolics’ are genetically engineered humans, designed to kill anything that endanger the humans they are bonded to. Nemesis is a Diabolic – bonded to Sidonia, daughter of an important but rebellious figure in the galaxy. Nemesis finds herself on a terrifying mission, impersonating Sidonia in order to potentially spare her.

Nemesis was such an interesting character, and I adore dreading from her narrative. It’s implied that she’s not considered human, even by herself, because she was bred to defend and kill. It was really cool over the course of the plot to see how she develops, and discovers things for herself and begins to feel, in a way.

Perhaps my favourite thing about the story was Sidonia, and her chemistry with Nemesis, her Diabolic, who was bonded to her and essentially trained to kill in order to defend her. It’s hard to detail on this without spoiling anything, but the story started to go in the way I was excited for it to – and then absolutely tore my hear to PIECES. I’M NOT OVER IT. GAAAAHHHHH. I wish it had been detailed on more, as it’s an important story line to have in such an epic sci fi story.

I absolutely adore SJ Kincaid’s world building. I loved her last trilogy for the imaginative concept, set partly in space – I didn’t think her fictional worlds could get any better, but this one is incredible. It’s set entirely in space, and the whole universe is set out so brilliantly and originally. Kincaid’s ability to craft unique worlds, and her incredible attention to detail, is admirable. It’s implied that some sort of global disaster happened on Earth many years ago, and the “Excess” humans live in poverty on planets, whilst members of a higher status live grand lifestyles on ships. The universe Kincaid has crafted is intricate and captivating – as soon as I’d finished the book, I wanted to read more about it.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Diabolic, and cannot recommend it enough. It’s an epic and adventurous story of space, conflict and what it means to be ‘human.’ Although I must say that the romance part was a little sad to me, as it could have taken such a more interesting route – the whole book left me completely speechless. I was blown away! I cannot wait to see what other people think of this  – it’s got the potential to be the next big thing.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Diabolic from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

Published September 2016 by Bloomsbury.

30367320Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn’t belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave …
She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate.

My Review: This book arrived unexpectedly, and I was really excited based on what the synopsis had to say! I knew of Danielle Paige’s work as Dorothy Must Die looks like a fantastic read, and has been on my radar for a while. So I started this not hugely knowing what to expect, not having read anything by this author before, but excited to see what it was like.

For the first 75 pages or so, I was hooked – I adore the set up for the story, from the slightly eerie institution Snow is locked away in, to the really well developed characters in the wards with her. I really loved exploring that world- the characters were all so interesting to me.

Unfortunately, a little way into the fantasy world of the story, I suddenly stopped getting as into the plot as I was at the beginning. I was incredibly absorbed at the beginning, but for some reason I’m just not sure of, I couldn’t enjoy the rest of the sort in the way I thought I would. The world of Algid and the magic and characters within was really intricate and detailed, but for some reason I couldn’t engage with it.

Snow was a really interesting character, because like with the whole story itself, I felt really involved with her in the beginning, but less so for the rest of the book. I think the story swept the detail away a little, and all I could really be told about her throughout most of the story was her newest insta-love feels. I feel like a lot of people will really love Snow, as she’s got many likeable aspects and I think that she’ll become an awesome heroine later in this series, given this book’s set up.

Overall, I would recommend Stealing Snow to high fantasy fans, like fans of the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by S.J. Mass. Sadly, this book just didn’t click with me. It may partially be because I’ve been getting into contemporary fiction more and more lately, but I just couldn’t find myself engaging with or being excited about this book as much as I’d hoped. However, I’m sure I’m probably in the minority of people who disliked it, and that many fantasy fans will adore it 🙂

My Rating:

two

I received a copy of Stealing Snow from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Deviants by CJ Skuse

Published 22nd September 2016 by Mira INK.

23126437Goodreads Synopsis: the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.
Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.
When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

My Review: I didn’t know a huge amount about this book, and hadn’t read any of CJ’s books before, and needed something to read for fun instead of for studying – so I chose this from my TBR pile on a whim! I’m very glad I did, and I don’t think I’ve raced through a book so quickly in a long time. The Deviants had me entirely engrossed, and left a mark on me.

Firstly, the characters: we’re introduced to them all in strange, different ways. These five inseparable children have all grown apart after Max’s older sister’s death, but they unexpectedly find themselves joining together again, under dark circumstances, to begin wreaking revenge on those who have hurt them. All of the characters were visible so clearly in my mind – Skuse goes into such detail with all of their backstories, and as a result I don’t think I could forget any of them any time soon. I became really attached.

I really liked the way that the story is told! All of the chapters are told from the perspective of Ella, whose personality I was most attached to – I sympathised with her so much. Each chapter ends with a question that feeds into the next part of the story, and they feel like interrogation questions, leading up a completely unexpected ending. The questions at the end of each chapter were definitely what kept me hooked – I wanted to read on; discover the truth; see who was asking them (AND WOAH I DID NOT EXPECT IT OH MY GOODNESS).

The Deviants felt quite bizarre at first, then a little creepy – then it spiralled into an incredibly dark and horrific story. Every turn was completely unexpected – there are subtle, clever hints throughout the plot, but I could not have possibly predicted where the book ended. I was on the verge of tears the whole way through the book, and I literally couldn’t hold it in for the last 30 pages!

A warning to those who want to read this, though – The Deviants is incredibly dark, and quite traumatic in places. It was much more grim than I thought it could be, and I think it could be quite sensitive for some readers – without giving anything away, there’s prominent themes of abuse and violence. However, if it’s something you can read, I do definitely recommend it – it’s rare to find a book that discusses its main theme so vividly, without sugar-coating it. It’s devastating in places, and hard to read, but I think that’s what makes it important.

Overall, The Deviants was much darker and sinister than I predicted, and its vivid approach to some sensitive topics can make it a hard to read in places. However, it can’t be doubted that it’s an incredible, incredible book. It was really eye opening to read about such terrifying events that still happen to so many people every day, and these characters and their stories will never really leave me. This is a very hard-hitting book, which will definitely make you think and it can be really upsetting – but at the same time, it’s important, and I really do recommend it to those who can read similar things.

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of The Deviants from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Time for Jas by Natasha Farrant

Related Posts: Book Review: After Iris |  Book Review: All About Pumpkin

Published 18th August 2016 by Faber and Faber.

29361182Goodreads Synopsis: Bluebell and her siblings are beginning a new school year. Suddenly everyone is freaking out. Twig has taken up violent team sports, poor Jas is being bullied by the ghastly Cupcake Crew and Blue has a big decision to make.

There are fights and crying fits. Halloween parades gone wrong and secret graffiti artists. Confusing friendships and life-changing choices. But there is also laughter and above all, there is love – and that’s what being a family is all about.

My Review: I’ve adored The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby series from the start, and was so excited to read this latest title. I think this is actually the last book, and I’m really sad to see this series coming to a close – the story of Bluebell and her family has been such a lovely story to follow!

The main thing I love about this whole series is the format in which the books are written – it’s half in Bluebell’s physical diary entries, and half written as transcripts of her filming, as she’s a budding documentary filmmaker and watches her family through her camera lens. I adore the switching styles, and it brings such a unique perspective to the story – it feels fun, refreshing and energetic.

It actually felt incredibly nostalgic to be revisiting the Gadbsy family again, as it’s been a while since the last book! They’re such a chaotic bunch of people, and it feels like I know them. I’ve never loved a fictional family so much. In this book, I loved how Farrant takes the time to explore how each of the children develop as they start a new year at school. Each of them is grappling with a new challenge – from Jas facing bullying, to Flora starting a drama school far away. If this is indeed the last book, I’m going to miss reading about them so much.

Farrant has squeezed so many important topics into this story – from family and peer pressure, to scary big changes. There’s also of course still the overhanging grief of Bluebell’s lost twin sister, which has been talked about throughout the series. In this book, the theme of grief isn’t as prominent – Blue addresses her sister a couple of times and it was really emotional to see how she’s developed and changed her life. Oh my god these characters feel so real.

The events in the book were really cute and heartwarming. I love how Farrant writes about some really emotional stuff whilst still managing to keep it upbeat, hopeful and hard not to smile at. It may have been just because I haven’t read this series in a while, but nothing completely blew me away – that’s not to say it wasn’t a great read at all, which it was. It was so enjoyable (and a lovely break from my boring A Level reading!) but not something that massively moved me.

Overall, Time for Jas was a really enjoyable read – perfect for middle grade readers as well as readers of younger YA. As with the rest of the series, it touches on many interesting and complex themes, and is simultaneously really engaging and funny too. I highly recommend this, and the whole series, if you haven’t yet gotten around to it! The Diaries of Bluebell Gadsby are undoubtedly one of the most heartwarming and loveable series out there.

My Rating:

three and a half

I received a copy of Time for Jas from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.