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review 2017-05-17 12:49
Review: Seven Days of You
Seven Days of You - Cecilia Vinesse

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I sort of liked this one and I sort of didn’t. I’m somewhat torn on what to feel about this book. It’s somewhere between a 3 star and 2 star read for me. The Anna and the French Kiss comparison is what made it snag my interest. Sofia has spent the last few years of her life in Tokyo at an international school with her best friends David and Mika. She has a gigantic crush on David. Her mom is a professor at a university in Tokyo. Mom has been transferred back to the United States. Sofia, her older sister Alison and her mom are leaving in seven days. Sofia has seven days to pack up her room and say goodbye to her friends.

 

Most of this book is pretty much teenagers being teenagers. Sofia is supposed to be packing, but she hangs out with her friends, enjoying the delights of Tokyo, partying, karaoke, staying out way late and lying to your parents about where you are, and crashing at her friend’s house, arguing and making up. And to add to the drama the friend Sofia fell out with years ago, Jamie, is back in Tokyo. She really liked him, but he was jealous over her crush on David and said something he shouldn’t have creating an argument that cost their friendship. Jamie’s good friends with her BFF Mika, and Mika insists on dragging Jamie along on their escapes. Friday is Mika’s birthday and with Sofia’s going away so there is a huge party. Not helped either by the fact that David’s sort of girlfriend Caroline has attached herself to their group even though no one really likes her that much. Typical teen drama.

 

Unfortunately, I found David and Mika to be some of the most incredibly annoying characters I’ve come across in a while. David is loud and arrogant, and I just don’t understand Sofia’s obsession with him. He nicknames her “Sofa” which is stupid and irritated the hell out of me. Mika came across to me as selfish. She’s very loud and foul mouthed, with a decent creative streak, she had her moments, but there were plenty of incidents where she and David were really crappy friends to Sofia.  Which lead to Sofia being really hurt.

 

While at the same time all this friendship drama is going on, Sofia is having family drama with her older sister Alison. Their parents are divorced, their dad lives in Paris with his new wife and new family. Sofia is given the opportunity to go and live in Paris with him for her senior year rather than go back to the US with Alison and her mom. Which causes major drama between Alison and Sofia as something like this has happened before and it didn’t pan out. Sofia was hurt and never quiet dealt with it.

 

When friendship drama with Mika and David hits a sour note, Sofia finds herself turning to Jamie, even though they had a massive argument years ago, they seem to have been able to move past it and grow closer, Sofia realises her feelings for Jamie may or may not be stronger than friendship, and she may not be the only one who feels this way. Made all the worse by the fact that the clock is ticking down to her leaving time.

 

Jamie was a much more likeable love interest than David. He was a nice, considerate boy, who talked to Sofia like a real person, he had his own problems and secrets, and tried not to let the drama have much of an effect on him. He was almost bordering on shy when he came in to the novel, he came alive more and more as the novel developed and showed more of a personality, particularly when he was hanging out with Sofia and their friendship became something more.

 

Sofia had a believable tone of voice and was actually quite likeable. She could be very immature and irritating, for sure. But she had some very deep emotional moments as she dealt with her feelings over leaving Tokyo, returning to the states, working out her true feelings about her father’s flakiness and if she still wanted the dream of living in Paris. The hurt she experienced when her friendships fell apart, and the romance as it developed between her and Jamie.

The constant drama did get a bit annoying, and I really did not like David and Mika at all. I did like Sofia. And thought it had a decent ending, a believable one as well, given the dramatics of the novel.

 

I can’t say this is a contemporary I would read again, but I would definitely read something else by this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hatchette Children’s Group for the review copy.

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review 2017-05-16 20:35
Review: We Come Apart
We Come Apart - Sarah Crossan,Brian Conaghan

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I must admit I didn’t read the blurb properly on this book. It came through in a reader recommend thing from Netgalley on my email. I was at work at the time and just glanced it over, the premise was enough to peek my interest. So I put in a request. I didn’t actually read that it was a novel in verse.

 

I’m not a fan of novels in verse. I’ve never read one, the concept just holds no interest to me. While this was certainly a quick read, I read most of it during my lunch hour and finished it off at home, probably under two hours reading time in all. I can’t say I was blown away by the telling of a novel in verse. I find it distracting and annoying.

 

I can’t say I liked the story that much either. It’s a UK based novel, set in London.  I found the main character Jess very hard to have much sympathy for. Which makes me feel horrible because she comes from a really awful home situation. Very passive mother who has an absolute asshole of an abusive boyfriend who beats her and rules with an iron fist of fear and intimidation.

 

 It’s downright scary to read about. Especially must be awful for Jess who clearly loves her mum but can’t do anything about it.  Jess has a definite attitude problem and potty mouth, clearly puts a tough girl act on and has some bitchy tough girl friends. It’s not that I had no empathy for Jess, there were times when I felt terrible for what she was going through. Given her circumstances, her attitude is not at all surprising. But I just didn’t like her.

 

Jess finds herself arrested for shoplifting. Instead of juvenile detention she gets a community service sentence, clearing up trash in her local park.

 

The saving grace of this book was Nicu. I loved Nicu to pieces. He made reading this whole book worthwhile. Nicu’s family are Polish immigrants, looking to make money in the UK. They want to make some decent cash to take back home to their village to give Nicu a good start with a new wife, arranged by his parents and the parents of a girl from their village. Nicu gets no say in this. He has no interest in getting married at all.

 

He’s a decent boy, who in a stupid moment tried shop lifting and got caught. Because he’s an immigrant and because he doesn’t speak very good English, he gets caught and in trouble, but he’s given the same community service option given to Jess.  Nicu seems like a nice guy who generally tries to do the right thing. He just caved under pressure of a future he has no desire for and no options to really do something for himself. He made a bad decision and there were consequences for his action. Which he understands and takes responsibility for, by doing what is required of him. Unfortunately, this means attending English school too.

 

He meets Jess at the same community service programme. They have nothing to say to each other at first, but notice each other. And soon find ways of talking to each other. They also both go to the same school and of course notice each other there as well. Jess appears to be embarrassed to be seen talking to Nicu. Her friends are the popular kids, and they are bullies. Nicu suffers terrible bullying, and while Jess doesn’t take part in the name calling and pranks, she doesn’t exactly do anything to stop it either.

 

But Nicu has such a heart wrenching tone of voice, it’s solid and dependable, and as he struggles to cope with his situation he finds Jess to be his reason for going on. As far as he’s concerned the sun rises and sets on her. He’s completely infatuated. And she eventually starts to thaw, little pieces of her tough girl personality slipping aside as Nicu breaks through her layers of protection and starts to get to know a whole different side of Jess.

 

Of course given their respective parental situations, nothing is easy going. Jess’s friends don’t make I any easier, and neither do the boy bullies in their class. One bad decision leads to another and Nicu and Jess find themselves with a horrible choice to make.

 

While the novel certainly hit some rough emotional notes,

I didn’t really think much of the way it ended. While one character got a break, one didn’t. And…it just didn’t sit right with me, that one gets away clean and the other makes a huge sacrifice. They both should have got a new start.

(spoiler show)

 

I can’t say I will be reading another novel in verse any time soon. If either of the two authors wrote a contemporary YA that wasn’t in verse, I would be interested. This novel really didn’t work for me.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK & AUS) for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-15 21:42
Review: The Sun is Also a Star
The Sun Is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I don’t really know what to say on this one. I was really looking forward to it as I absolutely loved the author’s debut, Everything Everything, which I just devoured. But I just couldn’t get into this one. It wasn’t a bad book really. The characters were delightfully diverse, the two leads, Daniel and Natasha had fantastic chemistry and a believable romance in a tough situation. I thought it was handled fairly realistically.

 

But…I just didn’t like it. It just didn’t work for me. The premise is an interesting one. Daniel comes from a Korean family who immigrated to America, his dad runs a pharmacy. His brother Charlie has always been the high achiever of the family, though has recently come home from college in disgrace. Daniel has always been in Charlie’s shadow. His parents have very high expectations of him. (Charlie is an absolute dick). Daniel is a more sensitive soul, he has a big university interview, he’s not sure what he wants to do with his life. He has a quirky, almost snarky tone of voice. He likes to write poetry.

 

Natasha’s family came over from Jamaica, her family all live in one small apartment, her dad had dreams of being an actor. He’s got great talent, but can’t seem to get a break, Natasha has a younger brother, and a hard working mom. Natasha herself is very smart and loves science. Her dad got drunk and wound up spilling their family history to a police officer, including telling the police they are illegal immigrants. And now Natasha and her family are twelve hours away from being deported.

 

Natasha is determined to make one last stab at saving her family from deportation by meeting with a lawyer who specialises in deportation cases. Stopping in a record store a chance meeting leads her to run into Daniel on the way to his interview.

 

They spark a great connection and start to get to know each other, despite the fact that both of them have places to be and a limited time, their connection is so…just there…they keep finding ways to keep the conversation going; Daniel is more optimistic and romantic. Natasha is a lot more practical and logical.

 

While they both have great voices, I think what really distracted from their story was random chapters from a whole other points of view. Various characters who have random interactions with both Natasha and Daniel, and whole chapters of random information about things that are relevant in the novel. Sometimes sciency things.

 

There was an almost quirky tone of voice to the while thing, but it felt to me like it was trying to be clever and funny, but it just came across as distracting from the main story. And by half way through these chapters were making my eyes roll more than anything. Even though they all had a part of play in the eventual story.

 

It did at least have a believable ending, which I did like, a realistic tone to it. I wouldn’t particularly read this book again, but I do love this this author.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Random House UK Children’s for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-05-08 20:19
Review: A Million Junes
A Million Junes - Emily Henry

I received a copy from Penguin's First to Read. I used some of my points to secure my copy of this one.  I have a weakness for Romeo & Juliet inspired stories, and that plus the promise of magical realism was what caught my eye about this title.

 

A little apprehensive as I tried to read the author’s debut novel and didn’t get very far at all with it, but I fell head over heels in love with this book almost right away. (And now I will have to go back and read that debut novel again).  

 

It’s almost impossible to recap the plot because that would be extremely spoilery. The basic premise is Jack “June” O’Donnell has lived in a mysterious little town her whole life, she knows there is a feudal history between her family and their neighbours, the Angerts. Something that has been going on for years and years and years. There’s deep history all connected to the strange little magical wonders that surround June’s house and an infamous tree in her family’s yard.

 

It all start to unravel when hanging out with her best friend Hannah one night, June’s neighbour, Saul Angert appears back in town after being gone for years. June knows that the last thing she should be doing is hanging out with an Angert. However, inevitably, June finds Saul knows one of her friends, and she finds herself hanging out with Saul more and more.

 

The writing is delicious, it’s superb. The novel elicits an incredibly emotional response.  It’s so amazingly written. It paints such a vivid picture and really made me feel engaged with the characters, and hooked on the story.

 

The relationship between June and Saul is wonderful, beautifully built, it has ups and downs, trust, friendship and romance. Both face hidden truths about their past and the secrets which caused the falling out between their families all those many years ago.

 

Also – bonus points for female friendship. June’s relationship with her best friend Hannah is everything you want in a BFF friendship. Trust, sticking up for each other, silliness, being there for each other, listening. It was just wonderful to see the dynamics between the two girls not overshadowed by boys or bitchiness.

 

All with a delightful touch of magical realism floating through the novel.

 

A brilliant story going easily from funny to cute to dramatic to romantic to gut-wrenching and back again. (The end made me cry). I absolutely loved everything about this book.

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review 2017-05-08 18:31
Review: Flame in the Mist
Flame in the Mist - Renee Ahdieh

I wound up with two review copies of this one. I first put in a Netgalley request which I figured was a long shot, and when I didn’t hear anything back in months, I used some of my Penguin First to Read points to secure a copy when it popped up on their read to review site. And then when I’m half way through the book my Netgalley request was approved. Oh well.

 

I don’t really know what to make of the novel in the end. I gave it a generous 3 stars, but it’s more like two and a half. While I can appreciate the journey of inner strength from the main character, Mariko, I didn’t actually like her all that much. I found the first 100 pages or so incredibly boring. The novel is beautifully written, the scenery is fantastic and the descriptions are vivid and lyrical. The fantasy setting in a Japanese world is fascinating. All marks of a fantasy I should love.

 

But personally, I just could not get into the plot. I found Mariko almost aloof, I didn’t get much of a sense of personality from her at all. I couldn’t connect with her character in a way that would make me as a reader care about what happened to her.

 

That being said, as the novel progressed, the plot did get better and Mariko did show some pretty impressive growth and strength. She’s definitely intelligent and determined, you have to give her that. On the way to her politically arranged marriage her carriage party is attacked by a notorious mercenary group the Black Clan. Mariko survives the attack and doesn’t cower in fear. She’s furious and decides she wants to know the reasons behind. Disguising herself as a boy, she follows the Black Clan and worms her way in.

 

Back in her home province, Mariko’s twin brother Kenshin, is convinced she survived the assassination attempt. Other plots include devious goings on between the Emperor and his Mistress who seems to have some hint at dark dangerous magic and her own political agenda. The Empress who seems quite passive but there’s more to her than meets the eye. The Emperor’s legitimate son (Mariko’s intended) and the illegitimate son with their own squabbles. And while all this is going on Mariko in the guise of a boy is uncovering the inner secrets of the Black Clan.

 

Of course there are lots of plot twists and everyone has secrets of their own. Mariko uncovers some shocking truths about the lands she came from and how her lord father runs them, and must decide where her true loyalties lie. There’s a romance agenda as well for Mariko when the truth about her identity is revealed. There are secrets within the Black Clan itself.

 

The plot did improve as the novel goes on and starts getting more into the twisty secrets, there’s a barest hint of some sort of magic involved, but very little of it is explained. Though it’s enough to make the reader want to know more (or it certainly worked that way for me). While Mariko was a difficult character to warm to, her journey throughout the novel is impressive, even with a kind of predictable romance, I want to know what happens next.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for approving my request to view the title.

 

Thank you to Penguin First to Read.

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