Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

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

Juniper Lemon has been on everyone’s radars since it was chosen to The Book of the BookTubeathon 2017. We had planned to read along with everyone else, but with YALC getting in the way, it was hard to coordinate. Now that YALC’s truly been and gone *sob sob*, we picked up Juniper and read it practically in one sitting. It was a fantastic book that dealt with grief and permanence in a way that didn’t make you want to bawl your eyes out, with a very lovely emphasis on building relationships with people who need them.

So, if you don’t know about it, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is all about a girl called Juniper (yes, Lemon. No, it’s not a spin off from Big Hero 6.) Her sister, Camie, died six months ago and she finds a letter she wrote to a mysterious ‘You’. Juniper then takes it upon herself to discover You’s identity, making a new friend along the way, kind of like the first six episodes of any magical girl series. The Happiness Index is a bunch of notecards that Juniper makes listing all the happy and sad things that happen during the day. One of her cards goes missing (with a pretty big confession on it) that’s the catalyst for Juniper’s to find her new love interest/ friendship group/ artistic mission for closure.

The mystery of ‘You’ definitely distracted Juniper from the grief and unspoken things surrounding her sister’s death. It wasn’t all overly dramatic and teary, with her crying in the cemetery late at night in the rain. (Although, Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer does that perfectly.) There’s certainly emotional resonance to Camie and Juniper’s relationship as you learn about what the pair did when they were younger or during national holidays but to have new beginnings as such an integral theme was a smart move of Julie Israel’s part. It was the perfect balance of quirky and fun, deep and real.

Our favourite aspect of the story was when Juniper was being a friend to the misfits, the loners and the just-likes-to-sit-in-the-library types. Seeing her surround herself with a growing circle of friends, while also trying to repair broken bridges with her bestie before Camie’s death, Lauren, was just the kind of positivity you needed.

I really liked that there was always more going on under the surface with Juniper’s mother and her grief, and Brand, Juniper’s love interest, and his home life. Her name might be in the title but she’s not the sole focus of the story, and to have so many little subplots involving the people around her made this a really rewarding read when you got to the end and the classic ceremonial burning of shared possessions.

Overall, we’d give Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index 4 stars. The mystery kept the pacing fast and the gotta-catch-them-all friendship group had us glued to the page. This was such a great debut for Julie Israel, and we’ll definitely be looking out for her next release!

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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: 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.

 

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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

I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a book. If it’s shocking to you, it’s shocking to me too because I thought I was going to love this. It was one of my most anticipated releases and I was so excited to read an #OwnVoices story about teenagers of Indian descent. And for the most part, the elements of Indian culture and passion for your own heritage was my favourite part of the book. It delivered that, but that was the ONLY thing it delivered for me.

So, let’s just pros and cons everything about this book, from character to plot to actual writing: Continue reading “Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon”

Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

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

This is probably THE MOST topical book to read about right now. After the release of the TV show, and all the problems that came with it (seriously, research the well-deserved uproar about the representation of depression and suicide) this book has been getting a lot more attention. And yes, I was desperate to read it to see how it all matched up, and nervous, too, that the portrayal would be potentially triggering or harmful. You can’t avoid it. While I’m sure the message of the book isn’t to condone revenge suicide, or suggest that bullying others is the best response to being bullied yourself, I was so aware that those are things you could take away from it. Keeping all that in mind, here are my thoughts.  Continue reading “Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher”

Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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

There’s always a lot of pressure that can come along with a Breakfast Club reference. It’s literally right there on the cover: ‘a geek, a jock, a criminal, a princess’. And although the characters from the 80s classic were way more than their cliched labels suggested, I wondered if Bronwyn, Cooper, Nate and Addy would prove that there is no box to be put in. I couldn’t be more pleased to say that the characters are what make this book amazing and you all know I love a good murder mystery, so that’s saying something. Continue reading “Review: One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus”

Review: Countless by Karen Gregory

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

We’ve seen a bit of hype about this book going around the UKYA twitter-sphere, and so were really looking forward to reading it as soon as it came up on NetGalley. It’s a story of love, dependence and pressure, with a bitter sweet edge that’s guaranteed to make you feel something by the end. Let’s talk about the pros and cons!
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Hedda is young and suffering from an eating disorder without the support of her parents. She’s living in a council flat, struggling for cash, and having to go to therapy to talk through her issues. Recently, her best friend died because of her anorexia, and Hedda is still dealing with the repercussions of that disaster. Something she really didn’t need in her life were more complications, but, surprise!, she’s also pregnant.

Continue reading “Review: Countless by Karen Gregory”

Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

30226723King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Dystopian
Publisher: Orion
Pages: 528
Format: e-book
Rating: ★★.5
Series: Red Queen
Note: We received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review!

So, I loved Red Queen but found Glass Sword to be a bit out there, and I have to admit that King’s Cage dragged. I feel like this is the one instance where it would’ve worked better as a trilogy! Seriously, this book is over 500 pages and it moves sooo slowly, and not in a good way. But I’m invested in the series, and considering there’s only one more to go, I’m going to soldier on and read it when it comes out next year.

Continue reading “Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard”

Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

32187354The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Book
Pages: 224
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This was the perfect book for us to read after finishing the Geek Girl series by Holly Smale. Grace had the same style quirks as Harriet, and even though she wasn’t spurting facts left, right and centre, there was that same sense of frivolity and fun that Geek Girl omits. If you love that series, it’s guaranteed you’ll get on well with Grace and co.

Grace has Asperger’s. Grace, and everyone around her, deals with this because it’s completely normal. I’ve read a few Own Voices reviews of the book that talk about how good it is that Grace isn’t seen as a ‘problem child’ or ‘weird’ by other people, and that’s one of the reasons this book is so good. Many books that are dealing with the non-average teenager will make whatever makes them non-average into their whole personality. Have an eating disorder? Well, you might as well be called Anorexia. Have depression? Well, looks like all you’ll be feeling is depressed. Grace is the complete opposite of this, and that’s beyond refreshing. Some of her teachers don’t even realise she has Asperger’s. It’s not an excuse for her behaviour – it’s just something she lives with.  Continue reading “Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas”