Tag Archives: 2016 release

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.

Book Review: Wonderboy by Nicole Burstein

Published August 2016 by Andersen Press.

27430362Goodreads Synopsis: A funny and frank superhero story set in the world of Othergirl.
Joseph ‘Wilco’ Wilkes is one of life’s loser’s – he’s picked on, pushed around, and bullied by the rugby boys at the posh private school he attends on a scholarship. But his life is about to change: Wilco learns he can move things with his mind. Will this be his chance to play the hero, get the girl and finally stand up for himself? Or are things just going to come crashing down around his head? Becoming a proper hero will be quite the leap of faith…

My Review: I absolutely adored Othergirl, Nicole Burstein’s debut novel – so when I discovered her second book was coming out, I was eager to give it a go!

I dove into this thinking it was a sequel to Burstein’s debut – but it’s in fact simply set in the same world as Othergirl – a world much like ours, but with global network of superheroes called the Vigils. Wonderboy can be read as a standalone novel – though, to appreciate a couple of scenes even more, it’s definitely worth reading Burstein’s first book too!

I really loved reading about the alternate world this is set in. Burstein visibly draws on her love of X-Men, but her universe is hardly a knock-off of the franchise; it’s really enjoyable and brilliant fun – from each of the Vigils, to their secret operations and offices. I love how the classic elements of a superhero story have been taken straight from all my favourite comics, and reworked to create a fantastic novel: it’s not cliche, it feels like a fresh new perspective on classic superheroes. A homage to comics. 🙂

I love that, despite Wonderboy being a brilliantly adventurous story, it’s still down to earth in the sense that it addresses some serious topics as well. Quite cleverly, when Joseph reveals his identity, it mirrors coming out in a couple of scenes, which I thought was actually a very cool and important thing to do, especially for an audience of young readers. Joseph’s life also really well explored, and we learn lots of things about his life that are the reason why he is bullied; for instance, how his mum doesn’t have very much money, so he’s in a private school on a scholarship that is looked down upon.I really liked how Burstein wrote about this so realistically.

It is so hard to not love the characters. Of both books Burstein has written, I have adored all of the protagonists. They’re just fantastic!  Joseph was really relatable, I think, and such a well fleshed-out character. Although we didn’t see very much of him ‘in action,’ (this is more of a story about him discovering his powers) I grew to love reading about him.

Overall, Wonderboy was a really brilliant read, from an author I know will be only be gaining more and more attention in the world of fiction. Nicole is a fantastic writer, and has crafted yet another enjoyable story in her instant-classic superhero world. Fingers crossed there’ll be another title soon!

My Rating:

four

I received a copy of Wonderboy from the publisher, via Lovereading4kids, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

An Interview With Calista Lynne: Author of We Awaken

Today I’m delighted to be sharing my interview with Calista Lynne, whose new title We Awaken was released in July. I was really interested in this book as soon as I’d heard about it, as not only does the magic-laced contemporary story sound really interesting, but this is also one of very few titles I’ve seen out there where asexuality is a main aspect.

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THE BIBLIOMANIAC: Hello! Firstly, could you give a quick overview of your latest book, We Awaken, is about?

CALISTA LYNNE: The main characters in We Awaken are two asexuals in a F/F relationship. One of them is a creator of dreams who helps the other girl try to get into the Manhattan Dance Conservatory. It is YA Magical Realism, so there is a fair amount of conflict and adventure, but at the heart of it all, this is a tale of romance.

30341730Was there anything in particular that sparked the idea for the story?

The characters came from the fact that I wanted to write asexual representation, but the plotline came from a variety of places. Fairytales, a sonnet I never wrote, stories friends told me at parties. I had a friend growing up who had a fake license so she could rent cars underage and go to auditions in the city. Shockingly enough, that led me to make the main character a dancer.

What was your writing process like for We Awaken?

It was a bit more structured than my current writing process. I had long lists of scenes and events and wrote them as chronologically as I could without getting writers block. The first scene that came to me was one in the middle, though, so that was my anchor. There was also a fair amount of screaming at my laptop screen.

Did you always plan on having a supernatural twist in your writing?

I like to pretend that I can write in any genre, but fantastical elements just come to me better. Recently I abandoned two completed drafts of a contemporary romance because it didn’t feel right. Now I’m working on a fantasy and it is coming out so much better. I write whatever plots come to me and, for some reason, they always seem to involve creators of dreams or fairies or something supernatural. It’s not even planned it’s just in my nature, I suppose.calista-lynne

What made me really interested in We Awaken was that your main characters are asexual, which I think should be represented a lot more in YA. Did the asexuality aspect of your novel just happen as you wrote, or did you have the intention of representing minority characters?

I definitely had the intention of including minority characters going in. My goal was to write the novel I wish I had growing up and show that asexuals aren’t broken. I wrote the representation I wanted to see in the media. Although I will admit, originally there was only one asexual character in the book but during rewrites I changed it to two.

And, lastly – do you have any book recommendations?

This is a difficult question! Tragically, I don’t know many books with asexual characters- feel free to send recs my way- so I can’t offer up any titles in that regard, but I do highly recommend every book by Neil Gaiman. American Gods is my personal favorite. Honestly it’s written so cleverly it almost makes me angry. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz is my favorite LGBTQ title. I just recommend you read whatever makes you happy and don’t let anyone give you shit about it.

Thanks very much for visiting the blog, Calista! (And I second the Aristotle and Dante recommendation. That book is beautiful)

Are you interested in We Awaken? You can find more details about it over on Goodreads – and it’s out now from Harmony Ink Press.

 

Book Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

Published 9th June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

29604253Goodreads Synopsis: When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. All she has been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…. wasn’t just an accident.

With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?

My Review: With Malice arrived in the post by surprise, but I was was desperate to start reading it after looking into what it was about. Psychological thrillers are right up my street, so I was really sure I’d find this great!

The plot is centered around Jill, who wakes up in a hospital with no memory of the last six weeks. She discovers that she was involved in an accident that the press is not obsessed with – but was the accident her fault? Is she to blame for the tragic outcome?

I’ll get the slightly negative part of this review out of the way – I couldn’t like Jill. She had many likeable traits, but there were so many reasons why I just couldn’t feel for her. It meant I felt a little distanced from the story – though not entirely, it was incredibly addictive. Maybe it’s because of the way she was portrayed by the media excerpts in the book, maybe it was because she didn’t seem to mourn after the accident – she just seemed a little two dimensional to me, though that’s not to say everyone else will think that. I’m sure many readers will engage with her.

I really did enjoy the story, because it’s full of many unexpected twists, especially towards the end. It feels like a very classic mystery, with modern elements. Whenever I wasn’t reading, I was coming up with theories as to what could have caused the accident!

I really enjoyed the way in which the story is told. It isn’t told in modern day extracts and then flashbacks, like I’d expected. Instead, we follow Jill in the present day, and between chapters are extracts from various news channels, witness interviews, and blogs, which allow the reader to see into the mystery from multiple perspectives – characters close to Jill, hateful media perspectives, and anonymous blog trolls. It was really interesting to see the story told from lots of different perspectives – it also revealed lots of little hints and different theories, which kept me hooked.

Overall, With Malice was a really brilliant and addictive read. It’s the perfect book if you’re looking for a thrilling read for this summer. I really enjoyed the story, and although I had a couple of problems with the characters, I’m sure many people will love it.

My Rating:

three and a half

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

Book Review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

Published 1st June 2016 by Hot Key Books.

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Goodreads Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she’s got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill . . . and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

My Review: I was sent this book by surprise, and although I wasn’t entirely sure if it would be something I’d enjoy, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Sarra Manning’s other books, so I was eager to give it a go!

London Belongs to Us is a brilliant tribute to London. It’s set over one crazy, eventful night, and roughly each chapter is set within a different iconic place – from Crystal Palace to Chelsea – and with each new change in scenery brings a little chapter introduction with facts about the place. It’s written almost like a love letter to London; all of the research, and attention to detail that’s gone into describing the locations. I really enjoyed reading it, as there is so much emphasis on the setting, and being a Londoner (or near enough) I adored the familiarity and how easily I could envision so much of the book.

The story is hectic, as it starts in Crystal Palace Park on a late evening, and finishes the next morning – with so much happening in between. Sunny unexpectedly receives a photo of her boyfriend with another girl, and a wild chase across London ensues to solve the story – along the way, there’s all sorts of craziness, from mopeds to nightclubs and concerts to The Ritz. It was fast paced and adventurous; so much fun to read, and it’s short enough to enjoy in a day. It’s a silly thing to pick up on, but I did question the plausibility of some of the wild things that happened… To think that some people roughly my age did some of those things, and all in one night, is crazy 😀

One thing I noticed about the story, and really appreciated, was that the topic of racism was brought up. Sunny, the main character, is mixed race, and over the course of the book multiple comments are made by other characters about her colour of her skin, making snap judgements and rude stereotypical statements. I think the way the author wrote about these was incredibly realistic and I like the way the topic was treated; it’s something I’d love to see a lot more in books.

Overall, London Belongs to Us was a fun book, and one that’s perfect for you if you’re looking for a short but enjoyable summer story… Or an ideal London train read! I really enjoyed reading about Sunny and Emmeline, and the ridiculous things they did all in one night. It’s very quirky and very random – a great tribute to an equally quirky and random city.

My Rating:

three and a half

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

Book Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Published February 2016 by Macmillan.

25437747Goodreads Synopsis: I was brave. She was reckless. We were trouble.
Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting.

Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be.

But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

My Review: Beautiful Broken Things had been on my to-read list ever since I saw its beautiful cover in late 2015! I’m very much a ‘judge a book by its cover’ type. I actually went into the book knowing very little about it, other than that it was about friendship, and by my guessing, would be quite a sad read.

It took me a while to read this because it was the first book I read after exams; the last two months have been a massive reading slump and I’ve been so out of the loop, and out of the reading mindset. However, on a long bus journey the other day, I devoured over half of the book. Sara Barnard really draws the reader in, and gets them totally engrossed in the story.

Beautiful Broken Things follows the story of Caddy, who is living what she feels is a boring, average life. When her best friend Rosie introduces her to Suzanne, a new girl to Brighton, everything begins to change. Suzanne went through some horrible things before moving to Brighton with her aunt, and Caddy finds herself drawn to her, wanting to be there for her. Events begin to spiral out of control – and nothing’s the same.

The premise of the story was brilliant. Even though I did think the story was a little predictable, I still found myself feeling for the characters are the story played out. I loved the setting; it feels like Barnard’s debut is like a love letter to Brighton, highlighting its beautiful places in the pivotal scenes of the story.

The characters are all really well developed and felt very real to me, but for some reason I just didn’t connected with them like I’d expected to. Especially Suzanne. It’s not that I explicitly didn’t like the protagonists, but some of the decisions they made just didn’t add up for me and I felt a bit detached from them. I feel like if I’d grown to love them more, this book would have deeply impacted me much more.

Overall, Beautiful Broken Things is a really great debut novel, and one I’d certainly recommend. It’s a riveting contemporary story, with some characters that I’m sure most will find very memorable. Sadly, something just didn’t click for me, whilst I was reading – however, it was still a brilliant read 🙂

My Rating:

three

I purchased a copy of Beautiful Broken Things.