Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

GENRE: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, YA | PAGES: 432

My rating: ★★★★

Ruin and Rising, the final book in The Grisha Trilogy, wraps up the series in a neat little bow. The story picks up right where we left off in book two and Alina, Mal, and their band of misfits have yet another dilemma to get out of and one last amplifier to track down.

I loved the friendships that developed in this book and both major twists in the book were heartrending and superbly written.

Spoiler Alert ahead!

The ending is… a happily-ever-after, I guess, if bittersweet. All the loose ends are tied, all is right with the world, and Alina gets what she’s longed for.

And yet—call me deranged—I longed for more. I longed for something else entirely. I longed for a completely different scenario—with the Darkling.

Despite his flaws and the horrors of what he’d become; despite the twisted manipulation and his hunger for power at any cost; despite all of his darkness, I wanted Alina’s balancing light to be his salvation.

So, while the series was wonderful and I enjoyed it immensely, the ending leaves me dissatisfied and a little disappointed. Although, clearly, I’m a hopeless romantic with some major psychological issues, so unless you’re like me, you have nothing to worry about. The World of the Grisha has become a fast favourite of mine and I’ve added Six of Crows (another series within the Grishaverse) to my to-read pile.

 

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  ruin and rising

 

The capital has fallen. The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne. Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army. Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives. Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

GENRE: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, YA | PAGES: 401

My rating: ★★★★★

Siege and Storm is five-star worthy storytelling. Book two trumps book one. The pacing is faster, more thrilling and intense; the world building is still luxuriously detailed but more subtle and controlled, and the characters breathe with life.

Alina steps up in this book and we get to see her embrace who she is. She possesses a newfound strength in this book and she wears it well. I love the rising conflict between her and Mal. I love the addition of chameleonic Nikolai. I love the intriguing but sinister allure of the Darkling.

In short, I loved this book. Even more than the first. I read it in a day and I’m about to pull an all-nighter for book three.

 

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  siege and storm

 

Darkness never dies. Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

GENRE: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, YA | PAGES: 369

My rating: ★★★★

The World of the Grisha is rich with culture and magic. From page one, Shadow and Bone is enchanting—full of wonder and originality in the midst of a new, exciting setting rife with intrigue and danger. I couldn’t get enough at first.

Then, for me, the story lagged with too many chunks of scene setting and description and I found myself disconnected with the characters. This momentary lapse was short, however.

On coming back to it, the story gathered pace. Alina met new people, she struggled with training, she came into her strength, then made some plot-twisting discoveries. I was hooked once more and the initial overdone descriptive style gave way to a sprinkling of original world building amidst an intriguing plot line. The rest of the book is brilliantly written and I devoured the final two-thirds in one sitting.

Alina is like most YA protagonists. She begins her journey as a somewhat weak average teenager and finds herself and her power along the way. She is innocent and naive but also likeable and believable, and by the end of this first book, she shows enormous intelligence and courage.

I love Mal. There’s an extra section at the end that showcases his character perfectly. A letter to Alina. He is honourable and strong and obviously the ‘perfect’ match for Alina. (Note the quote marks, please.)

Yet, my favourite character by far, is the Darkling. He walks that thin grey line of morality and while the depth of his complexities seems to have only been touched upon, I’m hoping the rest of the series will do him the justice he deserves. I’m already quite in love with him.

‘Make me your villain.’ — The Darkling

 

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shadow and bone

 

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee. Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart. Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy.

The Scarlet Thread by D. S. Murphy

GENRE: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, YA | PAGES: 384

My rating: ★★★★

The Scarlet Thread is fast-paced and utterly compelling, and more than that, it is steeped in rich Greek mythology.

Kaidance has the gift of the Fates. She spends years of her life detesting who she is. She is strong but she is unaware of her full potential. Still, she is refreshingly proactive. I love her voice. She is not as naive as most YA protagonists and her smarts are believable—linked to every experience she’s ever encountered in her short life.

The world she’s thrown into is like a step back in time—an immersion into Greek mythology. The characters are intriguing and their true identities are sprinkled throughout the story in a way that makes this book impossible to put down. The story is layered and compelling, centred not just on Kaidance but also that of a centuries-spanning war.

My only gripe is the cliffhanger ending but that’s purely because I’m desperate to know how this story plays out.

   the scarlet thread

 

My name is Kaidance Monroe, and sometimes when I touch people, I see how they die. After I saw my little brother’s death but failed to stop it, my parents abandoned me to a juvenile detention facility. I don’t let people touch me anymore. Not my fingertips, not my skin, not my heart. Just before I turned 18, I got a visit from a cute guy, who tricked me into giving up my secrets. He said I was special, but he wasn’t the only one searching for me. I barely escaped with my life. Now I’m in a mansion, learning how to control my abilities – abilities so powerful, even the gods are jealous. I didn’t mean to make anyone fall for me. Certainly not my would-be killer. And I never imagined how far he would fall.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

GENRE: YA CONTEMPORARY | PAGES: 320

My rating: ★★★★★

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?

I look at my hands. One of them says ‘FLORA, BE BRAVE.’

This book swept me up in a wave of intrigue and compassion. Flora Banks is one of the best female characters I’ve read in a while—a powerhouse of inner strength. She just doesn’t remember who she is and what she’s capable of.

I loved Flora’s voice and felt an immediate connection with her from page one. The narrative is chilling—crafted with an alternating pace and clarity depending on Flora’s state of mind. At times it is fluent, teeming with such life that Flora’s spirit and tenacity radiate off the page. Other times, it is purposefully convoluted, repetitive—like actually stepping into the sweeping confusion of a seventeen-year-old amnesiac’s mind.

The repetition does not detract from the story; quite the opposite, in fact. It enhances it in that every subtle word change becomes a clue in the puzzle of Flora’s world. Because that’s what it is: an enigma that propels you from chapter to chapter, neither knowing nor trusting the words even as the story unfurls before you.

Flora’s unique personality, the Cornish and Arctic settings, the story as a whole—they are all refreshingly original and compelling. Add to that the cleverly crafted unreliable narrator and you have yourself an absolute must-read.

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  the one memory of flora banks

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

You Are Mine by Janeal Falor

Genre: Fantasy, ya | Pages: 370

My rating: ★★★★

You Are Mine is an engaging read with some interesting themes. Alongside the slow-burning (my favourite kind) romantic sub-plot, the central theme in this book is discrimination: of women, race, social status, even magical ability.

Set in a fantasy world within a time setting where the novelty of electricity is yet to wear thin, the protagonist begins her tale with a blood test with a difference. If her blood is potently magical, she will marry ‘well’ under an arrangement by her father, taking the traditional giving away of the bride to new extremes, with women traded from one man to another like cattle. Despite possessing magic, women have no worldly power—their only purpose in life is procreation and obedience.

When Serena’s original arranged marriage is upended, she is betrothed to another—an Envadi, Zade, native of the rumoured Barbarian race. His culture and his display of rare kindness and free will gives Serena a new lease of life, and she slowly begins to realise that the only barbarians in her world are men like her father.

I enjoyed Serena’s development as she progressed from a naive and fearful girl to a confident woman. Despite being strong for her siblings, oppression has taken its toll, leaving her mistrusting, often submissive, and in constant fear of men and the threat of punishment. 

The supposed crimes for which women are being reprimanded are as extreme as the punishments themselves, and the society in this world is outrageous. Yet, the concepts throughout the story—slavery, racism, oppression—are rooted in real world history. I loved the overall theme, particularly since we get to see Serena stand her own against everything.

This is part of a series, one book for every sister in Serena’s family. Had there been a follow up in her POV I’d have been inclined to get it. As a standalone novel, the story is immersive and the ending, despite falling a little short in terms of the romantic element, is still, overall, satisfying.

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you are mine book cover

Serena knows a few simple things. She will always be owned by a warlock. She will never have freedom. She will always do what her warlock wishes, regardless of how inane, frivolous, or cruel it is. And if she doesn’t follow the rules, she will be tarnished. Spelled to be bald, inked, and barren for the rest of her life—worth less than the shadow she casts.

Then her ownership is won by a barbarian from another country. With the uncertainty that comes from belonging to a new warlock, Serena questions if being tarnished is really worse than being owned by a barbarian, and tempts fate by breaking the rules. When he looks the other way instead of punishing her, she discovers a new world. The more she ventures into the forbidden, the more she learns of love and a freedom just out of reach. Serena longs for both. But in a society where women are only ever property, hoping for more could be deadly.

Witch Song by Amber Argyle

GENRE: FANTASY, PARANORMAL, ROMANCE, YA | PAGES: 305

My rating: ★★★★

I read a lot of YA novels, and the beginning stages of this one made me believe it was too specifically aimed at a more teenage demographic. The early chapters seemed juvenile in part and lacked depth. I nearly abandoned it.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

The lacklustre start gave way to a host of well-developed main characters, and intriguing secondary characters, set in a wonderful (?)medieval world of magic. The plot has Senna at the centre, the last witch, standing against Espen and her followers to reclaim the witches’ natural power and affinity with nature, and free the rest of her kind. Senna develops from a naive and innocent young girl to a witch with a powerful song, and it is believable and relatable because of the struggles she endures to get there. Through loss and abandonment, she pushes past her fears and insecurities, despite them never fully leaving her. Her insecurity is a flaw which follows her throughout the book, but it is justified, due to her sheltered past, and the ill-treatment she receives as a witch-born.

Witch Song is a beautifully written book, with its magic based on the pagan tradition and style of nature. I’d recommend it to anyone who, like me, finds themselves drawn to books with old witch magic. 

 

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 Witch Song

 

Brusenna is the last.

All the other witches have been captured, their songs stolen and twisted from harmony and growth into chaos and death. She alone must stand against an evil much older and darker than anything she could ever imagine—an evil every witch before her has failed to vanquish.

Brusenna must be the first.

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

GENRE: FANTASY, PARANORMAL, ROMANCE, YA | PAGES: 410

My rating: ★★★★

Ultraviolet — beautiful, and poetic, weaves the story of a girl with the phenomenal gift of synesthesia. The writing crackles across the pages and the senses–like sherbet, like fireworks; an emotional explosion of the every-day as we’ve never seen it. Yet, everything Alison encounters with her unique sensory system is so expertly translated onto the page, that her ‘super-power’ becomes relatable. I am in awe of the delicious detail, and the originality, and never have I been more surprised at the direction a book takes. This genre-straddling twist is effortless, quite spell-binding in fact, and I’m certain that no review anywhere could do this book justice without spoiling the ending.

This genre-straddling twist is effortless, quite spell-binding in fact, and I’m certain that no review anywhere could do this book justice without spoiling the ending.

 

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 Ultraviolet

 

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

Flawed by Kate Avelynn

GENRE: Dark, YA | PAGES: 336

My rating: ★★★★

Dark and disturbing—two words I’d associate with Flawed

Two more words: compelling… captivating.

Whether I’m drawn to this kind of story because of who I am, or whether it is the story itself that pulls me in is, quite frankly, entirely beside the point.

I loved this book. Love seems so wrong a word, given the content of the novel, but there it is: I love it. I ate the words off the page like a rabid animal and I make no apologies for it.

This book, like Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden deals with neglect, abuse, and— #OMG —incest.

If the idea of reading about that touchy topic doesn’t make you run for the hills, and you begin the story like the brave reader-adventurer you are, you are already halfway to the point of awe that I’m at, because from the get-go, Sarah, the protagonist, demands to be heard.

Her voice is strong. Even though her situation renders her weak, her inner strength makes you care for her and connect with her.

James, her brother, becomes a hero the moment he sacrifices himself to his father’s violence to save her; and then he saves her again, and again, and again.

It didn’t matter that I already knew what he would morph into; I was so caught up in the tragic events under their unhappy roof, that their pact, their bond—of safety, protection, unity, and love—was seriously all that mattered.

Like Forbidden, when it reached the point of no return, even though you KNOW there is no such thing as a grey area in this, you (or rather, I) find the behaviour… reasonable.

Yes, I damn well said it. Reasonable!

Faced with paternal abuse, neglect, and violence, an abused and otherwise absent mother, a sheltered, fragile, terrifying existence… it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to believe that the lines of love between the two people who find solace and comfort in one another, would begin to blur.

What makes Flawed so much darker however, is that unlike Forbidden, the lines have blurred only on one side—James’.

**Possible Spoilers Ahead**

As her protector, James is fiercely possessive and increasingly controlling. He loves her to a heartbreaking degree, and he wants so badly to fix everything that is wrong in their lives. It comes from a place of love, but having solved everything with his fists from the age of eight has made him volatile, and often almost as dangerous as their father; yet, he never lays a forceful hand on Sarah. At least, not yet.

Sarah struggles with her own feelings for her brother—often confused by certain emotions that pass between them. He became her only source of love and companionship—her protector and her comrade. They have had only each other for a very long time and when she begins to look elsewhere and becomes aware of the oddness of their intimate (though not sexual) relationship, James’ entire sense of self seems to crumble.

Their initial pact as young siblings—never to leave one another—is under threat when Sarah eventually falls for James’ best friend Sam. Sam leads Sarah to doorways she never knew existed; in spending time together, Sarah’s confidence grows, and her eyes seem to open for the first time.

For the first time, she becomes afraid of her brother, who would (and does) do absolutely anything for her, except let her leave or love someone else.

As reasonable as the development of inappropriate emotions is, (in my warped head, at least) there is no excuse or explanation for manipulation, particularly manipulation of a mind as fractured as Sarah’s.

We all know how this will end—yet even then, the author manages to surprise shock.

I have nothing but praise for the entire book; and nothing but admiration for the writer brave enough to tell a story as dark as this one.

Five brilliant stars.

 

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  Flawed

 

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.

Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.

Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact…

The Seven Devils by Sara Danvers

GENRE: Paranormal, YA | PAGES: 300

My rating: ★★★

The beginning of The Seven Devils is enough to draw the reader in; the tension, the trauma – I was immediately moved by the protagonist.

Then it becomes a bit of a chore. The second quarter of the novel felt rushed and unrealistic (and not in a supernatural way, but rather in terms of the human interaction.) I found it hard to believe that someone suffering from physical and psychological abuse would so easily allow a strange male into her house after having known him for the extent of just one afternoon, regardless of her obvious desperation for connection.

I almost gave up. I almost stopped reading, having become frustrated with this issue, and with the numerous grammatical and typo errors throughout.

And yet, Ellen had hooked me enough in the beginning, for me to continue with her story.

By the time we see Neil for who he truly is, flaws and all, I was rather gripped by his secrets, and their relationship – despite the open and rather frustratingly, lacklustre ending.

Apparently, there will be a book two and whilst I’m not on the edge of my seat with impatience, I do intend to follow up on their journey.

 

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  The Seven Devils

 

After nearly being drowned by her alcoholic father, 17-year-old Ellen, her mother, and her brother move across the state to start over. Ellen soon meets Neil, a gorgeous loner with a bad reputation. Her classmates warn her to stay away, but he seems to be the only one who understands her. Besides, the rumors about Neil are too far-fetched to be believed. When she is threatened by Derrick (a jealous classmate) it becomes clear that there is more to Neil than meets the eye. In this sexy page turner, Ellen must discover Neil’s dark secrets and learn to stand up for herself before the plot hatched against her unfolds.

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping (Hazards, #1) by Alyssa Rose Ivy

GENRE: Romance, YA | PAGES: 249

My rating: ★★

The Hazards of Skinny Dipping was an easy read; predictable fluff for the brain on downtime, but nevertheless very enjoyable. The middle section was the best; it was here that the central characters seemed to have more vigour. Apart from this, they could have been fleshed out a bit more. I found Juliet to be overly sensitive, but perhaps this was an intentional flaw. All in all, not the best but not the worst either. The synopsis for the book actually states that it is not claiming to be about deep love or self-discovery and so, to that end, it ‘does what it says on the tin’.

  The Hazards of Skinny Dipping

 

This isn’t a deep book about first loves or self-discovery. If you want a book like that, I’d be happy to recommend one, but I don’t have that kind of story to tell. Instead my story is about rash decisions and finding out that your dream guy is bad in bed. It’s the story of when I finally went skinny dipping, and how my life was never the same again. Oh, and it’s also the story of my freshman year of college and realizing Mr. Right might have been there all along.

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

GENRE: Contemporary, YA | PAGES: 246

My rating: ★★★★

The End of Everything is beautiful and disturbing all in the same breath! I loved this book. The writing was amazing – it reminded me a bit of Sylvia Plath’s style. There were some sentences I had to re-read just to fully absorb and appreciate the poetry within the prose.

The protagonist’s voice was strong, mature, and surprisingly insightful for a fourteen year old – yet without being too advanced so as to make it unbelievable. The author did a fantastic job of capturing this middle ground.

The story line was amazing – suspenseful and full of intensity throughout.

I can’t fault it in any way.

Simply brilliant!

 

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  The End of Everything

 

A close-knit street, the clink of glass on glass, summer heat. Two girls on the brink of adolescence, throwing cartwheels on the grass. Two girls who tell each other everything. Until one shimmering afternoon, one of them disappears. Lizzie is left with her dread and her loss, and with a fear that won’t let her be. Had Evie tried to give her a hint of what was coming, a clue that she failed to follow? Caught between her imaginary guilt, her sense of betrayal, her own powerful need, and the needs of the adults around her, Lizzie’s voice is as unforgettable as her story is arresting.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

GENRE: Romance, YA | PAGES: 280

My rating: ★★

This brilliantly original idea of forgetting the past and ‘remembering’ the future is what made me desperate to read Forgotten. I have to say: I feel a little disappointed. The execution of this fabulous idea wasn’t as fabulous as it could have been, or rather – as fabulous as I was hoping.

The writing is fine, and there are several moments throughout the story that had meaning to them, but on the whole, I felt as though there was room for so much more.

The characters were a little under-developed and the love story, which I think was meant to be portrayed as being intense, came off as crush-like. That said, the mystery towards the end of the story really kicked things up a notch. Had this been an equal part of the overall book, the story would have been a lot stronger.

I guess I should bear in mind that this book is for a young adult audience but on the other hand, I have read several YAs and loved them. Overall, I give this 2 – maybe 2.5. I liked Luke, and the mum, and I loved the memory issue, but this one was certainly not one for me, which is a shame really as it had the potential to be incredible.

Nevertheless, I am still looking forward to reading The Originals by this author.

 

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  Forgotten

 

Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day she can’t remember. The whole scenario doesn’t exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can’t seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can’t make sense of, she realizes it’s time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future. Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if’s in their own lives and recognise the power they have to control their destinies.

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2by Stephenie Meyer

GENRE: Graphic Novel, Romance, YA | PAGES: 240

My rating: ★★★

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 is a good. It is the second half of the graphic novel versions of Meyer’s Twilight. The artwork is very good and the story is set at a good pace, better paced than Meyer’s own story in my opinion.

  Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2

 

Having uncovered the dark secret of her enigmatic classmate, Edward Cullen, Bella Swan embraces her feelings for him, trusting Edward to keep her safe despite the risks. When a rival clan of vampires makes its way into Forks, though, the danger to Bella has never been more real. Will she make the ultimate sacrifice to protect the people dearest to her? The second volume of Twilight: The Graphic Novel completes the visual adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s worldwide bestselling debut novel and is a must-have for any collector’s library.

What’s Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1) by Kat Zhang

GENRE: Paranormal, YA | PAGES: 352

My rating: ★★★

I really enjoyed What’s Left of Me. It was added to my reading list for originality (and the Z in my Author A-Z Challenge) – and after an even-paced start, it really took off around the middle! 

The story read like a movie, in that it actually kept me on the edge of my seat.

My only complaint comes in at about a third of the way through the book – I can’t pin it down, but there were just parts of the writing that felt rushed or unpolished. The writing strengthened as the story gained momentum however, and I became so engrossed that the single flaw lost significance.

I started this book on a stand-alone basis but having read it now, I will definitely be checking out the rest of the series.

 

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  What's Left of Me

 

I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . . For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

Drip Drop Teardrop by Samantha Young

GENRE: Paranormal, Romance, YA | PAGES: 166

My rating: ★★★

If Drip Drop Teardrop had been fleshed out a little more, it would have been, quite simply, an amazing book. Instead, it felt a bit rushed, a bit glossed over and there were several typos I tried not to see.

That aside, it was very original and entertaining. I found myself so drawn to the two main characters; despite the shortness of the story itself, the author created a well-rounded protagonist; Avery’s strength shone through and her fears were believable. I love that she essentially saved herself and that her choice was her own.

And given the choice–flawed but beautiful Brennus–who could blame her. 

 

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 Drip Drop Teardrop

 

Avery hasn’t had it easy. When she was ten years old her parents died in a car crash. Now nine years later her Aunt Caroline is the only family she has left. And Caroline is dying. So when Death comes knocking (quite literally) in the form of the damaged and dangerous, Brennus, Avery makes a deal with the reaper in order to save Caroline.

Brennus is an Ankou. One of the many, once mortal men and women, who were given the choice to become an immortal in exchange for ferrying the dead over into their afterlife. Nine years ago Brennus took Avery’s parents and tried to take Avery, but she fought him and won. Amazed by her strength Brennus followed Avery and has watched over her. Now he knows Avery is the one to offer him freedom from his obligation to the dead. And he’ll stop at nothing to have her.

Flat-Out Love by Jessica Park

GENRE: Romance, YA | PAGES: 389

My rating: ★★★

I started Flat Out Love because I’d reached a reading lull. I wanted something that was easy and not at all serious, and happily, I got what I came for.

This book is a great read if you’re looking for something that you don’t have to really think about too much; it was easy, the way it is written is done with flow and good pace and it’s light and witty. It has a slightly more serious undertone to it, which gives the story the depth it needs, but this doesn’t consume you in any way.

Flat Out Love is perfect for lazy Summer afternoons.

P.S. I think after this, I might also get myself a Flat Finn.

 

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  flat out love

 

Something is seriously off in the Watkins home. And Julie Seagle, college freshman, small-town Ohio transplant, and the newest resident of this Boston house, is determined to get to the bottom of it. When Julie’s off-campus housing falls through, her mother’s old college roommate, Erin Watkins, invites her to move in. The parents, Erin and Roger, are welcoming, but emotionally distant and academically driven to eccentric extremes. The middle child, Matt, is an MIT tech geek with a sweet side… and the social skills of a spool of USB cable. The youngest, Celeste, is a frighteningly bright but freakishly fastidious 13-year-old who hauls around a life-sized cardboard cutout of her oldest brother almost everywhere she goes. And there’s that oldest brother, Finn: funny, gorgeous, smart, sensitive, almost emotionally available. Geographically? Definitely unavailable. That’s because Finn is traveling the world and surfacing only for random Facebook chats, e-mails, and status updates. Before long, through late-night exchanges of disembodied text, he begins to stir something tender and silly and maybe even a little bit sexy in Julie’s suddenly lonesome soul. To Julie, the emotionally scrambled members of the Watkins family add up to something that … well… doesn’t quite add up. Not until she forces a buried secret to the surface, eliciting a dramatic confrontation that threatens to tear the fragile Watkins family apart, does she get her answer.

Stolen: A Letter to My Captor by Lucy Christopher

GENRE: Dark, YA | PAGES: 304

My rating: ★★★★

This book made me question my own state of mind!

Apart from being really well written and engaging, it also left me with that rare and lingering ‘book aftermath’…

Gemma, the book’s voice, is taken – stolen – at an airport in Bangladesh by someone who looks vaguely familiar to her. She wakes up in a room of a house in the middle of the Australian desert and discovers that there is nowhere to run to.

Her captor Ty is a self-sufficient man of the land and introduces her to his ideal way of life, and also his idea of how she fits into it all.

Throughout, the book paints a vivid picture – the heat of the desert, the intensity of Ty and his many issues, the confusion of Gemma as she learns about her kidnapper and herself.

Once again, as with Forbidden and Comfort Food, I found myself having an odd reaction to the events within the story.

Whilst I obviously knew the situation was wrong, I couldn’t deny the fact that I saw their connection and willed it to deepen and develop.

Being based around the relationship and events of a kidnapper and his victim, there was always a huge amount of room for Stockholm syndrome. I kind of expected it.

But it never really came.

Even though Gemma cared for and maybe even fell a little bit in love with her kidnapper, and even though she was dependent on him for her survival (and her sanity to a certain extent) I personally don’t think she suffered from the syndrome. When she finally understands what she is feeling, it seems genuine, rather than a direct response to the kidnap situation.

Overall, my thoughts on this book are hugely positive; it was a rather gripping read and also food for thought (which is always good).

On a closing note, I should point out that if anyone suffered from Stockholm syndrome during this tale it would be me. It simply has to be me – because without a technical term to back me up I would only have the basic acknowledgement of having a serious Jones for the disturbed (but delicious) Ty.

 

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  stolen

 

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him. This is my story. A letter from nowhere. Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back? The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don’t exist – almost.

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

GENRE: Contemporary, Dark, YA | PAGES: 212

My rating: ★★★★

Such a Pretty Girl is such an unpretty story.

Want a book with a horrid topic? Filled with terror? Despair? Betrayal? Stand aside Horror authors and make room for a different kind of fear. The kind that chills and fascinates; moreover the kind that for some, occurs in everyday life.

Did I say fascinate? Yes, I suppose I did. We have to admit to the fascination or why else would we want to read about it? It’s a weird thing when I can soar through books like this yet take months reading genuine classics. It’s not something I’d readily admit to for fear that my interest in this topic will be taken the wrong way.

Somehow though, authors of books like this make me realise that there must be others just like me. Like I said, why else would we read stories like this one and moreover why else would anyone write them?

The answer is the tale. In every victim’s sad and tragic story there is a fighter waiting to stand their ground; a predator dodging bad karma. This story delivers that in Meredith’s clear voice. Her struggle, her ways of coping–it is all very real–and her triumph in the end, though bittersweet for having to endure the pain before that, is nonetheless a victory.

For all the intrigue and fascination and background psychology that this story–and others like it–may hold, I think I might just be a sucker for a good (read: happy) ending as much as anyone else.

 

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Such a Pretty Girl

 

They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.
Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison. Today her time has run out.

Living Dead Girl by Elizabeth Scott

GENRE: Dark, Suspense, YA | PAGES: 110

My rating: ★★★★

Brilliantly disturbing book. Impossible to put this down once you’ve begun. It is a sad story told in such blunt and vivid detail it will make you want to look away and retch a little. Yet you’ll keep reading. It’s like a car crash. My only gripe is that it’s just a hundred and ten pages long… saying that, whilst I devoured this in 48 hours, any more than that of this horrific tale would have been biting off way more than I could chew. The author clearly knew what she was doing.

 

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  Living Dead Girl

 

Once upon a time, I was a little girl who disappeared. Once upon a time, my name was not Alice. Once upon a time, I didn’t know how lucky I was. When Alice was ten, Ray took her away from her family, her friends — her life. She learned to give up all power, to endure all pain. She waited for the nightmare to be over. Now Alice is fifteen and Ray still has her, but he speaks more and more of her death. He does not know it is what she longs for. She does not know he has something more terrifying than death in mind for her. This is Alice’s story. It is one you have never heard, and one you will never, ever forget.

A Certain Age by Rebecca Ray

GENRE: YA | PAGES: 416

My rating: ★★★

I don’t know how I feel about A Certain Age. I can’t really say I liked it yet I can’t say I DIDN’T like it.

The sheer numbness that radiates from the central character is staggering. Her disturbing view of herself and the intense and often awful situations she endures (and puts herself through) are what makes this novel go down like glass bottle. Saying that, once I started reading I swallowed that glass bottle in one go.

The writing style itself is somewhat awkward; certainly not great prose but this lends itself to the nature of the novel. Its stumbling style is not unlike the main character’s own struggle.

To some, her struggle may seem far fetched – it is not an everyday mainstream kind of situation nor is it a typical coming-of-age story, despite the title – however, these things do occur. There is realism at the base of this f*****-up story and that, I believe, is what kept me reading until the last page.

The ending was not entirely satisfying. It felt unfinished in so many ways. Somehow though it fits hand in glove with the rest of the book; it is the unpolished, sugar-free version of a teenage struggle without an imaginary quick-fix.

 

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 A Certain Age

 

‘I lost my virginity to a twenty-five year-old man. And on a schoolnight, too.’ Sex with an Older Man Parents who don’t understand Politics in the playground Blowjobs behind the bike-sheds Skinning up in the schoolyard It’s what happens when you reach a Certain Age. Just the hormones kicking in. We’ve all been there . . . haven’t we? A CERTAIN AGE – the reality behind the problem pages. It’s what Just 17 never told you about growing up.

Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire

GENRE: Contemporary, Romance, YA | PAGES: 319

My rating: ★★★

My rating of Beautiful Disaster stands at 2.5 stars. Maybe I’m a little too scatterbrained to give a fair review right now or maybe I’d been anticipating this story for too long that my review is way too harsh… I’m unsure.

What I do know is that whilst I felt a little let down by the book in several places I cannot deny my urge for the relationship between Abby and Travis to work.

Their bond teetered dangerously on the edge of co-dependency and abusive behaviour but as the story progressed it became easier to see that these two troubled people were better off together than apart and that in itself was beautiful.

 

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Beautiful Disaster

 

The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

GENRE: Contemporary, YA | PAGES: 232

My rating: ★★★★

This was one of those books that was both sad and uplifting. Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys a coming of age story with difference and depth. *full review to come*

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

 

“I walk around the school hallways and look at the people. I look at the teachers and wonder why they’re here. Not in a mean way. In a curious way. It’s like looking at all the students and wondering who’s had their heart broken that day…or wondering who did the heart breaking and wondering why.”

Charlie is a freshman. And while he’s not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it. Charlie is attempting to navigate his way through uncharted territory: the world of first dates and mixed tapes, family dramas and new friends; the world of sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, when all one requires is that perfect song on that perfect drive to feel infinite. But Charlie can’t stay on the sideline forever. Standing on the fringes of life offers a unique perspective. But there comes a time to see what it looks like from the dance floor.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a deeply affecting coming-of-age story that will spirit you back to those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

GENRE: Contemporary, Romance, YA | PAGES: 432

My rating: ★★★★★

My god, Forbidden is amazing. Even with the very, very sensitive topic of incest and child neglect, the story as a whole was immensely touching and so intense I felt the urge to pause between chapters–yet couldn’t!

From page one, the characters came to life for me. It was impossible not to sympathise with their situation; it was as if their very lives were unfolding in front of me, and by the time Maya and Lochan actually took their relationship to the next dangerous level I was already (incredibly) accepting it. I would go as far as admitting that I wanted them to succeed in their plans for a future together.

The ending made my heart ache. It was the ultimate sacrifice to both their family unit and to each other.

The only recommending sentence I need to utter is this: if you like good books, read Forbidden–you won’t be disappointed. 

 

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Forbidden

 

She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But… they are brother and sister. Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

Entangled by Cat Clarke

GENRE: Contemporary, Dark, Romance, YA | PAGES: 372

My rating: ★★★

Entangled started out as what seemed like a hostage situation then slowly morphed into the internal examination of troubled Grace. The story, in her voice, tells of her journey to the point of suicide and gave a glimpse into how she finally found and made peace with herself in the end.

Grace’s voice is strong throughout, as is her character, and though her behaviour is often infuriating, it is not without cause. Her self-loathing comes through clearly, in a very real kind of light and her breakthrough at the end, though obviously very bittersweet by this point, is achingly victorious.

 

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  Entangled

 

The same questions whirl round and round in my head: What does he want from me? How could I have let this happen? AM I GOING TO DIE? 17-year-old Grace wakes up in a white room, with table, pens and paper – and no clue how she got there. As Grace pours her tangled life onto the page, she is forced to remember everything she’s tried to forget. There’s falling hopelessly in love with the gorgeous Nat, and the unravelling of her relationship with her best friend Sal. But there’s something missing. As hard as she’s trying to remember, is there something she just can’t see? Grace must face the most important question of all. Why is she here? A story of dangerous secrets, intense friendships and electrifying attraction.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

GENRE: Contemporary, YA | PAGES: 250

My rating: ★★★★

I read The Virgin Suicides from cover to cover in a matter of hours. The tale was grippingly told several years after the book’s incident, through the voice of a group of neighbouring, then teen-aged boys. Their somewhat disturbing obsession with a group of sisters on their street helped them discover pieces of the mystery surrounding the girls’ eventual deaths.

The story centres on the sad breakdown of the Lisbon family after one of five sisters tries and then succeeds, to end her life one summer in the ’70’s. The remaining four girls become progressively isolated within their home, often coming outdoors only in the dead of night, prisoners in their own house at the hands of their (understandably) overprotective parents. Their only contact with the outside world is through a ham radio, conversation via record-playing on the telephone and strange light messages to the boys, including a final message that alerts the boys to their planned ‘escape’.

The style in which it was written was as though a report was being delivered. It was open, ‘chatty’ even, full of the character of the narrators, even though we had no clear image of what they looked like or even which of them were telling the story. Their fascination with the Lisbon sisters translated so that I, too, became fascinated. Throughout, I was given the impression that these girls might be saved, purely because the narrator once believed as much.

Although this never was to be, the ending was not disappointing or dissatisfying. Sad though it was, it was inevitable that these girls, who were already dead inside–for whatever reason–would meet their premature end.

 

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The Virgin Suicides

 

The haunting, humorous and tender story of the brief lives of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, The Virgin Suicides, now a major film, is Jeffrey Eugenides’s classic debut novel. The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.

The Twilight Saga Official Illustrated Guide by Stephenie Meyer

GENRE: Fantasy, Paranormal, YA | PAGES: 543

My rating: ★★★★

The Twilight Saga Official Illustrated Guide does two things for me: it fills the gaps of the Saga, and it feeds that closet-ridden, Twilight-hungry part of myself in one huge, all-you-can-eat sitting.

I wasn’t crazy about some of the illustrations. And repetition in the coven profile crossovers was bordering on mundane, but overall this was hugely enjoyable for any Twilight fan–Twihard or not. 

 

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  The Twilight Saga Official Illustrated Guide

 

Fans of the #1 New York Times bestselling Twilight Saga will treasure this definitive official guide! This must-have hardcover edition-the only official guide-is the definitive encyclopedic reference to the Twilight Saga and provides readers with everything they need to further explore the unforgettable world Stephenie Meyer created in Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn, and The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner. This comprehensive handbook-essential for every Twilight Saga fan-is full-color throughout with nearly 100 gorgeous illustrations and photographs and with exclusive new material, character profiles, genealogical charts, maps, extensive cross-references, and much more.

Witch Child (Witch Child, #1) by Celia Rees

GENRE: Fantasy, YA | PAGES: 240

My rating: ★★★★

I thoroughly enjoyed Witch Child for the captivating tale it told. The whole story had just enough fact amongst the fiction to make it believable as a true case. I liked that. Mary was strong and a real survivor–I cared about what happened to her from page one.

This is a memorable favourite for me and one of the best books about witches I’ve read.

 

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Witch Child

 

Enter the world of young Mary Newbury, a world where simply being different can cost a person her life. Hidden until now in the pages of her diary, Mary’s startling story begins in 1659, the year her beloved grandmother is hanged in the public square as a witch. Mary narrowly escapes a similar fate, only to face intolerance and new danger among the Puritans in the New World. How long can she hide her true identity? Will she ever find a place where her healing powers will not be feared?