Wednesday, 29 May 2013

You Don't Know Me review

You Don't Know Me
Sophia Bennett
May 6th 2013
Chicken House Books

Sasha, Jodie, Nell and Rose never expected to be famous. They didn’t want to be. In fact, they wanted to keep their band a secret because it’s what they do when they’re being stupid together – dressing up and singing cheesy songs.

But someone has stolen a video they made. It’s online, and it’s been entered into a talent competition. And what’s more … it’s got 24 votes. In only a few hours it’s got 24 votes.

The girls are about to be faced with a big decision that could make them seriously famous.

Just not necessarily the way they hoped …

Sophia Bennett's books have a way of gripping me that I can't explain, especially because they're usually about things that on the surface I wouldn't usually be interested in (modelling, fashion, reality competitions ect), but I just cannot put them down.

As I'm pretty sure you already know, I am a huge fan of books about friendship. It's not something I like to admit because it sounds pretty lame when you say it out loud, but friendships are just great and I think it's brilliant when they're put center stage in a young adult novel, which 90% of the time has a strong romance aspect (I made that figure up, but it's probably pretty accurate.) There is a bit of romance in You Don't Know Me, but it's gentle and overshadowed by Rose and Sasha's friendship. Which was probably one of the most well done friendships I've read about.

You Don't Know Me revolves around four girls - Sasha, Rose, Jodie and Nell who accidentally end up on a sort of reality X-Factor style show called Killer Act as a girl band - the Manic Pixie Dream Girls. However, as tends to happen in books, things do not all go swimmingly and they're faced with the decision to drop one of their members in one of the earlier rounds of the show, and the rest of the book focuses on the repercussions of this decision as well as the general messed-up-edness of the music industry and reality shows and what they'll do to pump up the ratings and the drama.

As I've just said, I'm not that interested in the music industry or how badly some reality shows can treat contestants and how poor the contracts are for protection against things like cyber-bullying which occur as a result of the way in which the show has edited footage to present people, but I could hardly put You Don't Know Me down. I felt so bad for Sasha and the way that she was treated by complete strangers for one mistake she made, especially because we get to read it from her point of view and we know the whole time that she had the best intentions and just wasn't really thinking. But I also really admired her strength and determination to get through it, even when it was really tough, and I liked seeing her relationship with Jodie and Nell get stronger, too, as a result of Rose not really being around much for some of the book.

I genuinely felt for Rose, too. Even when the other three weren't always quite on good terms with her, it was still pretty obvious that she wasn't happy with her circumstances, either, and that she really needed a better support system than she did have. But I was also glad that her success wasn't all wasted and that the music industry as a whole wasn't completely shown as being some horrible horrible place, thanks nice old rockstars like Jim Fisher who live in big mansions with awesome studios and who I want to be friends with (but who is, sadly, fictional.) I think it's important that with all of these problematic industries like music and modelling to show both sides - that yes, they can suck, but that they're also sometimes not completely entirely awful. (Though really, they both need to sort their shit out really, don't they.)

I don't really know what that paragraph was about, but I think there was a couple of points in there somewhere. The sort of romance between Sasha and Dan was really sweet, too, and I'd have liked to have seen more of the rest of the people from Call of Duty (another local band which Dan's a part of) a bit more, too, but we can't have it all. ;) I also really liked how it all worked out and that it was more complex than it first seemed, not just being a romantic subplot for romantic subplots sake.

You Don't Know Me was just fabulous from start to finish and even if it doesn't sound entirely like your cup of tea, I'm pretty certain you'll probably still like it anyway. I can't wait for Sophia Bennett's next book! Think I'll just have to read the Beads series in the meantime.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Letterbox Love #34

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

For review:
The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen (*faints* As you well know, I'm a huge Sarah Dessen fan and I can't wait to get into this! Thank you Puffin!)

Gloss by Marilyn Kaye (don't know much about this, but it sounds like a fun, sweet book. Thank you Macmillan!)

Spy For the Queen of Scots by Theresa Breslin (I've been curious about this since I first heard about it, so thank you Random House for the copy!)

Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan (I'm not a huge fan of Andrea Cremer, but I do love David Levithan and the idea of invisibility so I think I'll like this book. Thank you Puffin!)

That's it for me this week! What did you get in your letterbox? :)

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Angelfall review

Susan Ee
May 23rd 2013
Hodder & Stoughton

The official print edition of the internet phenomenon. Already over 8,000 five star reader reviews. (And counting.)

It's been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain. 

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. 

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back...

*Not actually spoilery, but could be considered as such, so beware  if you don't want any minor spoilerage.*

I'd heard about some of the hype for Angelfall when it was first published and it felt like everyone was reading it, but I hadn't really been that interested in it or knew what it was actually about until I was very kindly sent a copy. While I did enjoy it a lot, and I couldn't put it down, I don't think that it lived up to the crazy amount of hype that it had/that people are now trying to recreate.

The concept of Angelfall and the world building was really good and interesting - it was different from the other sort of apocalypse books that I've read and the angel books that I've read, and I can totally see where the comparisons to The Road are coming from and it was probably the part of the book which engaged me the most (which is really surprising considering how much I dislike The Road - though I think that's mostly because we did it in English Lit and NOTHING HAPPENS IN IT ugh. Sorry. I'll appreciate it when I'm older.) Back to Angelfall!

I appreciated the grittiness and brutality of the world that Ee has created, it felt a lot more post apocalyptic than other books of a similar type that I've read lately and I really enjoyed feeling genuinely quite scared at times. As you may know, I love scary books where horrible creepy messed up things happen and boy does Angelfall have a lot of creepy messed up things in it. It was gross, and I loved it.

However, most of my issues with the book came from the characters. I feel as if I would've enjoyed the book a lot more if it was about different people or if there hadn't been any romance in it. I liked Penryn, but at the same time I couldn't really get a grip on who she was. If the apocalypse had happened only 6 weeks ago, would she already have adapted to life with angels attacking and the world kind of ending that quickly? And that well? There was very little conflict in herself about the situation that she and the world had ended up in, and I don't know, it felt like they would've needed more time to adjust? I would've liked to have seen more of what she had been like before. Though I loved her drive and her determination to save her sister.

Raffe was really my main problem with the book. He was your typical sort of YA paranormal love interest, I suppose, and there wasn't anything actively wrong with him per se, I just thought that it would have been way more interesting to read if he wasn't a superhot teenage looking angel that would inevitably lead to a romance. I bought Penryn and Raffe's friendship and I really liked that, but then the romance kicked in from basically nowhere! It's like one minute there's no romantic tension and the next minute something happens to Penryn and he just goes batshit about trying to save and stuff and I'm just sat there like 'what the hell?!' Why can they never just be friends?! But that could have just been me who felt that so if you are looking for a post-apocalyptic-romancy-angel-y sort of book, then you'll really love this.

I will say this though: I could hardly put it down. It's short and the chapters are short and fast paced, and it was just completely gripping even if I didn't really understand or like what was happening, which I think is generally a good thing.

I think I will read the next book, because I'm curious about what's going to happen next and I do like Penryn and I'm invested in her story and this post-apocalyptic world, but I personally feel like the hype around it has let it down a bit and it didn't fully meet my expectations.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Skin Deep review

Skin Deep
Laura Jarratt
March 5th 2012
Electric Monkey

Ugly people don't have feelings. They're not like everyone else. They don't notice if you stare at them and turn away. And if they did notice, it wouldn't hurt them. They're not like real people. Or that's what I used to think. Before I learned...

After the car crash that leaves her best friend dead, Jenna is permanently scarred. She struggles to rebuild her life, but every stare in the street, every time she looks in the mirror, makes her want to retreat further from the world. Until she meets Ryan. Ryan's a traveller. When he and his mother moor their narrow boat on the outskirts of a village, she tells him this time it will be different. He doesn't believe her; he can't imagine why this place shouldn't be as unwelcoming as the rest. Until he meets Jenna. But as Jenna and Ryan grow closer, repercussions from the crash continue to reverberate through the community. And then a body is found...

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I first picked up Skin Deep, but I'd heard so many good things about it that I knew I just had to read it. What I found was a sort of British Perfect Chemistry/Pushing The Limits type book that I think I may have enjoyed even better than them.

Skin Deep manages to be intense and emotional and beautiful without overstepping the cheese which I was really impressed with. I rarely if ever rolled my eyes at Jenna and Ryan which is surprising because even in my favourite romances I roll my eyes frequently (what?! I have to maintain my high levels of cynicism at all times otherwise I'll melt.) I actually really enjoyed getting to see their relationship develop even though Jenna is only 14 (and no, I'm not a judgmental old woman.) It was actually pretty sweet and it was a fairly slow progression from friendship to love.

The fact that the book was told in dual perspectives also really made the story flow better for me, I think. It just seems right for these kinds of books to be told with two narrators so that you get to see how both the main characters are feeling and what they think of each other and what their lives are like and whatnot. It was interesting to get the contrasts between Jenna and Ryan's lives - Ryan having been judged for being a traveller in most of the places he's gone and having to look after his mother who sometimes has Bipolar episodes, and Jenna having to cope with life newly scarred from a terrible car accident in which her best friend died. The dual narratives really fleshed out the individual characters as well as helping the reader to understand the bond between these two and why it's so strong and important.

The backbone of the story is really Jenna and Ryan's growth as people and their relationship, but there is also kind of a murder-mystery towards the latter end of the book. I won't say too much about it, but I really liked that this aspect was put in, too, to tie everything in with Jenna's accident and the judgement Ryan gets because he's a traveller. I thought it was clever and helped to bring another dimension to the book.

I think that Skin Deep really treated stereotypes about things like Bipolar disorder and travellers really well without coming across as preachy by just making them all real people. It didn't feel like a 'this is why you're wrong for judging people by their background/looks/ect' book which it could have really easily been, and yet it still shows the prejudice that people face because of things like this just by things like Jenna's parents not wanting her to be around Ryan's mother because of her disorder. The balance really impressed me and I think that it got to the point without ever having to explicitly state the point and tell other people that they're wrong, you know?

So, yeah. I really enjoyed Skin Deep and I would recommend if you're a fan of books like those by Simone Elkeles or Katie McGarry and you want an extra degree of realism and a bit less cheese. A really, really great book.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Letterbox Love #33

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray (I finally caved and bought this despite hearing mixed things - I hope I'll like it!)
Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt (I am about 100 pages from the end of this and I am really enjoying it.)

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Doll Bones by Holly Black + Doll Bones postcards (A very Middle-Grade review week for me!  Excited about both of these. Thank you Random House and HarperCollins!)

What did you get this week?

Saturday, 11 May 2013

If You Find Me review

If You Find Me
Emily Murdoch
May 3rd 2013


A broken-down camper hidden deep in a national forest is the only home fifteen-year-old Carey can remember. The trees keep guard over her threadbare existence, with the one bright spot being Carey's younger sister, Jenessa, who depends on Carey for her very survival. All they have is each other, as their mentally ill mother comes and goes with greater frequency. Until that one fateful day their mother disappears for good, and the girls are found by their father, a stranger, and taken to re-enter the "normal" life of school, clothes and boys. 

Now, Carey must come to terms with the truth of why their mother spirited them away ten years ago, while haunted by a past that won't let her go ... a dark past that hides many a secret, including the reason Jenessa hasn't spoken a word in over a year. Carey knows she must keep her sister close, and her secrets even closer, or risk watching her new life come crashing down.

If You Find Me is a really incredible book about family, love, identity and survival and I'm trying to think of another book to compare it to to give you an idea about what it's like, but I can't. I don't think that I've read a book like it that tells this sort of story so well.

My favourite part of this book was probably the writing. Everything about it was perfect - Carey's voice especially. It felt really solid and real as well as at the same time being kind of dreamy and beautiful. The way things are described is done in such a way that just felt really new, and it didn't feel like I was just reading a bunch of cliches like it can sometimes do. I think that this was mainly because we're seeing our world through Carey's eyes - though the eyes of someone who doesn't know what a lot of this stuff is and is experiencing all these things for the first time, and I just really enjoyed getting her perspective.

Also, the relationship between Nessa and Carey was incredible. I mean, you'd expect it to be after they've spent however many years in the woods with pretty much just each other to rely on, but still. And not just that, but the healing that was done between Carey and her father after having lived through fourteen years of her life thinking he was a monster that she had to be saved from, that he was the reason her mother took her. I was worried that it wouldn't be resolved by the end, but I didn't need to worry as even though the ending was kind of open ended in a way, everything that mattered was resolved.

I had been a bit worried about Ryan, Carey's sort of love interest, because even though the first part of the book had been all about her, it felt like her thing with Ryan was going to overshadow that which possibly would've annoyed because, well, I don't really know, because I just wanted it to be about Carey, I guess? But it was actually pretty sweet and interesting to see it develop and to see how that changed her and helped her adjust better, I suppose.

The way in which the book was structured did feel a bit jarring at times, not because there's, like, any huge change in narration or anything, but just because the book is split into 3 parts and each part is very thematic, which I know it pretty much the usual. But it was just that each part felt like it was solidly about one or two things until those things had been resolved and then we wouldn't hear about it the next part, you know? Apart from the things that were important across the whole book like the White Star night and that sort of thing. Like, for example, the whole second part was really about Carey at school, and meeting Pixie and Ryan, and then there was hardly really a mention of Ryan in the next part. But that may just be me and it didn't really detract from my enjoyment of the book.

There is definitely more that I wanted to say about If You Find Me, but my brain is currently dead and I can't remember it, besides, I think I've got the point across that it's very very good you should definitely at least consider reading it. It's a beautiful, raw and very emotional story but it is so worth it, every damn page.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Letterbox Love #32

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)


Lockwood & Co by Jonathon Stroud (This was a lovely surprise! Very much looking forward to getting my teeth into it.)


Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan (I have finally gotten around to getting myself a copy of this book! Really excited to read it, even though I'm 99% certain it will break my heart and ruin my life.)

What did you get this week in your letterbox?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Monthly Round-Up: April

Hello! And so, another month ends. I'm still sort of figuring stuff out with the round-up posts and this is only going to be a quick one, seeing as I'm meant to be on a bit of a break and whatnot.

Books read in April: 

The Pirate's Wish by Cassandra Rose Clarke
Nobody's Girl by Sarra Manning
Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson
Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt
Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting
Angelfall by Susan Ee
Touch of Power by Maria V Snyder
Kite Spirit by Sita Brahmachari

Total: 8

A pretty good month for me reading wise! I started off really well because of the holidays, but since I went back to college I haven't had half as much time to read and the weather's been really nice lately, and do you ever get that thing where it's sunny and you just don't want to do anything? Yeah... I'm just trying to come up with lame excuses for my laziness...

Book of the Month (without a doubt):

Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson 

Reviews Posted:

So, I've not really been up to much else this April, and this next month I'm going to spending revising... Not really got much to actually say that might be of any interest that is happening in my life right now! I am a very boring person with a very boring life.

But how about that Doctor Who, eh? Would it be too far to say that I think there have actually been a few decent episodes? Last week's was especially good, though what was up with that ending again! Why oh why can they never get the endings right... And Game of Thrones! I can't believe I'm even talking about the two in the same paragraph. I love DW, I (probably) always will, but GoT is just so much better. JAMIEEEEE!

Also regarding the tellybox, Parks & Recreation, possibly one of the funniest, most loveable tv shows in all the world, has been airing in the UK on BBC4 (Weds, 10pm) and if you haven't been watching then you're missing out (and you really should because it's a great show and everyone should watch it.)

Happy May Day!
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