Review: A Thousand Perfect Notes

June 6, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA

Review: A Thousand Perfect NotesA Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews
Published by Orchard Books on 7th June 2018
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Subscription Box
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music - because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Ever since I came across Cait’s (the author’s) blog, Paper Fury, several years ago, I’ve been waiting for the day that I’d get to hold her book in my hands and savour more of her writing. That day has finally arrived with A Thousand Perfect Notes gracing the shelves TOMORROW (7th June 2018), and it was definitely worth waiting for!

A Tiny Summary

Beck Keverich, 15, lives with his 5-year-old sister, Joey and his mother, whom he calls The Maestro. In her earlier years his mother had been a famous pianist. Now, The Maestro pins all of her hopes and dreams on Beck’s shoulders as she forces him to practice the piano constantly, to the detriment of the other aspects of his life.

His mother left Germany with him when he was young, but his uncle still lives there – a world-famous pianist and composer who continues to promote the Keverich name. The Maestro is determined that Beck will live up to that famous name.

Beck and Joey live in poverty – going hungry and lacking in clothes as their mother has spent all of her savings on the piano that she insists Beck plays at all hours of the day and night. She wants Beck to emulate her, but what does Beck what? It isn’t until August enters his life that he starts to wonder this for himself.

My Thoughts

This book was an emotional rollercoaster. Beck’s mother abuses him, dictates his life, destroys his confidence and beats him. All the while, Beck tries to protect Joey and allow her some semblance of childhood.

The characters in this book are marvellous. I adored Beck, Joey and August and the interactions between them are simply fantastic. Drews had me snorting with laughter one minute (which is rare for me when reading), and had my heart breaking the next.

I don’t tend to read many YA contemporaries but this book drew me in from the first page. If you read Cait’s blog, you’ll feel her style leaping off the page. Her characters are so real, her writing is stunning and, as one would expect from Cait, this book is laced with delicious food!

Truly, this is an incredible debut that managed to tackle such important and difficult issues, while still entertaining the reader. I devoured this book and I’m sure you will too!

Apparently, this wonderful book hasn’t been picked up by US publishers yet, so if you’re in the US remember you can still get your hands on this gem via Book Depository (not an affiliate link).

I can’t wait for Drews’ next book, The Boy Who Steals Houses, which is out in 2019. In the meantime, I’ll continue to get my fix of Cait’s writing over on her blog Paper Fury.  If for some strange reason you aren’t already a visitor to her blog, I suggest you do the same. Oh and read A Thousand Perfect Notes – it’s not to be missed!

four-half-stars

Review: The Accidental Bad Girl

May 14, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Accidental Bad GirlThe Accidental Bad Girl by Maxine Kaplan
Published by Abrams, Amulet on 15th May 2018
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

After getting caught hooking up with her best friend’s ex on the last day of junior year, Kendall starts senior year friendless and ostracized. She plans to keep her head down until she graduates. But after discovering her online identity has been hacked and she’s being framed for stealing from a dealer, Kendall is drawn into a tenuous partnership with the mastermind of a drug ring lurking in the shadows of her Brooklyn private school. If she wants to repair her tattered reputation and save her neck, she’ll have to decide who she really is—and own it. The longer she plays the role of “bad girl,” the more she becomes her new reputation. Friends and enemies, detectives and drug dealers—no one is who they appear to be. Least of all Kendall.

 

The blurb for The Accidental Bad Girl really intrigued me and I had high hopes for this novel – it did not let me down.

17-year-old Kendall is starting her senior year at Howell Preparatory School. She’s an intelligent girl, a scholar and has always been in the popular crowd at school. The thing is, on the last day of junior year she was caught with her then best friend Andrea’s ex, Grant. She’s now facing her senior year friendless and the talk of the school. No-one will look at her. When she can’t quite imagine how everything could get worse, she discovers that her Facebook account has been hacked and that a drug dealer called Mason is after her for supposedly stealing from him.

With none of her old friends to lean on, Kendall finds herself wandering deeper into Mason’s world as he blackmails her, threatening to ensure she loses her place on the Young Astronomers Talent Search program – the one good thing she has in her life right now.

The deeper she gets, the more she learns about Mason and the drugs he is dealing.

I really enjoyed this book. I was drawn in from the start and found it hard to put down. Kendall is an interesting character, a capable young lady who finds herself in increasingly difficult and dangerous situations.

It’s a gritty read that doesn’t shy away from detail. It tackles a plethora of issues, from modern day problems associated with technology and social media, to older issues such as drugs. (View Spoiler »)

It’s a multilayered book. We have the mystery of who is framing Kendall and why, the blackmailing by Mason and how Kendall deals with it, as well as seeing Kendall reach out to trust new friends, all the while uncovering who she really is.

I don’t want to risk any spoilers so I’ll just end by saying that I really enjoyed this book. It’s hard to believe that it’s a debut novel and I’m looking forward to reading more of Kaplan’s work in the future. If she carries on as she has begun, I foresee her being a strong, unflinching voice in YA literature.

four-stars

Review: Valley Girls

May 8, 2018 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Valley GirlsValley Girls by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Published by Abrams on 8th May 2018
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
two-stars

When 17-year-old Rilla is busted for partying 24 hours into arriving in Yosemite National Park to live with her park ranger sister, it’s a come-to-Jesus moment.
Determined to make up for her screw-up and create a stable new home for herself, Rilla charms her way into a tight-knit group of climbers. But Rilla can’t help but be seduced by experiences she couldn’t have imagined back home. She sets her sights on climbing El Capitan, one of the most challenging routes in Yosemite, and her summer becomes one harrowing and ecstatic experience after another: first climb, first fall two thousand feet in the air, first love. But becoming the person Rilla feels she was meant to be jeopardises the reasons why she came to Yosemite—a bright new future and a second chance at sisterhood. When her family and her future are at odds, what will Rilla choose?

Following an incident at home in Rainelle, West Virginia, 17 year old Rilla is sent to stay with her elder sister, Thea, a Ranger in Yosemite, California. She has schoolwork to catch up on over the summer if she wants to graduate high school and Thea is determined to see her achieve it.

It seems she is the only person in Yosemite who doesn’t climb or hike. So when she makes friends with a group of climbers, she gets some lessons and catches the climbing bug.

This is probably best described as a ‘coming of age’ tale. Rilla arrives in Yosemite at the start of summer and is lost and low, but we see her progress as the story evolves.

I wanted to enjoy this book and there were parts I did get caught up in but overall I found it pretty lacklustre. For the first 80 pages or so I was pretty bored, to be honest.

Evidently, the author has a love of climbing and this shines through, but at times I found all the technical jargon a bit too much. Don’t get me wrong, I did learn along with Rilla, but at times I couldn’t process, or want to process, all the climbing lingo.

I felt that most of this book trundled along, then at the end, when there was finally some action, it was rushed. I’d have liked more of the action at the end and less preamble.

Also, I didn’t really care that much about the characters. I wasn’t particularly rooting for any of them and I find books like that hard to get into.

This wasn’t really the book for me. I learned about Yosemite and (when I wasn’t overwhelmed) about climbing but I was left pretty disappointed by this read.

two-stars

Review: Dear Martin

April 25, 2018 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, YA

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Dear MartinDear Martin by Nic Stone
Published by Simon & Schuster UK on 3rd May 2018 (UK)
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
five-stars

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League – but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighbourhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up – way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty police officer beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it's Justyce who is under attack.

After reading fantastic reviews upon its publication in the US, I was delighted to find Dear Martin due for publication in the UK. Wow, those reviews were right, this is a tremendously powerful book.

Justyce is a 17-year-old high school senior. He’s fourth in his graduating class, captain of the debate team and is on course for an Ivy League education in law. He’s also one of the few black guys in his school – his best friend Manny being another.

Inspired by the heartbreaking stories that we see of racial profiling by the police force in the US, this story explores what it’s like to be judged and prejudiced because of the colour of your skin.

The story beings with Jus being wrongly arrested for trying to help his drunk ex-girlfriend into the back of her car to drive her home. Evidently, the police assumed carjacking.

This sets in motion an experiment whereby Jus decides to take inspiration from the great Martin Luther King Jr – what would Martin do? Jus begins writing to Martin as his eyes are opened wider and wider to the racism that exists in his country.

I don’t want to give you much more detail than that. It’s a book that you need to read for yourself. It tackles so many prevalent issues through the life and interactions of one black teenage boy in Atlanta.

I adored Jus from the outset, his character leaps off the pages. But all of the characters in this book are important – as are the choices that many of them have to make.

This is a stunning, heartbreaking novel that should be read by ALL! I can’t find the words to do it justice. Just read it!

five-stars

Blog Tour: The Goose Road Review & Giveaway

April 5, 2018 in Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Closed Giveaways, Historical Fiction, YA

I’m delighted to be today’s stop on the blog tour for The Goose Road. The book is out today, so you can now get your hands on a copy! Or, be sure to check out the giveaway at the end of this post.

The Goose Road is the debut novel by Rowena House and is being published by Walker to coincide with the centenary of the end of the First World War.

I’m delighted to bring to you an extract from The Goose Road. But before that, I thought I’d share a bit of the synopsis and my own thoughts on the book.

Blog Tour: The Goose Road Review & GiveawayThe Goose Road by Rowena House
Published by Walker on 5th April 2018
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-half-stars

France 1916. Angélique Lacroix is haymaking when the postman delivers the news: her father is dead, killed on a distant battlefield. She makes herself a promise: the farm will remain exactly the same until her beloved older brother comes home from the Front. "I think of it like a magical spell. If I can stop time, if nothing ever changes, then maybe he won’t change either." But a storm ruins the harvest, her mother falls ill and then the requisition appears... In a last-ditch attempt to save the farm from bankruptcy, Angélique embarks on a journey across France with her brother's flock of magnificent Toulouse geese.

 

 

My Thoughts

Living in the French countryside, Angélique and her mother are working hard to keep their family farm running while Angélique’s father and brother, Pascal, are away, fighting for France.

Upon hearing of her father’s death in combat, Angélique finds that she must raise funds in order to keep their beloved farm afloat for her brother’s much-anticipated return home.

Having lost most of their livestock to the Requisition, all that remains are her brother’s prized Toulouse Geese. With her mother grief-stricken, it falls to Angélique to find the funds to save what is now her brother’s farm.  Fuelled by sibling love and determination, she decides to sell the geese. But in order to attain the kind of money she needs, she is going to have to risk her life and take her geese closer to the front lines.

So, accompanied by her Uncle, she sets off to cross wartorn France with her magnificent geese.

Blending fact with fiction, House has created a beautiful, memorable tale. Through the character of 14-year-old Angélique Lacroix we embark on a journey into the terrifying unknown, driven by the love of a sister for her brother.

It’s a story that, although written for ages 12 and up, can be enjoyed by all. Angélique is a loveable character, a strong heroine who sets out to do what is right. Through her eyes we see the horrors of war, the toll it takes on survivors and the lives of the civilians struggling to survive. Personally, I appreciated the way the facts of the war were conveyed. I felt that it didn’t shy away from any truths but was conveyed through the eyes of an innocent 14-year-old, thus making it perhaps more manageable for the target audience.

Angélique’s love of animals stole my heart. I grew up helping on my father’s croft, so I could absolutely appreciate Angélique’s love for her livestock. I think House successfully portrays the importance of their animals, their livelihood and the impact that the Requisition had on small communities.

All in all, this is a powerful, beautifully written story. It’ll simultaneously hurt and warm your heart, and I challenge you not to fall in love with Napolean Bonaparte the gander!

That’s enough of my thoughts though. Walker Books have kindly provided me with an extract to share with you.

If you missed the first extract on the blog tour, be sure to check out Drinking Books to catch up.

Extract

My mourning dress is stiff and tight, a laced-up hand-me- down. Mother is almost invisible behind her long black veil. As we walk down the lane to the village through the warm, rosy dusk, I half expect a bat to blunder into her or a fox to stop and sniff the air as we pass.

Outside the church, the village widows flock around Mother like crows. There are Madame Villiard and Madame Arnauld, and poor young Madame Besançon, whose husband was just nineteen when both his legs were blown off at Verdun.

Old Madame Malpas draws me aside, wringing her bony hands and crying, “What’s to become of you, Angélique? You’ll very likely starve! La Mordue will go to rack and ruin without Monsieur Lacroix!”

“Pascal will be home soon,” I say. “Maman and I can manage till then.”

“Manage, child? When your corn’s still in the ground in August?”

“The farm men have been promised leave.” “And you expect the generals to keep their promises?” She sniffs loudly, then stumps off, calling to Mother,

“Madame Lacroix! What terrible news! Tell me, did he suffer?”

My best friend, Béatrice Lamy, hurries over to me.

“That woman!” she says, rolling her eyes. Then she kisses me on both cheeks and hugs me tightly. “This is unbearable, Angie. I can’t begin to imagine how you feel.”

Guilt prickles me because, just then, I’d been think- ing how much I hate wearing black and having to pretend to be sad. I wish I’d told her the truth before, but Mother always said the beatings would get worse if Father suspected we talked about him behind his back. And now it’s too late. I can’t speak ill of the dead, condemn a brave soldier Mort pour la France. What would

Madame Malpas say? “I’m fine, Bee,” I say. “Really, I am.” She cups my cheek in her hand. “You’re so brave,

Angie. I’d be in pieces if I’d lost Papa. How did you hear the news?”

I lean forward, hiding a smile, and whisper, “Pascal wrote.”

“Pascal!”

“Shhh, Bee. Not so loud.” I glance around, but the village women are too busy comforting Mother to take any notice of us. “Come on. Let’s talk inside.”

The cold stone church is empty. We sit in the front pew, the one allotted to the newly bereaved. Béatrice takes both my hands.

“Is Pascal safe?” she asks. “Is he hurt?” “I don’t know. Mother wouldn’t let me see his letter.” “Why not?” “Oh, you know. She’s upset.” “Of course. Silly question. I’m sorry.” Her eyes brim again with sympathy. Quickly I say, “Do you want to hear the good news?” “Good news?” Her eyes widen. I smile conspiratorially. “The farm belongs to Pascal now – the house, the land. Everything! It’s his.” “Oh.”

“Bee! Don’t you see what this means?” She shakes her head. “He can get married whenever he wants!” “Oh!” Her eyes widen further. “But … Papa won’t let me. I’m too young.” “Pascal will wait, I know he will. And when you’re both ready you’ll live with us, and we’ll be sisters, a real family. Won’t that be wonderful?”

Her eyes shine, then she blushes. “I do love him so much.”

We start to hug, but just then the door opens and the village widows seep inside like shadows, a horde of veiled and silent wraiths.

“I should go,” Béatrice says. “No. Please stay.” “But your mother…”

“She won’t mind.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

I slip my arm through hers while we wait, each looking up at the brightly painted statue of Saint Joan of Arc, high on her pedestal. She’s wearing a full suit of armour, and spearing the devil through his blackened heart.

“I hate that statue,” Béatrice whispers.

“I don’t know,” I reply. “I rather like it.”

 

Giveaway

Thanks to Walker Books, I have two copies of this wonderful debut to give away to Strupag readers. To be in with a chance of winning simply enter via the rafflecopter entry form below. This giveaway is open to the UK only.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
three-half-stars