Monday, 28 April 2014

Mini Review: Double Crossed: A Spies and Thieves Story by Ally Carter

Double Crossed: A Spies and Thieves Story (Gallagher Girls, #5.5; Heist Society, #2.5)Title: Double Crossed
Author: Ally Carter
Series:  Gallagher Girls #5.5, Heist Society #2.5
Pages:  60
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date of Publication: 30th January 2013
Source: Free on Kindle
Synopsis from Goodreads: Macey McHenry—Glamorous society girl or spy-in-training?

W.W. Hale V—Heir to an American dynasty or master thief?

There are two sides to every coin. Whether these two can work together is a tossup.

Born into privilege, Macey and Hale are experts at mingling with the upper class. But even if they’ve never raised an eyebrow at the glitz, neither teenager has ever felt at home with the glamour.

When Macey and Hale meet at a society gala, the party takes a dangerous turn. Suddenly they’re at the center of a hostage situation, and it’s up to them to stop the thugs from becoming hostile. Will Macey’s spy skills and Hale’s con-man ways be enough to outsmart a ruthless gang? Or will they have to seek out the ultimate inside girl to help?

The worlds of Heist Society and the Gallagher Girls collide in Ally Carter’s fast-paced, high-stakes and tantalizing new story. Get a behind the scenes glimpse as Ally delivers an irresistible thriller that is full of her signature style and savvy twists.

My Thoughts:
I'm a huge fan of both the Gallagher Girls series and the Heist Society series, so when I finally got around to reading this I was so excited. I think both series are fab and I can't choose which one I like best, so this is like a dream come true for me. It's only a short story, about 60 pages, so it took less than an hour to read, but I loved every minute of it.

Macey and Hale are two of my favourite characters from both series. I really liked getting to know Macey in Gallagher Girls and seeing her work together with Cammie, Liz and Bex in their missions, and Hale is just dreamy in Heist Society ;) I'm not even ashamed to admit that. It was great to see the two worlds interact and I seriously think that Macey and Hale should form a crime solving double act. It'd be awesome. Kat also makes an appearance which I wasn't expecting, and as per usual she was awesome too.

As it's only 60 pages and it's a fast-paced bit of fun, I don't really have that much to say about it apart from that if you've not read it but you're a fan of both or either series, you're definitely missing out, however you don't need to have read them to enjoy it anyway. I really hope that Ally writes more of these short stories, perhaps with Cammie and Kat as I think that would be a match made in heaven. Now I've run out of things to say, so just go read these books!

Monday, 21 April 2014

Book Review: The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E. Smith

The Geography of You and MeTitle: The Geography of You and Me 
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Series:  Standalone
Pages:  352
Publisher: Headline
Date of Publication: 15th April, 2014
Source: Publisher via NetGalley*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Lucy and Owen meet somewhere between the tenth and eleventh floors of a New York City apartment building, on an elevator rendered useless by a citywide blackout. After they're rescued, they spend a single night together, wandering the darkened streets and marveling at the rare appearance of stars above Manhattan. But once the power is restored, so is reality. Lucy soon moves to Edinburgh with her parents, while Owen heads out west with his father.

Lucy and Owen's relationship plays out across the globe as they stay in touch through postcards, occasional e-mails, and -- finally -- a reunion in the city where they first met.

A carefully charted map of a long-distance relationship, Jennifer E. Smith's new novel shows that the center of the world isn't necessarily a place. It can be a person, too.

My Thoughts:
I absolutely adored This Is What Happy Looks Like back when I read it last year, so I had high hopes for The Geography of You and Me.  While it didn't quite leave me loving it as much as I loved What Happy Looks Like, on the whole I really enjoyed Jennifer's newest release.  It wasn't quite how I expected it to be, but that was okay - it's definitely a worthwhile read.

Apart from the fact that it was Jennifer's newest offering, it was the premise that really drew me to this novel.  I liked the idea of two characters meeting in a lift during a power cut, as cliched as it is, as I was in just the right mood for something easy going and light-hearted.  However, it's not the sweet and soppy romance that I thought it was going to be - but fun and cute nonetheless.

Apart from the beginning scene in the lift, Lucy and Owen spend very little time together throughout the whole book.  They're both whisked away by their parents - Lucy to Edinburgh, and Owen to the west coast of America.  They're thousands of miles apart but neither seems to be able to forget the other.  It was very cute how they kept thinking about each other and I also really liked how when something happened to one of them, a similar something would happen to the other (I'm being purposefully vague here so as not to spoil) - the parallels in their narratives really helped to show how they were still together, in spirit, if you like, despite the distance between them. It sounds kind of soppy, but it was frustrating how much time they didn't spend together so I was taking anything that I could get.

The novel is told in a dual narrative - one Lucy, one Owen.  I liked them both, although I got a little bored of Owen sometimes, preferring to read about the time Lucy spends in Edinburgh and London - both places that I've visited and really love, so they had a particular draw for me.  However, I did really enjoy reading about all the places that each character went to - I didn't know much about a lot places so it was really interesting to travel around America and Europe with them.  I have to admit though, the plot is very slow moving.  It's definitely not a whirlwind romance, and there were times when I got a little bored waiting for something to happen.  Not very often, mind you, but still enough that I thought I ought to mention it.

While The Geography of You and Me didn't quite deliver everything I wanted from it, it was a good read that I would recommend if you're a fan of roadtrip or travel focused contemporaries.  I'm still a huge fan of Jennifer E. Smith and I can't wait to read more of her work.  Bring on the next title!

*Huge thanks to Headline and NetGalley for allowing me access to this title in exchange for an honest review.  In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Book Review: More Than This by Patrick Ness

More Than ThisTitle: More Than This
Author: Patrick Ness
Series:   Standalone
Pages:  479
Publisher: Walker Books
Date of Publication: 5th September, 2013
Source: Gifted*
Synopsis from Goodreads: A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies.

Then he wakes, naked, bruised and thirsty, but alive.

How can this be? And what is this strange, deserted place?

As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife.

My Thoughts:
First off I just want to say that this book is really strange. Don't get me wrong, I really liked it, but there are lots of moments in it that make you stop and think, "WHAT." when you read them.  I'm not entirely sure how to review it because of this, but I'm gonna do my best.  Bear with me!

When this first came out in September last year, there was a huge amount of hype.  Almost every blogger and reader was reviewing or tweeting about it, and it felt like everyone on the planet loved it.  Since I've had some bad experiences with super hyped books that have let me down big time recently, and because I tried to read Ness' Knife of Never Letting Go several years ago and didn't like it much (although after reading More Than This I may give it another try), I avoided More Than This. However, I caved (obviously my will power is very weak!) and put it on my wishlist.

I really don't know how to categorise this book, or which genre to put it into.  It's probably science fiction but it doesn't really read like a science fiction novel.  I've seen it labelled as post-apocalyptic, but it seems too subtle to be called an apocalypse.  I don't really know, and I don't want to spoil anything in it by labelling it too specifically.  The synopsis on Goodreads and on the back of the book itself give very little away, and I liked that aspect of not having a clue what was going to happen or even vaguely what it was all about.  The mystery made it exciting and really gripping.

The book is split into four parts, each one bringing something new to the story.  The first part is two hundred pages long and is therefore the longest, and most of it is Seth, the main character, trying to figure out what on earth is going on and what is happening to him.  From the reviews I've read on blogs and on Goodreads, most people thought this was the best bit of the book, however I must admit that by the end of the part I was getting a little bored.  For two hundred pages there is just one character at war with himself over what is happening and whether it's real or whether he's dead and what he's going to do and it does get a little tedious, to tell the truth.

The following parts however are really great.  As I said, each part brings a new aspect to the story, and I'm not gonna lie - they're strange.  I don't really know why it seemed so strange to me but there were a lot of moments where I had to take a moment to really process what I'd just read.  I constantly was questioning what they were thinking, and I guess that is, in essence, what the novel is about.  It makes you question the purpose of life, what we're doing here, is everything real, etc.  It's all of that philosophical existentialist stuff that I usually dismiss with a roll of my eyes because I'm lazy and thinking about it hurts my brain and just leads to even more unanswerable questions.  However, it was pretty interesting and (on the whole) I enjoyed reading it.

I don't want to say much more for fearing of spoiling the novel, so I'll wrap up.  More Than This was a very original and compelling read, one that I won't forget anytime soon.  Ness' writing style makes it very quick and easy to read despite the potentially difficult-to-stomach subject matter and its 500 page length - a definite must read!  I definitely recommend if you're looking for an interesting read that will cause you to think and to consider life's bigger questions, but in a readable and engaging way.  I'm now looking forward to reading more from Patrick Ness!

*Huge thanks to Rhys from ThirstForFiction :) 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Book Review: Dandelion Clocks by Rebecca Westcott

Dandelion ClocksTitle: Dandelion Clocks
Author: Rebecca Westcott
Pages:  255
Publisher: Puffin
Date of Publication: 6th March, 2014
Source: Publisher*
Synopsis from back of book:
I gather up the first collection of photographs of my mum and flick through...
What all these pictures have in common is they show how Mum lives every day - like it really, really matters.

Mum's suddenly started giving me life's vital lessons: how to make Bolognese sauce, how to put on make-up, how to make rules my brother can cope with...

She's even given me her old diaries. They're really funny - and actually sort of helpful.

But I feel like there's something she's not telling me...

My Thoughts:
Dandelion Clocks is a really great book for young people. It's aimed a lot younger than my usual YA reads, but I enjoyed it hugely nonetheless. Despite tackling a difficult subject matter, Rebecca Westcott has written a brilliant debut that is heartbreaking but still funny at times, one that fills you with hope and warmth. An excellent read, not to be missed!

Before I started, I knew this was a middle grade book, but it reads a lot younger than I expected it to, which surprised me at first and meant that it took a little while for me to get used to it. About fifty pages in however I was fully engrossed in Liv's story and was both dreading and looking forward to reading more. It's clear from the start that something is very wrong with Liv's mum, but the details are not revealed until well into the book, and even then the exact details of her illness are not revealed completely. This meant that it was really easy to connect with Liv and understand her frustration and difficulty in trying to work out what was happening to her and her mum.

Liv was a really great main character and I think that Westcott did a great job writing her very realistically. I found her a little bit irritating but I think that might have been because she was so young and I generally find eleven year old girls really annoying when they are so overdramatic and obsessed with boys. Not gonna lie, I missed out the obsessed with boys phase but I was very melodramatic as an eleven year old so I'm allowed to say that :P Anyway, the fact that she was a little irritating probably means that actually she was written really well, in a roundabout kind of way… ;)

Liv's brother, Isaac, has Asperger's Syndrome and I think Rebecca Westcott dealt with this issue incredibly well. Despite being the younger of the two, Liv has to look after Isaac and make sure that he's comfortable and happy, and has to help him adjust to all the new rules that will have to be made due to his mother's illness. I admired her strength and patience when looking after him, even if she couldn't contain her frustration at times. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to be in her situation, however I felt her courage and bravery throughout the novel and was inspired because of it.

The last thing I want to say is that I cried like a baby. More than once. When her mum gives Liv her diaries and teaches her to do her make up and all the things she'll do when she's older I could see what was coming and I knew I wasn't going to make it to the end without shedding (lots of) tears. And I was right… Let's just say don't read it in public! Don't let that stop you though - it's well worth those tears!

Dandelion Clocks was a really great middle grade read that I won't forget in a hurry. It made me cry but it also made me laugh, and it's well written and tackles difficult subjects in a way that is accessible and suitable for a younger audience. I definitely recommend you give it a read and watch out for Rebecca Westcott in the future, as I think you'll be seeing a lot more of her work!

*Huge thanks to Puffin for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 

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