Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Right, so I hated ‘The Infernal Devices’ series by Cassandra Clare, but I do tend to enjoy YA historical fiction, so I was torn between ‘eww not demons again’ and ‘yes please this sounds like 100% my thing.’ I found after reading, that I would recommend, nay, highly recommend, ‘The Dark Days Club’ both to those that hated TID and those who loved it. If you loved TID then you will fall in love with the characters exactly as you did in Clare’s work, and if you ate it, then you can better appreciate the historical accuracy and tone.

Continue reading “Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman”

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone has known that Stephanie Perkins was writing a slasher/horror for the last two years. Now I finally have my hands on it, and boy was it…different to what I was expecting. After being known for Anna and the French Kiss and other lovey-dovey titles, I thought Stephanie Perkins would be really stepping outside her comfort zone. Turns out There’s Someone Inside Your House managed to have about five deaths, but still be 98% romance. And when I say romance, I mean carnal teenage ‘relationship’ because there was no romance to be seen. So let’s talk about it… Continue reading “Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins”

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Every verse novel of Sarah Crossan’s has been getting better and better and this is no exception. She just picks the absolute best characters to write about and tells stories you don’t normally hear that mean you can’t put the book down until it’s done.

Moonrise tells the story of Joe, who’s brother, Ed, is on death row. He hasn’t seen him in ten years, and now that he’s been given a death date, he decides to move to Texas for the opportunity to reconnect with him, and get the truth about what happened the day he was arrested.

What I loved about the story was how unassuming it was. It could have been from Ed’s perspective, and been a huge mystery like The Life of David Gale, that film with Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet. Instead, with the focus on Joe, there’s a stronger emphasis on strength and family and needing support. If you want to get angry about the justice system, watch the film instead, because while it does get mentioned, trying to save Ed is never at the heart of the book, it’s more about both brothers coming to terms with his fate.

My favourite moments of the book were Ed’s letters to Joe – the last one definitely had me tearing up – and when Nell turned up in Joe’s life because it was such a sweet and real relationship against a harsh reality that offered Joe some escape.

While the prospect of counting down the days until your brother dies sounds morbid, Moonrise strikes the perfect balance between touching and melancholy, never fully dipping into complete sadness, but never letting you forget that life is unfair sometimes.

Succinct and moving, I’m giving Moonrise 4 stars, and it’s definitely going to be something I’m thinking about for months to come!

Review: Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power by Mariko Tamaki

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This review is going to be short and sweet, just like this book. Lumberjanes, if you don’t know already, is a graphic novel series created by a bunch of awesome ladies about a group of awesome girls who spend their summers earning badges for doing outrageously fun things. For example, finding unicorns, or deep sea diving with mermaids. There are already five+ graphic novels in the series, and Unicorn Power is the first middle grade novel to be added to the series that takes the essence of the artwork and puts it in prose form.

The great thing about this book was how authentic it was to the already established Lumberjanes brand. The girls all act exactly how they would, and we even learn more about them in different situations because full prose allows for me background info than a graphic novel would.

As the cover suggests, April is definitely the central character of the story, so if she’s your fave, this one’s for you – but each girl gets a moment to shine.

There are also small illustrations that accompany the text and chapter headings, as well as the classic badge descriptions at the beginning of each part. Just like a GN, there are four different badges to focus on.

My favourite part of the story, though, was the introduction of Barney, who identifies with ‘they/them’ pronouns and only just became a Lumberjane after being part of the male equivalent group. This representation is so important, especially in a middle grade novel, and I hope Barney is more prominent in the next books.

Overall, this is perfect for Lumberjanes fans looking for a fun and quick read, but also does wonders to introduce an established world to new audiences. Hurrah for hard-core lady types!

Review: Vendetta by Catherine Doyle

Vendetta has been on my TBR since our friend, Carys, raved about the author at last year’s YALC. Now that the event is under two week away (!!), it was finally time, after months of staring at it on my shelves wondering ‘when will this happen?’ and I read it. The only thing I knew going in to the book was that there was a slight Romeo and Juliet vibe, but with the Italian mafia thrown in. Cool. Also, I bought the other two books in the trilogy, so I definitely plan on continuing – every time I brought it up in a video, there would be at least a few comments telling me how great it is! So, let’s talk about my thoughts.

As any first book in a series is, this was full of tropes. Luckily, the tropes were all ones that I get on with. Apart from one, and we’ll get to that later. Our main character, Sophie, lives in a small town called Cedar Hill, where nothing happens. There’s an old and abandoned mansion that has recently been filled with five (yes, five) hot Italian-American boys. The combination of dull town, unsuspectingly gorgeous girl and the new hot boy influx is as cliche as it comes. (See: Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, a gender-bend Beautiful Creatures.) And Catherine Doyle does little to step outside of the cliche.

I was getting seriously Bella and Edward flashbacks when one of the brothers would take turns saving Sophie’s life, or fighting people on her behalf. I swear there’s a cut-and-paste moment of Sophie being like ‘But, you were there, you saved me!’ and Nic saying ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about.’ I was kind of trash for it, especially when two of the brothers grew more prominent.

There’s Nic, the one she sees first and so the one she falls in love with. He’s a bit of an outsider in his family and wants Sophie to be part of his life, even though it’s against family policy. I call him Stefan Salvatore.

Then there’s Luca, the one that doesn’t want Sophie at all, but is still rugged and handsome with a sexual magnetism stronger than Nic. He’s more tied to family life and doesn’t hold back in upholding the whole assassin thing. I call him Damon Salvatore.

Because this dynamic already exists, I have a sneaky suspicion that Sophie will be caught in a love triangle and chose a different brother in the end than the one she chose to begin with. The forbidden romance thread is something I hadn’t read in a while, and it brought with it all the swoon-worthy moments of romances past. 

Most of the book is the brothers getting to know Sophie and Sophie uncovering the secrets of the Falcone clan, putting herself in danger and whatnot. I found all of this okay, but it wasn’t mind blowing. I feel like I’m still waiting for something to be uniquely Blood for Blood about the book that I want to read the second book straight away. It definitely has something to prove.

So, now for the naysaying. The trope I talked about earlier that I really didn’t like is one that may count as a spoiler for the book, but it deserves to be exposed. There are five brothers. One of the brothers, Valentino, who’s Luca’s twin, is in a wheelchair. He fulfils the role of tortured artist, sensitive and housebound. When Sophie is kept hostage in a warehouse to lure her uncle out of hiding, we find out that Valentino, rather than the evil uncle stereotype, is the villain. But it just went from one bad stereotype to another!

Really? There’s a link between villainy and disability? What the actual hell? We’re past this. We’re so past this, it’s cringey. It’s horrid and really tainted the story for me that Catherine Doyle went there.

And that’s my two cents on Vendetta. Overall, it was a good, if slightly predictable, play on forbidden love and family feuds that did enough to make me want to pick up the sequel. Fingers crossed it colours a little more outside the lines than this one did.

 

Top 5: Children’s Books

Although it’s a little late, I really liked the idea of sharing our favourite children’s books, based on last Wednesday’s (12th) Top 5 topic! I like to think of all of these books as the books that have made me the reader I am today, the books that have shaped my reading taste and drawn me towards young adult series that became my new favourite books.

(Backstory: Bee and I have always been readers, for sure, but it was never a huge priority in our lives until we were in secondary school. We spent most of our childhood playing role-play games with our dolls and watching Winx Club)

Fairy Dreams by Gwyneth Rees 

Because we loved animated fairies so much, it only made sense to seek them out in book form. When we were younger, I always wore my hair in bunches, so we thought that the two fairies on the cover looked like us! The story is about a girl who finds the fairies and when she goes to sleep, gets transported to the magical world! There was also something called The Book of Fairy Fun with every Gwyneth Rees character, full of word games and puzzles. When Bee and I shared a room, and when we were meant to be asleep, we’d allow ourselves to complete a couple puzzles a night, crouching up to our windowsill to get light from the streetlamp outside.

Anything by Jacqueline Wilson 

She was as big in the early 2000s as she is now. I have such fond memories of finding a Candyfloss hardback for 50p at a car boot sale with our grandparents, and reading Bad Girls for a reading level assessment. Of course, we lapped up Double Act and I always had a soft spot for Midnight (again, fairies. It’s a phase I hope to never grow out of!)

Anything by Cathy Cassidy

For our tenth birthday, I got Sundae Girl and Dizzy and Bee got Driftwood and Scarlet, and to this day, they will always be our favourite books by Cathy! Since then, we’ve been to three signings, one of which we won tickets to in a Mizz magazine contest. It was for the launch of Angel Cake and we got these glorious goodie bags and the chance to interview Cathy in a small group. It was one of the best days ever.

Judy Moody by Megan McDonald

I don’t remember how we got hold of these books, but they were fantastic. So great, in fact, that Bee and I are currently re-reading them just for fun! They’re about Judy, who really wants to be a doctor when she grows up, and each book is about her taking on these wild ideas like trying to get famous, or pretending to have ESP and running with them. Essentially a female Phineas and Ferb before the show existed.

Rose by Holly Webb 

Rose was Bee’s special thing. It was a four book series about this little orphan girl who discovered she had magical powers before she went to work for a renowned magician. She gets trained, along with the magician’s apprentice and helps to solve magical crimes like kidnappings and blood lettings. It was a bit more…grizzly than I was expecting when I first read it on a train back from London. I can remember, instead, choosing to focus on the scene where she goes to the candy store, and the big cat, Gus.

These are all the books that stick out in my mind as the ones we loved the best, and also the ones we’ve chosen to keep hold of, just in case we want to take a trip down memory lane.

Review: The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

If you love travel, or have been on a similar European tour, then this will feel like a Travel Diary and send you right back to your own adventures.

As someone who likes the idea of travelling but knows it’s definitely not for me, I have to admit I was bored at times. This is also from someone who loves DCOMs where travel is a huge part. (I’m talking Cheetah Girls 2, the Lizzie McGuire Movie, etc.) And let’s not forget my obsession with the old Mary-Kate and Ashley films. ‘When in Rome’ and ‘Winning London’ are pure classics. My favourite place the girls went to was probably Monte Carlo, only because I love the film ‘Monte Carlo’ and it reminded me how much I needed to rematch it. So, it’s not like I can’t enjoy travel stories, but this wasn’t the right one.

I don’t think the girls went through any character development. The ones that were in relationships ended up single and the girls not in relationships, found one. That was the only change. Personality wise, and friendship wise, they still seemed to be the same as page one. The friendship in general, though probably realistic, felt very imbalances. Leela had double standards and I wish the disconnect they were having could have been more of the centre rather than this Jackson guy who Leela kept calling a ‘Man Whore’….um no. You don’t get to judge someone based on how much sex they have! And they’d never even met! So, that was annoying.

I really liked what was going on with Sydney’s mother back home – her being agoraphobic and Sydney becoming the primary carer – and I would have much preferred to know more about that than their summer holidays. It felt like the most unique part of the story was happening outside of what we were being told.

I feel like their travels become a little dull, and kept hitting the same note. They’d struggle with money but somehow get through it, meet up with really kind people and sort of pick them up as they went along. (Even though there was this weird kissing contest that seemed to present itself at random times…) But there were no real stakes. We didn’t see the consequences of anything bad happening, so any sort of tension was completely lacking. Sydney and Leela had a few hiccups but nothing to stress over. I guess that’s because they were building this whole ‘perfect summer’ vibe, but maybe one instance of them having nowhere to sleep because they couldn’t afford it rather than some rich guy who fancies one of them coming in to save the day.

However thee final page did seem to suggest some kind of companion novel sequel about what was happening to one of Sydney and Leela’s other friends at the summer camp she was a counsellor at, which sounds 100% more up my street, so in the end, I’m glad I read this, so I could get the Easter eggs for the second book!