Saturday, 30 July 2016

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Series: Normal Series #1
Pages: 448
Format: Kindle
Publisher: Usborne
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic, Mental Health
Release Date: August 1st 2015
Buy The Book: Book Depository

All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

My Thoughts:
This is a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up for a long time, but just hadn’t managed to get around to. But this month I joined a fabulous group of ladies who formed The Book Club, and our pick for July’s read was Am I Normal Yet? So finally I was persuaded to check it out of the library and get it read. And oh boy, did I wish I’d picked it up sooner. 

This book follows sixteen-year-old Evie who suffers from OCD. She’s finally making progress and is lessening her medication, and all she wants is to be normal. When she goes on a date with a cute guy from college, the night doesn’t exactly go as she’d hoped. Instead she finds herself talking to her childhood friend Lottie, and her friend Amber. The girls bond instantly and together they end up forming The Spinster Club so that they can reclaim the word ‘spinster’ and get together for feminist discussions. 

I am so grateful that this book exists. I can’t thank Holly Bourne enough for writing it. And I desperately wish this book had been around when I was sixteen. The discussions that these amazing girls have are A+ and had my feminist-self cheering. Their meeting about periods especially, oh my goodness, it made me so happy to see periods openly discussed in a YA novel. Everything the girls talked about was so unbelievably on point. It’s also great way to introduce young people to feminism and what it truly means. 
 
Evie’s struggle with OCD is such an important part of the story. It’s written openly and honestly, and doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of mental illness. This is something I’m always looking for more of in YA because unfortunately I have read books that have glamourized anxiety, and I’m thrilled that this book did everything right. Evie was a character who I could relate to in some instances, especially with her concerns over illness and disease. I was also able to learn a lot from her. One of the things this book is great at doing is explaining mental health in a way that doesn’t feel preachy. 

The characters are great throughout this book and their dialogue is authentic for the YA genre. I adored watching Evie’s friendship with Amber and Lottie grow, and seeing her learn to trust them by the end of it. Like I said before, their discussions were brilliant, but I also loved their everyday scenes where we got to see them react to college and parties. Evie also has a few dating disasters throughout the story. Whilst the events with Ethan made me giggle, her experiences with Guy were a little darker. Oli was an interesting character and I was keen to get to know him better. I felt sorry for him for how Evie treated him, but I can also understand her reasoning behind her decision, even if I didn’t agree with it. 

I’m so thankful that I finally got the chance to read this amazing and insightful book, especially with my fellow book club members, and I’m officially hooked on this series! We’re hosting a Twitter discussion tonight between 6-7pm GMT, so if you want to get involved, feel free to join us @TheBookClubs with the hashtag #BCChat.

Royal Rating:

 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

REVIEW: Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Genre: Music, Romance
Release Date: July 28th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

When sixteen-year-old aspiring photographer Charlie Bloom receives the invitation of her dreams - to take backstage photos for chart-topping boyband Fire&Lights - it's an offer she can't refuse. Overnight she is launched into a world of bloggers, paparazzi and backstage bickering and soon becomes caught between the dark charms of the band's lead singer and songwriter, Gabriel West, and his boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson.

Charlie's growing notoriety makes her a daily target for bitchy bully Aimee Watts and her clique, and though she seeks comfort in her best friend, Melissa, her life spirals ever further out of control.

As her connection with Gabriel deepens, Charlie stumbles upon a spine-tingling truth: all the songs he has written for Fire&Lights' debut album are, impossibly, linked to her and her past. How can this be? What dark secrets has he uncovered? Why is Melissa acting so strangely all the time? And will this rivalry between Gabriel and Olly eventually tear the band apart?
 

My Thoughts:
Boyband lit. I’ve read a few books that fall into this genre before, and honestly? I’ve not really enjoyed them. I often find the plot quite predictable and the band too cliché and cheesy, and I was worried that I’d never find a book that would get me into this genre. But then I read Songs About a Girl, got utterly sucked into the plot, and fell in love with a fictional boyband. 

This story follows Charlie after she gets a Facebook message from Olly Samson, a former pupil at her high school who also happens to be one quarter of the world’s hottest boyband, Fire&Lights. He’s seen some of Charlie’s photography from a gig and invites her to take some backstage pictures of the boys for their fan club’s website. Charlie, however, has approximately zero interest in Fire&Lights, despite everyone in her school being head over heels for them, including her best friend Melissa. Although she originally declines the offer, fearing she’s not a good enough photographer, Melissa accepts the invitation for her and soon Charlie finds herself thrown into the world of Fire&Lights. 

I’m honestly shocked at how much I ended up adoring this fictional band. Olly, Yuki, Aiden, and the mysterious Gabriel make up the four members of Fire&Lights, and they were written beautifully. I adored their fun interactions and their backstage antics, and it made me feel like I was sitting right alongside Charlie, behind the camera, observing every minute of it. You’re not asking me to choose a fave, but I’m going to anyway: YUKI IS EVERYTHING. His personality was perfect and his humour was entertaining throughout the story.   

Although I’d usually find Charlie’s story completely unbelievable, a seemingly average teen being taken under the wings of a world famous boyband, this story is written in a way that makes you believe that it’s completely possible. What was also great was the way Charlie discovered a connection between her own life and Gabriel’s. There’s so much more to the story than you originally think when starting this book. 

Whilst the story is a lot of fun, I was pleasantly surprised to see some darker themes included. When Charlie’s identity is discovered, the hate and abuse she receives from fans are vile and awful to read, and the worst part is that this genuinely happens in real life. I’m glad the book didn’t shy away from the harsh realities of being in the spotlight and dealing with everyone knowing who you are. 

Once I started reading, I honestly couldn’t stop and managed to fly through the book in three days. The pacing was perfect and there was never a dull moment. The dialogue was also spot on, especially Melissa’s fangirling sessions. Any fangirl or fanboy reading this book will smile at Melissa’s reactions to everything! The ending was a fantastic cliff-hanger and definitely has me eager for more – WHEN WILL THE SEQUEL BE IN MY LIFE? I’m much looking forward to reading more about Charlie Bloom and my new favourite fictional band. 

Royal Rating:

Thursday, 21 July 2016

REVIEW: Tell Us Something True by Dana Reinhardt

Pages: 208
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Rock The Boat
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Release Date: July 20th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Seventeen-year-old River doesn’t know what to do with himself when Penny, the girl he adores, breaks up with him. He lives in LA, where nobody walks anywhere, and Penny was his ride; he never bothered getting a license. He’s stuck. He’s desperate. Okay . . . he’s got to learn to drive.

But first, he does the unthinkable—he starts walking. He stumbles upon a support group for teens with various addictions. He fakes his way into the meetings, and begins to connect with the other kids, especially an amazing girl. River wants to tell the truth, but he can’t stop lying, and his tangle of deception may unravel before he learns how to handle the most potent drug of all: true love.

My Thoughts:
Tell Us Something True starts with River taking his girlfriend, Penny, on what is supposed to be a romantic date in a pedal boat, but then Penny tells him that she wants to break up, and River is left utterly confused. Refusing to be driven home by her, River decides to walk back and stumbles upon a group for people who need a second chance. When he realises that the teens in the group are all trying to overcome a variety of serious problems from stealing to drugs, River panics and fakes an addiction to marijuana. 

I really, really wanted to like this book more than I did. The blurb made the plot and River sound super interesting, but the plot fell flat and I failed to find anything likeable about River. The main problems I had with this book stemmed from River himself. There were a lot of issues about his character that didn’t sit right with me, starting with the fact that he was constantly showing up at Penny’s house after she’d broken up with him, determined to win her back even though she wasn’t comfortable with it. Break ups are difficult and upsetting, yes, but River didn’t come across as being genuinely hurt to me. It just felt like he was being whiny and selfish. He also made various comments throughout the book that made me cringe. Characters are meant to be flawed, they wouldn’t be interesting or believable if they were perfect. But you’re meant to root for them to get their redemption. I didn’t root for River, and by the end of the book I still didn’t feel like he’d redeemed himself.

Also, the issues River had over his father not being in his life felt forced, as though it had just been written in to give him more of an excuse for his behaviour. It had no real impact in the story and I didn’t feel River’s emotions over the situation. However, I did enjoy the scenes he shared with his step-father and also his younger sister. Those scenes made River feel more believable and showed a softer side to him that I wished we’d been able to see more of. 

What I did love about this story was how it showed teens getting genuine help for their problems instead of romanticising them to seem edgy. Some of the characters who went to the meetings, Daphne, Christopher and Mason, were really fascinating and I would have loved the chance to learn more about them, but they faded into the background as the book mostly focused on River wanting to jump straight into a new romance with Daphne. 

There was so much potential for this book to expand on the story beyond River’s broken heart. Whilst I knew going into it that the story was about a break-up, I didn’t expect so much of the book to be about River pining after Penny. There were some funny moments and the minor characters were great, but overall I don’t think this story was for me. 

Royal Rating:

 

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

REVIEW: Surface Tension by S. R. Atkinson

Series: Siren Anthology #2
Pages: 269
Format: eBook
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: July 17th 2016
Buy The Book: Amazon


Santiago escaped kidnapping, torture, and near death last time she was in the ocean. Now back on the safety of land she resumes life as normal, but finds she is plagued with lingering effects of the Sirens’ brutality and thoughts about the world under the surface. When she finds shocking information in her abuela’s journals, Santi must make a choice that will decide not only her fate, but also that of millions of others.

Will Santi choose to follow her destiny and return to the ocean to face the demons of her past? And what of her budding feelings for her long-time best friend Rogan? The only thing certain is that Santi's decisions will change the course of her life forever.

My Thoughts:
This is the second book in the Siren Anthology, and it picks up a little while after the events that happened in Breathing Water, which I reviewed on my blog here. Santiago is back on land and spending time with her mother. After the Siren attack, Santiago’s hearing hasn’t been the same on land and the damage may be permanent. 

As with the first book, Surface Tension splits the story into two parts. It follows Santiago as she continues to decide where she wants to spend her life, on land or in the water, and it also follows a character named Carmen a few decades earlier than Santi’s story. Carmen is a character we’ve never met before but she turns out to be a hugely important part of the story. 

She is a Serra with a mission to bring the heir of King Tullus, who we read about in the previous book, down under the water as only his heir has the power to kill Zitja and end her Siren reign of terror. But when she meets the heir, her feelings for him develop and she finds herself torn between her two worlds. As with Nephira’s story in the first book, I found myself anticipating Carmen’s story a lot more than I did Santiago’s. Carmen’s side of the story was utterly captivating and I admired her courage and determination. 

What I did enjoy about Santi’s story this time around was that we got to see her spend more time with her mother, and I loved the bond between the two of them. I also enjoyed reading about Santiago deal with her hearing loss after the Siren attack, and how she was comping with her life afterwards. But once again, I didn’t enjoy the romance between her and Rogan as much as I wanted to. I’m failing to feel that spark between them. However, I was interested in learning more about the Bonding of Serras and further discovering how their Ku feels. 

Rogan is a character I feel we’ve only gotten to half know. We only know about his life through the eyes of Santiago and so his story seems to constantly revolve around her. He also comes across as quite serious most of the time, and what I’d love more than anything is to see him and Santi have some more light-hearted and maybe fun moments amongst everything that goes on. Then maybe I’d feel a little more connected to them and their relationship. What I did love was the flashbacks we got to see of their younger years under the water, showing us why these two characters feel the way about each other that they do. 

As with Breathing Water, there were parts of the story I couldn’t quite connect to, but other parts that I really adored. The world building in the series really is fantastic and very cleverly thought out. I enjoyed getting to learn more about the mythology of the Serras and their underwater world, and I’m interested to see how the characters move on from the shocking events at the end of Surface Tension.

Royal Rating:
I don't have a graphic for three and a half crowns, but that's my overall rating for this book!

 

Thursday, 7 July 2016

BLOG TOUR: Two Summers by Aimee Friedman Review

I'm super excited to be the fourth stop on the blog tour for Two Summers by Aimee Friedman, which is out TODAY! Be sure to check out my thoughts on the book below.

Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Release Date: July 7th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository


This summer, Summer's saying goodbye to her best friend, her secret crush and her single mom and is off on a trip of a lifetime to visit her estranged artist father in France.

But right before she's about to board, her phone rings. Should she answer it? Either way, it's going to be a summer Summer will never forget.


My Thoughts:
Two Summers is a clever contemporary that asks the big ‘what if?’ question. It’s about what different scenarios could happen from one split-second decision. When we meet Summer Everett, she’s at the airport, ready to board a plane to France to spend the summer with her dad. But then she gets a phone call and from that point on, the book splits between the two scenarios that could occur: the one in which she picks up the phone, and the one in which she ignores it and boards the plane. So Summer’s summer is literally split into two, and we get to read what could happen throughout each of them. 

In France, Summer has to live with Vivienne and her daughter Eloise, who are living at her father’s house. She also gets to meet Jacque, the gorgeous French guy of her dreams. Meanwhile back at home, Summer enrols on her aunt’s photography course and ends up finally getting to know her long-time crush, Hugh Tyson, who is an absolute sweetheart. 

Despite two different love interests in the two separate summers, romance isn’t the main focus of this book, which was a pleasant surprise and extremely refreshing! This story dealt a lot with Summer’s changing relationship with her best friend Ruby, who had made her summer plans based around the fact that Summer wouldn’t be at home. It shows how friends who have been so close for so long sometimes need to take a step back to truly appreciate what they have. 
 
Another main focus of this story is family. Summer learns some things about her parents’ split that she previously had no clue about, and I loved how the book showed Summer learning how deal with that. Her relationship with her mother and her aunt was touching, and I loved the scenes between them. 

Summer was a really fun character and I loved her narration of the story, especially when she got nervous in front of Hugh. I also have to mention how much I adored Hugh himself. He was so shy! I love shy guys in YA, there really aren’t enough of them. It was sweet to see the two of them finally work through their nerves and get to know each other properly. 

Another thing I loved about this book was Summer discovering her passion for photography. As someone who is rarely apart from her own camera, I adored how Summer learned that she had her own style when it came to taking pictures, and that this could be more than just a hobby for her. 

Two Summers really is a perfect summer read. With gorgeous settings and glorious characters, it’s a cute contemporary that will definitely leave you with a smile on your face!

Royal Rating:







Be sure to check out the rest of the blogs taking part in the tour this week:

Thursday, 30 June 2016

REVIEW: The Next Together by Lauren James

Pages: 356
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Science Fiction, Time Travel
Release Date: September 3rd 2015
Buy The Book: Book Depository

How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different...

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, "original" historical documents, news reports and internet articles.
 

My Thoughts:
This book had always sounded intriguing to me and after buying it recently, I’d been meaning to read it. When the fabulous Lucy from The Queen of Contemporary announced that it would be one of the books being read for the UKYA Book Club throughout June, I saw it as my chance to finally pick it up!  

This story follows Kate Finchley and Matthew Galloway throughout several different time periods. The pair keep meeting and falling in love during crucial points in history, and both are eventually pulled apart by death. For that reason, no matter what time they’re in, they never get to live out the rest of their lives together. As their timelines start to merge, their different reincarnations try to figure out what is going on and why this keeps happening.

The Next Together is packed full of interesting storytelling. The notes between Kate and Matthew in 2019 were a great way to show their story, as well as articles, letters and newspaper clippings from all different periods, including 2019 Kate’s blog. These little inserts made the story extra exciting and they definitely kept me hooked. Also, the little computer messages about progress and interventions throughout the chapters were quite chilling and made me desperate to find out who or what was behind all of this. 

As for the characters, I simply adored them, in every single time period. Although we only get told 2019 Matthew and Kate’s story through articles and notes sent between them (oh, and even a PowerPoint presentation) I still felt like we got to know them simply by their interactions. Their notes provided a lot of humour, and since it was the year closest to our time, their language was current and hilarious. The other time periods were just as brilliant and it’s impossible for me to choose a favourite. 

The final few chapters were intense and fast paced, with a whirlwind of emotion thrown at you from every reincarnation of Kate and Matthew, and there are a few twists that I definitely wasn’t expecting. By the very end, there were still questions I was dying to have answered, and it’s made me extremely anxious to get my hands on the next book! 

I simply adored the writing style of The Next Together. It was clever, unique, and super intriguing. If you haven’t managed to give this book a read yet, then I highly recommend you check it out because it has a little bit of everything to offer. I know that a short story was recently published, titled Another Together, and I plan to get reading it ASAP because I’m utterly sucked into this mystery and I need more of Kate and Matthew in my life. 

Royal Rating:

 
 
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