Thursday, 30 January 2014

Book Review: The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon

The Accidental Life of Jessie JeffersonTitle: The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson
Author: Paige Toon
Series:  Jessie Jefferson, #1
Pages:  336
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's Books
Date of Publication: 30th January, 2014
Source: For review from publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads: My fifteenth birthday was the worst day of my life, and it's inconceivable to think that any single day in my future will ever be as bad. My mum was killed in a freak accident on her way to pick up my cake. Even when there was still no sign of her after two hours later, and my friends started to arrive at our house, it never occurred to me that she wouldn't be coming back.
That was six months ago. My mum died without telling me who my real dad was. And for a while I hated her for it. I thought she's taken the secret of my father's identity with her forever. But she didn't. Holy hell, she didn't. Because three weeks ago I found out the truth. And I'm still reeling from the shock of it. My dad is none other than Johnny Jefferson, mega famous rock star and one-time serial womaniser. And now I'm on my way to LA to meet him and his family.
My tiny little world has just got a whole lot bigger…

My Thoughts:
The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson is Paige Toon's first young adult novel, after many successful adult titles. It is the story of Jessie Jefferson, the daughter of Johnny Jefferson, a world-famous rock star. I didn't really know all that much about Paige Toon when I read this, but I think I'm right in saying that she has written some adult books about Johnny before now, and The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson is a YA spin-off. I really, really enjoyed it and even though I hardly ever read adult books, I think I might give Johnny Be Good a read as I'd love to read more about his world and 2015, when the sequel to Jessie Jefferson comes out, is too far away!

I felt that The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson took a little while to get started, but once Jessie was on the plane to LA to meet her real father, I was completely hooked and couldn't stop reading. I absolutely adored reading about LA life - the parties, the dresses, the boys! I don't really follow pop-culture in real life or anything, but I love reading books set in that world as it's so wildly different to my own that all the glitz and glam is very exciting... I want to go to a Hollywood party! It would be so cool. Anyway, I digress. The plot was simple and easy to read (you could quite feasibly read it in one sitting if you have the time!) and paced well - not too slow, not too rushed. It also takes place in lots of different places around the world and that was interesting too.

I liked Jessie. She took a little while to warm to, since at the beginning of the novel she has gone a little off the rails following the death of her mother (which is totally understandable), and is just a little bit bitchy to everyone. However, her character development throughout the novel is really clear and I loved seeing her mature as she came to realise who she really wanted to be. It was great to see that even though she's now found her real biological father in Johnny (and she's getting to know him and his family), she also began to appreciate Stuart, her step dad. Her relationship with him at the beginning of the story was the one that irked me the most - I know I say it ALL THE TIME, but I hate it when families don't get along in books and I think that Jessie Jefferson is more about her family than her love life, so big bonus points for that.

But that's not to say that I didn't enjoy reading about her relationships with Tom and Jack. I guess it's sort of a love triangle, but not in a Twilight kind of way so don't let that put you off at all! Tom is sweet and funny and seems to like her, but he's stuck in England while she flies away to LA, where she meets Jack. Now, I know Jack's a bit of a jerk but I could completely see why Jessie liked him so much. I'm looking forward to seeing where Paige takes Jessie's relationships in the next book as I'm not sure which boy she'll choose (or even which one I think she should choose)!

The cast of supporting characters were also really great. This book is definitely character driven! I really liked Meg, Johnny's wife, because I found her coldness when Jessie arrived and her uncertainty very authentic. Agnes, Jack's sister, was also really great and I hope that she and Jessie continue to be friends in the next book because she's very cool. Yeah.

Overall, I was surprised by how much I liked The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson. I wasn't expecting to like it nearly as much as I did and it's definitely not one to be missed. If you're a fan of light-hearted, fun contemporaries, then definitely check this one out. I've heard that Paige's adult series are also excellent so don't miss those either. I can't wait to read more!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Book Review: The Name On Your Wrist by Helen Hiorns

The Name On Your WristTitle: The Name On Your Wrist
Author: Helen Hiorns
Series:  ~
Pages:  272
Publisher: Corgi Children's Books
Date of Publication: 2nd January, 2014
Source: NetGalley
Synopsis from Goodreads: It's the first thing they teach you when you start school. But they don't need to; your parents tell you when you're first learning how to say your name. It's drummed into you whilst you're taking your first stumbling steps. It's your lullaby. From the moment it first appears, you don't tell anyone the name on your wrist.

In Corin's world, your carpinomen - the name of your soul mate, marked indelibly on your wrist from the age of two or three - is everything. It's your most preciously guarded secret; a piece of knowledge that can give another person ultimate power over you. People spend years, even decades, searching for the one they're supposed to be with.

But what if you never find that person? Or you do, but you just don't love them? What if you fall for someone else - someone other than the name on your wrist?

And what if - like Corin - the last thing in the world you want is to be found?

My Thoughts:
Every single person in Corin's world, has a name on their wrist, their carpinomen.  This is the name of your soulmate, the one who you are 'compatible' with, who you will happily spend your life with.  Sounds nice, right?  Basically, everything is handed to you on a plate and everything's fine and happy.  Or so we are led to believe.  Corin, however, for some reason which I don't think was ever really revealed (or perhaps I missed it in my frustration - I'll get to this later), does not want to find her soulmate, the one whose name is on her wrist.

I really enjoyed the world in which The Name On Your Wrist is set.  I really liked the idea of the carpinomen (also, that name comes from Latin - BONUS :P ), and also the education system they have in place was interesting.  I think the dystopian world was well thought out and if there is a sequel it'll be interesting to see where Helen Hiorns takes it next, especially with the developments at the end of the book. One thing that I did have issue with was that people wouldn't want to be with their carpinomen, and that people did marry outside of that?  If it's on your wrist then why wouldn't you?  It just made little sense to me.

The plot was quite fast paced and the writing very easy to read.  It didn't take very long to read the whole thing, which was perfect for what I wanted when I read it.  The plot develops nicely throughout the book, if a little predictably, but that didn't really bother me too much.  I liked finding out more about Corin's father, and also about her sister Jacinta, although I couldn't believe the way Corin treated her!

Corin was my main issue with the book, I think.  She was so frustrating!  I understand that there wouldn't really be a story if everyone's got someone else's name on their wrist and they all find each other and all fall in love and everything was all soppy and happy, but I didn't really get why Corin was so determined to not be with her carpinomen.  I felt like she was being deliberately awkward and cynical just to be difficult.  I didn't really understand her as a person, I guess, and definitely did not relate or connect on any level.  I really tried but she's just the kind of person that would get on my nerves in real life.  She was really arsey to everyone else too, and by the end I just wanted to give her a good slap.  I'm glad the end happened how it did though and if I can bring myself to carry on with Corin's story I'd like to see some character development.

I really wanted to like this one but it really fell flat for me.  I guess I had high expectations since it was the winner of the Sony Young Movellist Award and, funnily enough, being a winner I expected it to be good.  While I don't think that The Name On Your Wrist was really for me, it did have some interesting elements that if I have time when the sequel comes out, I would like to read more about.  If it sounds interesting to you, you should definitely give it a read, however I wouldn't recommend that you rush to it if not.

*Huge thanks to Random House Children's Books for providing me with a copy of The Name on Your Wrist in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this affected my opinion of the book. 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Book Review: The Savages by Matt Whyman

The Savages (The Savages, #1)Title: The Savages
Author: Matt Whyman
Series:  ~
Pages:  280
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Date of Publication: 6th June 2013
Source: Bought
Synopsis from Goodreads: They'd love to have you for dinner . . .

Sasha Savage is in love with Jack - a handsome, charming ... vegetarian. Which wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the fact that Sasha's family are very much 'carnivorous'. Behind the family facade all is not as it seems. Sasha's father rules his clan with an iron fist and her mother's culinary skills are getting more adventurous by the day. When a too-curious private detective starts to dig for truths, the tight-knit family starts to unravel - as does their sinister taste in human beings . . .

My Thoughts:
I was absolutely desperate to read The Savages. I don't know why, just something about it really appealed to me. I used to really love vampires stories (not gonna lie, still do, a little bit), and the way it says, "They'd love to have you for dinner" suggested that it would be a vampire story (or similar) and the cover's really cool so I thought it looked like a fun read. And it was. But it wasn't a vampire story.

The Savages are secret cannibals.

Or, they're not. They're, 'evolved eaters', but essentially that's the same thing. They feast on human flesh every so often, and have done for a couple of generations now, since The Siege in Russia (I think?). So when Sasha Savage comes home and tells her parents she has a new boyfriend, who's a vegetarian, it's a much bigger deal than it would be in a normal household, and this is where the story starts.

The novel itself is very readable and I liked Matt Whyman's simple but compelling narrative voice. If I hadn't been distracted by Christmas and family (which don't get me wrong I absolutely love), I'm sure I could have got through it all in just one sitting. There are a couple of story lines throughout the book - the aforementioned Sasha and her problematic vegetarian boyfriend, and then also Vernon English's storyline. He's a private investigator and he knows something is up with the Savage household, and the head of the family, Titus Savage, but he's not sure what.

I liked reading about Sasha and Jack. I liked how simple their relationship was - it's too often that relationships are too complicated in fiction and it was nice to be able to read something that was easy to follow. It quickly becomes clear that Jack is NOT a nice person and I enjoyed following Sasha in her journey to realising this, and realising that she needed to decide what was right for her, and no one else.  She was strong and independent but without any of the cockiness that often comes with that. Jack on the other hand, was all big-headedness and douchery.  Let's just say that I wasn't disappointed with the ending (am I allowed to say that? ;) )

I also enjoyed Vernon's story line. I liked his musings in trying to discover what happened to Lulabelle Hart (a name I still can't get over :P) and he's actually kind of funny in his stupidity and ineptitude. Despite him trying to catch the Savages out and lock them up, he was actually really fun to read about and all in all I liked him. I'm glad for his ending.

So, on the whole, I liked the book, there was just one thing that I couldn't quite bring myself to really like, and that was the cannibalism, the main focus of the story. It just is weird. It's WEIRD! And I know it's a story and I know it's fiction but reading about all the different ways of cooking up human flesh with all the spices and seasoning, and onions and gravy just is a little disturbing. If you just go with it though, it definitely makes for an interesting and original story, and if you can stomach it I'm sure you'll thoroughly enjoy The Savages.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Book Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your LifeTitle: This Song Will Save Your Life
Author: Leila Sales
Series:  ~
Pages:  288
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Date of Publication: 10th October 2013
Source: For review from publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads:  All her life, Elise Dembowski has been an outsider. Starting a new school, she dreams of fitting in at last – but when her best attempts at popularity fail, she almost gives up. Then she stumbles upon a secret warehouse party. There, at night, Elise can be a different person, making real friends, falling in love for the first time, and finding her true passion – DJ’ing.
But when her real and secret lives collide, she has to make a decision once and for all: just who is the real Elise?

An irresistible novel about hope, heartbreak and the power of music to bring people together.

My Thoughts:
When I first heard about This Song Will Save Your Life, I must admit, I was unsure that it would be my cup of tea. In the end I gave it a read because so many people had recommended it and said it was good, and also because I was lucky enough to meet the author at the MyKindaBook launch party back in November and she was super lovely so I thought I'd give it a try. I didn't have any expectations and I kept very open-minded, and I'm happy to say that actually it surprised me how much I liked it. I started it just before bed one evening, planning only to read a few pages, and then ended up reading over 100. Definitely the sign of a good book though!

I really love music. I love listening to music, and I have a very eclectic taste, and I really love playing the flute and piano too. Music is definitely a big part of my life, but despite this, The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr is the only book that springs to mind that is about music that I've really loved recently. So, as This Song Will Save Your Life is not about classical music (as TLV is), it was very new and fresh for me, which I think helped me to enjoy it even more.

I think I liked Elise, at least towards the end. She doesn't fit in at school because she's different, and while I could understand and sympathise with her wanting at least a little attention from someone kind, it was very difficult to relate to her. However I do think that she was very authentic and hats off to Leila for being able to write her so. I think the issue of suicide and bullying was handled extremely well and it was sensitive but also powerful, which was good. This book is definitely character driven, and Elise's development was really great to read about. I admired her dedication and motivation, and the self assuredness that she managed to find at the end of the book was really uplifting. Of course, she makes her mistakes but that only serves to strengthen her, which was also really great to read.

Now, I don't like drinking or dancing so a nightclub is my idea of a nightmare (and I can sort of say that now that I have been to my first house party (I remained 100% sober, might I just add)), yet I actually really want to go to Start. It was just so much fun to read about and it lifted Elise's spirits so much that it seems like such a great place to be, where people are not judgmental and you can be your own person, and I am SO in favour of that. That was one thing I did not expect to come out of reading this book, so that was a surprise! A good one, though (and also one that I probably won't carry out).

Overall, This Song Will Save Your Life was a really great book. When I got the chance to read it around my school work, it didn't take me long to get through it because it's so excellently written that you can read quite happily for an hour without noticing the time passing. I most heartily recommend that you give it a read as soon as possible! You won't be disappointed.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Book Review: Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

RoomiesTitle: Roomies
Author: Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando
Series:  ~
Pages:  288
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Date of Publication: 2nd January 2014
Source: For review from publisher*
Synopsis from Goodreads:  It's time to meet your new roomie.

When East Coast native Elizabeth receives her freshman-year roommate assignment, she shoots off an e-mail to coordinate the basics: television, microwave, mini-fridge. That first note to San Franciscan Lauren sparks a series of e-mails that alters the landscape of each girl's summer -- and raises questions about how two girls who are so different will ever share a dorm room.

As the countdown to college begins, life at home becomes increasingly complex. With family relationships and childhood friendships strained by change, it suddenly seems that the only people Elizabeth and Lauren can rely on are the complicated new boys in their lives . . . and each other. Even though they've never met.

National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr and acclaimed author Tara Altebrando join forces for a novel about growing up, leaving home, and getting that one fateful e-mail that assigns your college roommate.

My Thoughts:
I was so excited when Roomies dropped unexpectedly through my letterbox. I'd seen it around the internet and the blogosphere, and having read The Lucy Variations in the summer this year and loving it, I was very excited to give this a read. I hadn't read any Tara Altebrando, or even heard of her (sorry!) so it was also great to discover a new author! I'll be looking out for more of her titles in the future, definitely.

Anyway, I enjoyed Roomies. Not loads, but it was definitely a light-hearted and interesting read. The concept was one that really interested me, because I'm in Year Twelve now and have recently started thinking about going to university, and everything that goes with that - including accommodation and whether or not I would like to have a single room or a roommate. I think the norm in England is to have a single but I haven't done that much research so I couldn't say for sure, however I kind of like the idea of having a roommate. It'd be fun. Anyway, I felt that it was quite relevant and I think all in all it was done really well, and it certainly felt quite authentic to me.

The book is told in dual narrative, one narrative by each of the authors. I'm usually a big fan of dual narrative, however the characters HAVE to be distinctive and individual, otherwise it completely defeats the point of having a dual narrative and makes the book super confusing. Unfortunately, both EB and Lauren were very similar in voice and I constantly had to flick back pages to see who I was reading because I just couldn't tell the difference.

I did really like the set up of the book though, with Lauren and EB communicating via email before they actually meet when they get to uni. I looked forward to the emails at the end of each chapter, and I also really liked how the authors explored how difficult it is to convey exactly what you mean via text. Having had an unpleasant experience in the past with messaging someone and have them completely misunderstand me, I could empathise with the characters, which was good because it made them seem more authentic. I also think that the authors explored the anxieties and concerns that teenagers have while growing up and moving away really well, and obviously I haven't actually left home yet but I can imagine having some of the same kinds of worries that EB and Lauren had and so it was nice to know that I'm not the only one!

Overall, while Roomies wasn't quite everything I was hoping for, it is a very enjoyable read nonetheless and if you're wanting to read it, then most definitely do. It's light-hearted yet still manages to explore many themes of growing up and leaving home in a mature and interesting way. I'm looking forward to reading more of these authors!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Goodbye 2013!

Hello and welcome, and a Happy New Year!

best books 2013 end of year survey

1. Best book?
I've read the smallest number of books in a year this year than I've ever read since I started blogging and to be honest I can't think of one stand out amazing book that I absolutely adored, so I'm going to cheat and pick three really good ones that I'd like to recommend, and an amazing series.

She Is Not Invisible  Between Shades of Gray  The Fiery Heart (Bloodlines, #4)

She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead
The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more than you did?
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - There was so much hype surrounding this but I just couldn't finish it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book?
Phoenix by SF Said. So much fun!

4. Book that you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most?
Ooh. That's a tricky one - I recommended Divergent a lot but I read that a couple of years ago now... Um, for this year's read probably Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys.

5. Best series you discovered?
The Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter HANDS DOWN. They're awesome!

6. Favourite new author you discovered?
Sara Zarr, probably, after reading The Lucy Variations and Roomies.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. I don't like military/war-based fiction that much, but this was actually so so good.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book?

United We Spy by Ally Carter! Brilliant end to one of my new favourite series.

9. Book you read that you are most likely to re-read next year?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde because I have an exam for it :P I'm not a big rereader so literally could be any of the books I read this year!

10. Favourite cover of a book you read?
Fearsome Dreamer (Fearsome Dreamer, #1)  The Lucy Variations
Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve and The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr.

11. Most memorable character?
Blossom Uxley-Michaels from Weirdos vs. Quimboids by Natasha Desborough just because of her name and her initials. I am so immature, I know.

12. Most beautifully written book?
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick. It's clever too! 354.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you?
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Simply because I had to read it for school and we're studying it so I can't get away from it and I have an incredibly strong dislike for it. Sorry.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You (Gallagher Girls, #1)14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2013 to finally read?
I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. Although I'm kind of glad I did, seeing as it meant that I could read the whole series in one go.

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read?
I have no idea... I don't really make a note of quotes that I like!

16. Shortest and longest book you read?
Longest: Soulmates by Holly Bourne, at 544 pages (which, I'll have you know, I read in less than 24 hours WITH a really looong family party in the middle :P )
Shortest: The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, at 128 pages. So why did it feel so long?!

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling or dying to talk to somebody about?
Ooh. I'm not sure. I'll come back to this one.

18. Favourite relationship from a book you read?
Sydney Sage and Adrian Ivashkov from The Fiery Heart by Richelle Mead NO QUESTION.

19. Favourite book you read from an author you've read previously?
I'm not going to count sequels in here, so either I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have To Kill You by Ally Carter (having previously read Heist Society), or This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith (having previously read The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight).

Butterfly Summer20. Best book you read that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from somebody else?
Butterfly Summer by Anne-Marie Conway. This is a middle-grade book and I read it after being recommended it during my work experience at Usborne, and I actually really enjoyed it! I never would have even considered it had I not been told it was so good.

21. Genre you read most from?
Right. So I had real trouble with this question. I've read 13 contemporaries this year, but that's not including Night School 1 and 2, The Gallagher Girls, or Spy Society, all of which have no supernatural/paranormal/fantastical/unrealistic elements, yet there's something weird or that seems unrealistic in them, so I cannot classify them. So if you count those as contemporaries, which I'm leaning towards (yet still hesitant to do), I've read 22 contemporaries which is a massive third of all the books I've read this year, which is crazy! I used to hate contemporaries on principle (I don't know what I was thinking :P), so this has definitely surprised me.

22. Newest fictional crush?
Zach from The Gallagher Girls series. Definitely.

23. Best 2013 debut you read?
Soulmates by Holly Bourne. So good! Or Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle. Not sure. They were both really great reads!

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read?
Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve or The School For Good and Evil by Soman Chainani.

25. Book that was the most fun to read?
The Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter. Sorry to keep going on about them but AHHH SO GOOD.

Soulmates26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry?
Soulmates by Holly Bourne. The end, oh the end! :(

27. Book you read in 2013 that you think got overlooked this year or when it came out?
Phoenix by SF Said. Such a beautiful book and more people should read it!

Thanks to Jamie for hosting this every year, it's great fun! If you want to take part, go here to sign up on the linky!
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