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 Girl The 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: Done Dirt Cheap

March 6, 2017 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: Done Dirt Cheap Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Published by Amulet on 7th March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

I went into Done Dirt Cheap not really knowing what to expect. Two teenagers, motorbikes and a biker club – really that’s all I knew, but I ended up getting very caught up in the story.

Tourmaline is the 18-year-old daughter of the President of the biker club, the Wardens. Her Mum is in prison, and she has grown up in the Wardens’ world, without every truly knowing its detail.

Virginia was in Tourmaline’s year in school but they didn’t ever really know each other. Virginia competed in pageants and, from the age of 15, she’s been working for a corrupt attorney, Hazard, in order to pay off her alcoholic mother’s debts.

Hazard sets Virginia the assignment of uncovering the Warden’s secret and so she negotiates her way into Tourmaline’s life. However, it turns out that getting information on the Wardens isn’t easy, and by the time she has the chance, she and Tourmaline have formed quite a friendship.

This novel started slowly for me. I wasn’t really feeling it, yet at some point I was suddenly hooked – I just had to keep reading!

There’s danger, motorbikes, forbidden love, fear, plotting, attraction, secrets and loyalty in this novel. There are many intriguing relationships in this story and the evolution of them all is fascinating.

The writing itself surpassed my expectations. There’s some fantastic prose, imagery and turn of phrase in this book.

Although it took me a while to get into, I found myself gripped and genuinely disappointed when the end came – not disappointment in the ending itself, I just felt I wanted more: it felt rather rushed. I definitely could’ve handled an extra chapter or two.

For all that there’s action, tension and secrets in this book, I found it to be the relationships, their rules, development and intertwining that I found the most captivating.

I kind of want some biker boots myself now!

four-stars

Review: RoseBlood

January 10, 2017 in Book Reviews, Fairytales, Retellings, 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: RoseBlood RoseBlood by A.G. Howard
Published by Abrams on 10th January 2017
Genres: YA, Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera.

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

RoseBlood is a Phantom of the Opera retelling. Let me start by saying that although I’m familiar with the Phantom story, I’m by no means a ‘Phan’. However, the premise of this book captured my attention and I was lucky enough to be sent an ARC by the publisher.

Yes, this is the same A.G. Howard of the Splintered series. However, although I have the books on my shelves, I haven’t yet read them, so RoseBlood was my first encounter with A.G. Howard’s writing.

I must admit, I struggled with the opening quarter of the book. I felt it to be rather slow and it took me a while to become invested in the story.

However, once the ‘scene-setting’ element was over I definitely enjoyed the story more. Although, it was more Thorn that kept me reading than Rune.

Howard’s retelling of this story is creepy, mysterious and imaginative. She draws upon her research of the legend to inspire her story and the result is an interesting combination of High School tale and paranormal romance.

Howard’s writing is beautiful. Her descriptions are stunning and as a result this tale truly comes to life in the mind’s eye.

While I ended up enjoying this book and its concepts, I wasn’t crazy about it. Perhaps I went into it with overinflated expectations? When I did really start to get into the story, it ended! Personally, I felt the ending too abrupt – I didn’t feel satisfied by its content or pacing.

I realise this is a somewhat mixed review, but I *did* enjoy this, I just wasn’t blown away by it. I loved the gothic nature of it though – Howard absolutely captured that creepy, Gothic feel.

All in all, once the book gets going it’s a good read with interesting concepts and some intriguing characters. It’s Howard’s descriptive writing that I enjoyed most though – I felt as though I was actually in RoseBlood!

three-stars

Review: Every Falling Star

September 10, 2016 in Biography, Memoir, 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: Every Falling Star Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee, Susan McClelland
Published by Amulet on 13th September 2016
Genres: YA, Memoir
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

Last year I read In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park (I’m kicking myself that I didn’t review it on the blog), the story of her life and escape from North Korea and everything she had to do to stay alive. I subsequently thrust a copy into the hands of friends and family, however it was more of an adult read I guess and I found myself wishing for a similar account for a young adult audience.

So when I discovered Every Falling Star, written with that younger audience in mind, I jumped at the chance to read it. You absolutely do not need to be a young adult to read this though. In fact, I encourage ALL to read it!

Every Falling Star is the memoir of Sungju Lee, a North Korean boy whose family fell out of favour with the regime. They were sent north and Sungju suddenly encountered what life was really like for the majority of his countrymen and women. At the age of twelve, Sungju found himself alone, fending for himself and living on the streets. We follow his story from a privileged life in Pyongyang to living with his ‘brothers’ in his gang, stealing and fighting for their lives while simultaneously trying to avoid imprisonment and perhaps even execution.

This book is thoroughly eye-opening. It’s rare that we in the West hear about life in North Korea so when a book like this comes out – a book that risks the lives of the author and his family who remain in the country, reading it is the least we can do!

Something that I find particularly powerful about this book is the way we see the world  through the innocence of a wealthy North Korean child who is raised to believe that their leader is a God, that the West is waging war on their country and who dreams of commanding in the North Korean army. We follow Sungju as his perception of this world is shattered. We journey with him as he uncovers the truth of the country he lives in and the reality of life in North Korea for those who are not favoured by the regime. Personally, I feel that this eye-opening, uncovering and progressive loss of innocence lends itself well to this younger audience. It makes Sungju more relatable at the outset and therefore what follows is very hard hitting.

I can’t recommend this book enough. Obviously the content is not easy; however if Sungju and thousands like him can live this life, we should embrace the reading of it. It’s an emotional, heart wrenching read that will make you consider your own life and the freedoms that we take for granted.

It is well written, engaging and illuminating. It not only tells the story of Sungju’s life, but educates us on the history of the country. I’m so grateful to Sungju for taking the tremendous risks to share his story.

five-stars

Review: The Cure For Dreaming

May 30, 2016 in Book Reviews, Historical Fiction, 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 Cure For Dreaming The Cure For Dreaming by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet, Abrams Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its females to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women.

 

The year is 1900. Olivia Mead is a teenager living in Portland, Oregon with her father the notorious dentist Dr. Mead. Olivia’s mother left when she was just four years old, leaving to pursue her theatric dreams.

Oregon at this time was a state divided on Women’s Rights. There was a strong Suffragette movement, despite the fact the men of Oregon had voted down suffrage referendums. Olivia dreams of going to college, of furthering her education and broadening her mind. Her father however doesn’t want her getting big ideas – she’s a woman, she should get married and stay at home.

We join the story on Olivia’s birthday. Having attended a Suffragette rally earlier in the day she is out with friends at show – a talented hypnotist from Montreal, Henri Reverie. His sister is providing the musical accompaniment on the organ. Olivia is selected from the audience to be hypnotised and finds that she quite enjoys the experience, even if she doesn’t know what happened to her!

However, her father finds out about her hypnotism and her attendance at a suffragette rally. Disgusted, he employs Henri to hypnotise Olivia, to cure her of her ‘dreams’, to remove women’s rights from her mind and to make her less argumentative. Henri doesn’t approve of these actions but he desperately needs the money. Henri and Olivia’s paths continue to cross and eventually they strike up a partnership, a way he can make the money he needs and she can keep her personality.

This was such an interesting, gripping read! I’ve read a few novels set around this time period, but this one really stood out to me. I found the whole premise of the book fascinating. Obviously it is based around fact, women were often maltreated for standing up for their rights, some even ended up in asylums. So this idea of finding a cure for their lofty dreams, a way to keep them quiet, was real.

In this novel we see the attitudes of the time towards women, the ignorance with which they were treated and the dismissal of their rights. Olivia’s father’s insistence that she be removed of her argumentativeness leads to trouble for her when an admirer tries to take advantage of her – one of the dangers faced by women when their voice is removed.

I also really liked Olivia’s obsession with Dracula. The visions that she sees and their Dracula-esque nature really add another, darker gothic layer to this novel.

In all honesty, my only complaint about this book is that it had to end. I wish there were a sequel, I want more of Olivia, Henri and Genevieve.

four-half-stars