Mini-reviews: Too many to name because I am an absentee blogger

OMG HI, HELLO.

Seriously, I am such a hypocrite. Not that long ago I wrote a pretty fun post about making my blogging better and more consistent in 2017 and here I am, nearly 6 months into this glorious year and I’ve barely blogged for the last eight weeks. Looks like I’m pretty rubbish at taking my own advice, right?

Anyway, I’ve got about ninety billion half-written book reviews lurking about in my drafts, so we better get going!


I Have No Secrets, Penny Joelson

*I received an advance review copy of this book via NetGalley. If you’d like to read my review policy, you can fill your boots here.*

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Jemma is fourteen years old. She loves reading crime novels, painting her nails and her favourite band: Glowlight. Jemma also has Cerebral Palsy, which makes it pretty difficult to communicate with her family, or anyone else around her. Even when things get dangerous, which all of a sudden, they have.

Because of her disability, people around Jemma find her to be a pretty good listener, often confiding their secrets and innermost thoughts in her, which must get both pretty irritating and extremely boring. One day her carer’s boyfriend, Dan, confides something in Jemma that leaves her reeling: he says he’s committed a shocking and violent crime. How can Jemma warn the people that she loves that Dan is not the man everyone thinks he is, and how can she possibly protect herself from Dan in a world where she doesn’t have a voice?

A solid blend of contemporary and mystery, I Have No Secrets is a clever and eye-opening book. With the current political and social landscape as bleak as it is for people living with disabilities in the UK, this book provides an insight into the day-to-day struggles of living with a disability, as well as commentary on the way that able-bodied people can often view disabilities. I don’t identify as disabled, so I can’t speak from an own voices point of view, but I felt as if the representation was realistic without being bleak, and uplifting without being saccharine.

Although it was pretty obvious who had done the deed from the beginning of the book, Jemma’s voice and her journey to being able to communicate are what makes the book compelling. I felt like the book leaned a little more towards the lower end of the young adult spectrum in terms of age suitability (possibly even middle grade in some places), but ultimately, this is a well-written mystery with a strong narrative voice and an uplifting and hopeful story line.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 3.5/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Electric Monkey
  • Pages: 336

Luckiest Girl Alive, Jessica Knoll

Cast as a kind of Manhattan Gone Girl (aren’t all thrillers with a female protagonist,

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now?), Luckiest Girl Alive tries so hard to match the bone-sharp writing and sly characterisation of Gillian Flynn’s modern classic but falls flat on its perfectly made-up face at nearly every hurdle.

TiffAni Fanelli (really?!) is not a likable character with flaws, but a truly unlikable character because of her flaws. In fact, no one in this book is likable, and I felt like the author spent far too long trying to make everyone seem as if they had hidden depths and sharp societal observations to make that it ended up being a caricature of itself.

The pacing is OK, but the writing isn’t pretty. You can tell that Knoll is desperately trying to recreate that famous Amy Dunne’s ‘Cool Girl’ speech with nearly everything Tiff says, but the prose and dialogue is heavy-handed and pithy. Luckiest Girl lacks all of Flynn’s finesse and unsettling insight into 21st century women. Unfortunately, for me, Luckiest Girl Alive misses both the boat and the point.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 2/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Pages: 352

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1), Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

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Saving the best until last, Illuminae is one of only two five-star reads that I’ve come across for quite some time (Lord of Shadows is the other one, in case you were wondering. More on that another time, promise!).

The rumours are true: you do not, I repeat, do not, need to be a fully fledged sci-fi fan to fall for this one. This is the kind of clever, witty little book that proves that sci-fi can be poignant and emotional as well as action-packed and futuristic.

The mixed media elements of this book are a kind of love/hate thing, and I personally have planted myself firmly in the ‘love’ camp. The interview transcripts, illustrations and words scattered like galaxies and shooting stars over pages really lent themselves to the pace of the story and complexity of the plot, adding a layer of both intrigue and depth that took this from a fun book to a special book.

I loved the characters: Kady’s sharp mind and sarcastic nature made her an engaging and spunky heroine, and Ezra’s self-deprecating sense of humour and soft jellybaby heart made him the perfect antidote. The writing is tip-top, building suspense and factoring in great doses of humour just when you think everything is getting too dark.

A sweeping, intergalactic romp through the stars featuring teen angst, conspiracy theories, fighter pilots, airborne zombie diseases and Shakespeare references. I am in love.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 5/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Allen & Unwin
  • Pages: 599

That’s all for now, folks! What have you all been keeping yourselves busy reading recently? Catch me up in the comments! ❤

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ARC Review: Sweetpea by C.J. Skuse

*Disclaimer: I received an ARC of the book via NetGalley from the publisher. If you’d like to read my Review Policy, click here.*


Goodreads Synopsis

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…


Review

I’ve only read C.J. Skuse’s YA work before (The Deviants is mind-numbingly awesome, btw) but this is definitely, resolutely, ABSOLUTELY an adult book. Crude in places, laugh out loud black comedy in others; it’s a read that will divide the masses and shock those of a more sensitive disposition.

As you’ll know if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, I’m a pretty big fan of crime fiction and psychological thrillers, my general rule of thumb being: the more disturbing, the better. When I read crime, thriller or psychological horror books, I want to be shocked, I want to be challenged and I want to be creeped out. Sweetpea hits all of these notes, but in a totally refreshing and completely different fashion to anything I can remember reading recently.

Sweetpea is the inner monologue of aspiring journalist Rhiannon, a twenty-something who writes minor articles for a small town newspaper publicly and lists of all the people she’d like to kill privately. As I’ve come to expect from Skuse, the writing is tip-top and the characterisation is on point. I loved the inwardly focused narration style and I couldn’t help but identify with Rhiannon on some levels despite her clear and absolute lack of empathy and psycopathic tendancies, which is a feat of achievement in itself.

The first person perspective and intensely private narration style makes for a claustrophobic ride, and Rhiannon’s narcissistic personality will have people either squirming uncomfortably or laughing along with a character who, whilst clearly a psychopath, is darkly comic and sharply satirical. That’s the thing about this book, y’know. I started it expecting something that was going to make me scared to turn off my bedside lamp at night, and although it did do a little bit of that, what it did more was make me laugh. For anyone who has been stuck in a job that they hate, for anyone who has been in a relationship that has gone stale, for anyone who feels like they just need a little bit more, this unconventional book will rensonate in unexpected ways. 

The book reads as half monologue and half mystery, with the reader wondering where indeed the story is heading. When the twist comes at around 75% of the way through, it’s well judged and entertaining in its mad genius, but it does take a bit of slogging to get there. The diary entry narrative style lends itself to the vibe of the story and the development of the central character perfectly, but the book could easily be one hundred pages or so shorter and much punchier for it. Personally, I would have liked to see slightly more action and slightly less detail of Rhi’s day-to-day life after reaching the second half of the book.

Sweetpea is a bold, self-deprecating take on the crime genre. It’s strange and funny, dark and crude, and nothing less than I’d expect from a fearless author like Skuse. For the right reasons or the wrong ones, this is a character and a book that will stick with you long after turning the last page.


Summary

Stars out of five:

4-stars

  • Publisher: HQ
  • Pages: 384
  • Publication Date: 20th April 2017
  • For fans of: thriller/crime/psychological novels and books that have surprises on every page.

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Mini-Reviews: Anna and the French Kiss, Forbidden and The Last Beginning

Hey everyone! How the hell are you?

Everything is kind of hectic at the moment (wow, wedding planning is all-consuming, right?) but in the midst of trying on big, white dresses and visiting venues I thought I’d try my best to shoot out a little post. I’m not sure when I’ll be 100% back in business, but I’ll be slowly easing myself back into the habit of blogging over the next couple of weeks at the very least.

Now, what have I missed?


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

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I read a sample, decided I kinda liked it and then downloaded it to my Kindle one Saturday night (wild, I know). Fast forward about three and a half hours and I emerged from my reading coma, blinking and realising that the boyfriend  fiancé had abandoned me for sleep a good while before. Basically, that’s just a really long-winded way of saying that I absolutely loved this book.

Although this book is absolutely cute, heart-wrenching and sparkly as and where you’d expect a YA romance to be, I also thought it was deceptively comforting and poignant in some places. These kinds of books always have the potential to feel super one-dimensional, but I generally felt like Stephanie Perkins avoided this pitfall by making her characters and their relationships interesting, flawed and multi-layered.

There were some aspects of it that I didn’t like so much (*cue rant about girl hate and glamorising cheating*) but on the whole, it was a sweet, fun read – perfect for a lazy Saturday night or a sunny day at the beach.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 4/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Usborne
  • Pages: 372

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

From cute French boys to falling in love with your brother. I like to keep things interesting on

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my bookshelves, y’know? As far as romance goes, this book is about as far away from Anna and the French Kiss as you could possibly get.

The story focuses on a sixteen year old girl and a seventeen year old boy who fall in love. Unfortunately for them, they’re not friends or acquaintances and they haven’t met each other by chance: they’re brother and sister and their relationship is forbidden.

Forbidden is undoubtedly one of those books that will rub people up the wrong way. Naturally, people will discard it on principle and that’s fine, but it doesn’t take away from how beautifully drawn the characters and relationships are and how poignantly it is written. Tabitha Suzuma has a wonderful touch, and although dealing with a taboo subject matter, there isn’t any sense of sensationalism or moral policing. The book asks tough questions, but at the same time it never tries to convince you of where you should and shouldn’t stand.

It’s emotionally draining, for sure, but I doubt those who are brave enough to pick it up will be left disappointed with this heartbreaking portrait of a family in disarray.

]In Summary…

  • Rating: 4/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Definitions
  • Pages: 432

The Last Beginning (The Next Together #2) by Lauren James 

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The second (and final…I think?) book in the The Next Together duology by Lauren James is time-travelling, futuristic, mind-bendingly good fun.

Sixteen years ago, notorious young scientists Matthew and Katherine disappeared without a trace, leaving their baby daughter Clove Sutcliffe to be raised by her uncle. Now old enough to know the truth, computer genius Clove is determined to find out what happened to her birth parents.

I fell in love with The Next Together when I read it last year. It’s definitely one of the books that I credit with my burgeoning interest in the sci-fi genre, so when I heard that Lauren James would be writing a sequel I was pretty stoked, especially because the first book finished on a massive cliffhanger!.

Although I have to say I enjoyed the first book in the series more, there are lots of things to like about The Last Beginning. From a smart, funny, clever female heroine who is a whizz with computers and code to a great examination of mother/daughter relationships, to time travel and LGBT+ romance, this is snappy little novel that pretty much has something for everyone.

If you’re looking for a book which will ease you gently and lovingly into the sci-fi ocean, then look no further than this super fun, utterly fresh take on the genre.

In Summary…

  • Rating: 4/5 stars.
  • Publisher: Walker Books
  • Pages: 352

What have you guys been reading whilst I’ve been gone? Tell me all! ❤

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