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!

7 in 7 Readathon TBR!

7 in 7 is a readathon that’s taking place from the 14th-21st August! The aim is, of course, to read 7 books in 7 days – mostly to keep your Goodreads challenge afloat in the summer so you’re not a panicky mess in December.

Bee and I are currently staying at our university house, so have access to about 2% of our books, so the choice is limited to say the least…unless we pick up our Kindles and get on top of all that NetGalley reading >___< Instead, we’ll use this as an opportunity to tick off a lot of the books on our summer reading list for university.

So, here’s what we plan on reading:

P O E T R Y  C O L L E C T I O N S:
Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo
Sunshine by Melissa Lee-Houghton
Stranger, Baby by Emily Berry

C L A S S  R E A D I N G:
M: The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
B: The Association of Small Bombs by Kara Mahajan

Y O U N G  A D U L T
A Change is Gonna Come by BAME authors (short story collection)

All of that gives us the opportunity to pick up two random choice books that we might be feeling in the moment. So, although this is quite a boring TBR in terms of genuinely pleasurable reading, if we put it out on the Internet that we’re going to read this stuff for class, then we’re bound to do it! (Hopefully…)

There’s some cross over with this readathon and Tome Topple so I’ll be continuing to read Dragonfly in Amber and *fingers crossed* Voyager by Diana Gabaldon. I’m not enjoying the books all most at all because the relationship is so toxic but it’s for one of our university modules and is our lecturer’s obsession, so we can’t get away with not reading it!

We’ll probably still be reading Invictus by Ryan Graudin as well with our lovely BookTube20Somethings reading group: Carys, Kate and Lily.

Good luck to anyone else planning on participating, and we promise that we’ll try and keep a better schedule with blogging so that we don’t disappear for weeks on end! Happy reading!

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.

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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: 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!

Review: Spellbook for the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

I had seen a lot of hype surrounding this book on twitter – lots of authors and publishers getting ARCS, which were beautiful, by the way. So, it’s one that’s been on my radar for a while, even though I had no idea when it was coming out. Then I went book shopping with Maddie and happened to see Spellbook For The Lost and Found on the table and I NEEDED IT. I picked it up practically as soon as I got home (which hardly ever happens) and I feel like I genuinely have some stuff to say about it, so let’s get to it.

Continue reading “Review: Spellbook for the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle”

Series To Read Before 2018!

What time is it? TBR Shame Time! Around the middle of the year, it’s always a good plan to re-evaluate what’s on your TBR and what your priorities are before 2018 rolls around, because it’s going to come sooner rather than later if January to June is anything to go by. I swear we were making our reading resolutions a week ago…

Tiny Pretty Things by Donielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra

This is only a duet, so really I have no excuse for not starting it because it’s not a lifetime dedication like Cassandra Clare series. But, it’s TOP of my list because I’m desperate to read about ballerinas at a boarding school. Ever since Bee and I got hooked on Dance Academy at the beginning of the year, ballet has been my favourite topic and this will be fabulous, I know it.  Continue reading “Series To Read Before 2018!”

Review: City of Saints & Thieves

Apparently this book has already been optioned for a movie?? That’s so exciting! And, I think it’s probably best to put a caveat on this review, and say I’ll probably enjoy a movie of this more! So, City of Saints & Thieves is marketed as this sort of thriller/mystery story, but the one question I was left with after finishing was: where was the thriller?

Continue reading “Review: City of Saints & Thieves”