Book Review: The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson

Wonder of Us reasons to read

The first thought I had when I read the blurb for this book was UM, YES PLEASE.
A once in a lifetime European trip? Complex friendship dynamics and angst? GIMMIE. So many thanks to Walker Books for mailing an advanced reader copy so it could find its way into my grabby hands!

Riya and Abby are:
Best friends.  Complete opposites.  Living on different continents.  Currently mad at each other.  About to travel around Europe.
Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship—it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:

They haven’t talked in weeks.
They’ve both been keeping secrets.
Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart? Continue reading

ARC Mini Reviews: Contemporary Fiction

Thank you to the publishers Walker Books and Alma Books who have been kind enough to provide me with wonderful review copies lately. I enjoyed each and every one of these!

Truth or Dare

 

BLURB: How far is too far when it comes to the people you love? 
Claire Casey hates being the centre of attention. But if it means getting Sef Malik to notice her, it’s a risk she’s happy to take.
Sef is prepared to do anything to help his recently disabled brother. But this means putting Claire’s love – and life – on the line. Because when you’re willing to risk everything, what is there left to lose?

What I liked

Non Pratt’s latest novel Truth or Dare is right on trend. It’s sharp and current with its portrayal of social media, and it ticks a lot of diversity boxes including LGBT, Neurodisability and subtle nudges and observations of passive racism. (Not that these things should be seen as tick boxes because I am looking forward to the day where we don’t have to point them out like a rarity!) Continue reading

Review: Little Women & Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott

Overall Impression: A heartwarming tale about childhood and sisterhood, and the perils of growing up.

Little Women

It was a cold and hopeless winter morning, with frost thick on the ground that I decided to pick up Little Women. I was in the most unpleasant depths of a cold, and my brain felt as though it was stuffed with cotton wool. I will confess that I was feeling pretty low and fed up as I sat moaning under a blanket on my sofa. Bored with back to back TV, I picked up Little Women (which I had recently gotten free from the radio times due to a new adaptation) and began reading with much trepidation, feeling that if it was anything like Jane Austen’s work (which I don’t have the greatest affection for) it would be a bit of a slog. So, it was much to my surprise that a few chapters in, I found myself rather enchanted, and subsequently made my way through the second book Good Wives as well within a space of a week. Continue reading

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Review 5/5

Overall Impression: A story about one girl’s struggle to stand up and speak the truth in a world of police corruption, racial inequality and classism.

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe YA community has been awash with praise for Angie Thomas’s debut novel The Hate U Give, which follows young Starr, a girl from the hood who becomes a witness to a white policeman shooting her unarmed black friend. Can you say big, heavy HEARTBREAKING topic? I was concerned with how a YA novel would be able to tackle such a charged and current issue – but, I shouldn’t have fretted dear bookworms, because this was a respectful, honest, heartwarming tale, and well, I’m sorry to bore you but, I feel EXACTLY the same way as the majority of the blogosphere so you’re just going to have to put up with gushing about this novel like everyone else!
Thank you, Walker Books for the ARC ahead of the UK release date. Much appreciated!

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community.
It could also get her killed.

~ * ~ Continue reading

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber Review 4/5

Overall Impression: A heartfelt story about family, tragedy, and one girl’s journey towards believing in herself.

Wing Jones by Katherine WebberWell, what a lovely surprise this book was, in every sense of the word. I came back from holiday last week to discover a book-shaped package. I racked my brains, unable to remember purchasing anything. The last thing I expected was an advanced reader copy from my favourite publisher for a book that wasn’t on my radar (It also came with free shoelaces, woohoo!).
I would like to thank the lovely people at Walker Books for giving me this free ARC in exchange for an honest review. I think you know my book tastes better than I do. 😉 I don’t know if I would have spotted this novel on my own, but oh, I enjoyed it so much and the protagonist was such a special little gem.

With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. When tragedy strikes, she discovers an extraordinary talent she never knew she had.
Wing’s running could bring her family everything it needs.
It could also keep Wing from the one thing she truly wants.
Continue reading

Dual Review: Why Jane Eyre and David Copperfield Kick Literary Ass

Good evening ladies and gents!

Guess what, today we’re going highbrow. While I was away doing ALL THE THINGS, I made good progress with The Rory Gilmore Book Challenge (seems fitting considering the Gilmore Girls Revival). I’m really enjoying chronicling my progress with this because these books push me as a reader. Recently I picked up Jane Eyre and David Copperfield, and they both shot straight into my favourites list. While theyre very different stories, they both feel timeless and relevant to modern life. To put it in a non, 19th century way, they kick literary ass!

~ * ~

Overall Impression: A Gothic, haunting tale of one girl’s fight for independence, dignity and respect in a world that isn’t quite ready for her yet.Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Jane Eyre, oh where do I start with you? What a wonderful book. I make no secret of the fact that I love Gothic 19th century writing. It tickles all the right spots for me. It’s overdramatic and sweeps you down into it’s depths, it’s passionate and strong and willful. It’s emotive and tantalizing to the senses, full of descriptions of grand buildings, dark landscapes and mysterious characters with confusing motives.

So, in case you don’t know that much about Jane Eyre, the book centers around a young lady looking for employment. Continue reading

Series Review: Why The Darkness Rising Trilogy by Kelley Armstrong was a Letdown

The Darkness Rising

5+ years ago I read and devoured the Darkest Powers by Kelley Armstrong, a series about teens who discover they have a variety of supernatural abilities and find themselves caught between people who want to manipulate their powers for their own purposes. Not a new concept – but oh was it executed well! I am not the type of reader that usually gobbles up a series in one go… but I got through all 3 books in a week. Afterwards, I was left with that satisfying yet hollow feeling you get when you finish a truly outstanding series and realise there are no more books.

However, I soon discovered there would be a follow-up series, The Darkness Rising, set in the same world but in a different town with different characters. Because I found the first series SO addictive, I decided to wait until all the books were out so I could binge read them, and here we are! Unfortunately, The Darkness Rising Trilogy wasn’t as good as it’s predecessor, so here’s the bullet point, bookish low-down so you can decide for yourself whether this series is for you!

So let’s start with the positives first. This series has some pretty cool things going for it:

Continue reading

The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova Review 3/5

Overall Impression: A self-indulgent exploration of the well-known Dracula mystery in which the vampire has become oddly obsessed with hunting librarians.The Historian by Elizabeth Kostiva

The Historian has sat on my shelf unread for over seven years. Yeah, that’s pretty shameful! I picked up my battered copy for a whole 20p at a hospital book sale, unable to resist the fancy swirling writing and menacing blood droplets on its cover. Having been struck down with a seriously evil case of tonsillitis this week, and having already binge watched all of the Outlander Season 2 TV series, I decided it was time to pick up this neglected tome of a book and show it some love.
The best way I can sum up this novel is that it was a good, entertaining book…until suddenly it wasn’t.

 

To you my perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…
Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor.’ Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

Continue reading

Dual Reviews: Discovering J.D. Salinger and Revisiting Charles Dickens

Hey guys, gals and enthusiastic bookworms. I’ve decided to go all highbrow today and review some classics, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger and A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I’m pleased to say that I’ve come to really enjoy reading classics, they make for such an interesting reading experience because even if you don’t end up loving them, you always learn something! I went through a patch last year of not reading many, but my enthusiasm for them has recently been renewed so I picked these two off the Rory Gilmore Challenge to give a go. As always, I am not an English major, but here’s what I thought:

Overall Impression: A fascinating character study of a young teen full of contradictions.The Catcher in the Rye

I don’t know why this book works, but it does. On paper, it sounds oh so boring and like a school child’s required reading worst nightmare. It’s a book where nothing happens, where the main character after getting expelled from his private school, wanders around New York City meeting up with random people because he doesn’t want to go home and confront his parents. It’s a story about a whiny privileged white kid who throws opportunities to have a good life away, and yet somehow, despite sounding like a recipe for disaster and epic hate, it’s absolutely wonderful. But I can definitely see why this book has split so many opinions! Continue reading

Mini Reviews: Fantasy Novels with Female Heroines

Hello, everyone! I have more mini reviews for you. All of these novels were interesting in their individual ways and really deserve their own reviews, however, as I read them whilst trying to complete university, I never got around to chatting about them with you! Because it’s now been a while and my memory has gotten a little foggy (but I don’t want to ignore these novels completely), I thought mini reviews were the best solution. 🙂

Overall Impression: An engrossing adventure through a sophisticated, supernatural, criminal underworld.

The Mine Order by Samantha ShannonFirst off I would like to say that I cannot recommend this series enough! It’s brilliantly original, has a completely immersive world and Shannon’s writing is compelling. The Mime Order is book two in the dystopian series, The Bone Season, which follows Paige Mahoney, a dreamwalker able to manipulate spirits. It picks up where the first story left off, with Paige and other captives fleeing from their otherworldly prison Sheol 1, where they were treated like slaves by the Rephaites. They all go into hiding, seeking salvation where they can. But Paige soon finds herself on her government’s most wanted list, and is forced to go underground and rely on her old Mime Lord, Jaxon, and his numerous connections in the criminal underworld. However, she soon realises she’s trading one prison for another. Continue reading

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes Review 5/5

Overall Impression: A touching, emotional, yet ultimately uplifting story about an unlikely relationship.Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

I was very suspicious about this book. In fact, I was sure I wouldn’t like it.
It wasn’t my normal genre AT ALL and its horrendous chick-lit cover (not the one you see pictured, I like this one better) was so cringe-inducing I barely had the willpower to pick it up. BUT, I knew it was a popular bestseller with an upcoming movie, and the book was bought for me by one of my best bookish friends and she had only glowing things to say. So, I took a deep breath, tried to keep an open mind, and settled down with a cup of tea and a blanket.

Lou Clark knows lots of things.
She knows how many footstepts there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now, and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.

I wasn’t converted by Me Before You straight away, and everything about it seemed unremarkable initially. However, Moyes slowly drew me in. Continue reading

Dual Review: Two Amazing Books that Tackle Mental Health

Overall Impression: A feminism-focused book featuring heavily on mental health, that shows the importance of learning to accept who you are, faults and all.

Am I Normal Yet by Holly BourneAs soon as I knew what this novel was about, I had to have it and bought it the first opportunity, and I’m glad I did, because it’s the most realistic YA book about mental health I’ve ever read. Way to go Holly Bourne!!!

Am I normal Yet? follows the story of Evie, who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder (the more well-known contamination type where people feel the need to over wash/clean for fear objects and dirt will cause harm) and generalised anxiety disorder (which causes disproportionate worry about many everyday situations). Since being sectioned, Evie’s worked hard to get her life under control, she’s going to counseling, she’s on medication, she’s working on goals and concrete steps. But now she’s starting at a new college, she’s desperate and determined to be normal by keeping her mental health problems a secret. Evie wants to do all the normal things teenage do, having friends, going to parties and most importantly, dating and finding a boyfriend. But as she starts to slowly come off her meds, she’s constantly plagued by the fear that her bad thoughts are creeping back in…and the problem is that wherever you go, your problems go with you. Continue reading

The Death Cure by James Dashner Review 4/5

Overall Impression: A satisfying end to an overall enjoyable trilogy with memorable characters.

The Death Cure by James DashnerThis series kind of reminds me of takeaway pizza.
What, you say? Bear with me.
You know how occasionally, just occasionally, that takeaway pizza yearning kicks in, and you kind of know that it’s not the healthiest thing for you and that there’s much better, more sophisticated food out there? But it just tastes so darn good and so you devour it with great speed, enjoying every bite, but if you eat too much of it you become bloated. So you know that even though you really enjoyed it, you wouldn’t want takeaway pizza every week? Yeah, that sums up The Maze Runner series for me. It’s not the best written story out there or the most complex so you wouldn’t want to read too much of it in one go, but it keeps you turning the pages and you really enjoy it, even if you’re not 100% sure why. The final book in the series, The Death Cure also followed the same pattern for me!

The trials are over. WICKED is planning to restore the survivors’ memories and complete the final cure for the Flare.
But Thomas has already remembered more than they think. And he knows WICKED can’t be trusted.
The time for lies is over. But the truth is more dangerous than Thomas could ever imagine. Will anyone survive the Death Cure?
Continue reading

Mini Reviews: A Song of George R.R. Martin’s Storytelling

Dunnnn, dunn, dun dun, dunnnn, dunn, dun, dun, dunn, dunn, dun, dun, dunn, dunn dun dun dunn dunn…
Yeahhh, I’ve pretty much had the Game of Thrones theme tune stuck in my head for the entire time it took me to write this post. I feel like I’m going slightly insane now! So yes, while Becky has been somewhat silent on the blog, in real life she has been busy, shifting through thousands of pages worth of Westeros, where dragons reign and people fight over a really uncomfortable chair. Woohoo! (Weirdos). After watching the season 5 shocker finale on TV, I was a little distraught and desperate for more George R.R. Martin, not to mention ANSWERS. I’ve also recently rewatched the entire show with the boyfriend because I am trying to educate him on all things nerdy (it’s working, slowly). All of this led to me feeling determined to try and catch up with the books in time for the release of season 6 and the next novel,Winds of Winter. So here are my reviews of books 3-5!

Continue reading

Dual Review: Rowling and Harper Lee!

Overall Impression: A slow-paced slog about village politics with a killer, heart-wrenching ending.The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy is a hard book to review, hard because while I was bored for about 80% of it, the story emotionally and politically impacted me more than anything I have read in a long time. The Casual Vacancy  tells the story of a small provincial UK village that has an ongoing class battle between the typical country village Pagford and a tacked on much despised council estate full of socially undesirable individuals. When a man on the Parish Council dies unexpectedly, his seat is up for grabs, and the book follows several characters’ fight for the seat which will decide the fate of the town. Continue reading