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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 2017-05-15 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 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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review 2017-04-28 20:40
Review: The Piper's Price
The Piper's Price (The Neverland Wars Book 2) - Audrey Greathouse

eArc review copy provided by author.

 

An enjoyable follow up to the Neverland Wars. Picking up shortly after where the first book left off, Gwen is now back in Neverland with Peter Pan and her beloved sister Rosemary, ready to aid Peter in his quest to find the Pied Piper.

 

There was a lot more action in this second instalment, much more of an actual plot, than focusing on Gwen torn between wanting to hang on to her childhood or be a grown up. While there was certainly a huge issue with Gwen still struggling with this problem, there was nowhere near so much philosophical waxing and waning over it.

 

Peter needs the Piper’s help to formulate a plan that will stop the adults in Reality attacking Neverland. Gwen is sent back into Reality to team up with a now grown up friend of Peter who can help solve the clues to find the means of attracting the Piper’s attention.

 

Tiger Lily makes an appearance in this one, as a grown adult woman, with friends of other adult women who have left Neverland and grown up, but still remember Peter and the allure of Neverland itself. It’s interesting to see how they cope with Gwen’s appearance and her strange requests. Though it pulls Gwen back into reality and a life she’s not sure if she wants to give up or not. The women hold a “book club” and there’s one rather poignant scene where they’re discussing a romance novel, “Tryst on the Thames” and later Gwen finds a copy wants to know what it’s about, she’s old enough to understand, but the lady who comes to her aid, Dawn, says rather bluntly if she’s still flying about with Peter Pan she’s not old enough to be discussing romance novels.

 

Kind of a bitter sweet but apt point to illuminate Gwen’s awkward positon. Gwen finds herself going on a shopping trip and getting a new hairdo and these normal teenage things help give her flying the happy boost. Things that would give a normal girl a happy, not something someone deep in magic and Neverland should be that fussed about. Just more of the awkwardness of a teenager dealing with Neverland.

 

And being back in reality brings Gwen back in touch with her potential love interest from the first book, Jay. I actually really like Jay as a character, he listens to Gwen, he likes her, he doesn’t think she’s nuts when she explains her predicament to him. He’s a nice, decent guy and I can see why Gwen confides in him. I like the way their friendship develops and hints that there could be something more between them, but Gwen of course is torn with her duty to Neverland.

 

Gwen has some interesting friendship developments in this one, bringing her to see the sides of adults who have been to Neverland and grown up, and then the more magical side of friendships with the Lost Children and the fairies and Lasiandra the mermaid.  The Piper himself is quite a dark and creepy character, and something of a jackass. (Though I also quite liked the Piper and the role he played later on in the novel). We also get to see some of the nastier side of the adults in reality and what they’re doing with the magic and beings stolen from Neverland.

 

Lots more action and some great character development on Gwen, though Peter Pan himself…I found him annoying really. An interesting ending, and I’m definitely looking forward to the final part in this trilogy.

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review 2017-04-19 11:31
DNF: Wayfarer
Wayfarer (Passenger) - Alexandra Bracken

I didn't like the first book in this series much, but this is one of my auto-buy authors, and I snagged a copy from Netgalley with my Hatchette Children's auto approval. And even bought a finished hardback (despite the fact that this is not a series I really like, the hardback is really pretty). Sometimes I've found second books better than first books. 

 

Unfortunately, I only made it 250 pages or so before calling it quits. Following on from Passenger, Nicholas and Etta are now separated and struggling to find each other and deal with the changes brought about by the events of the end of Passenger. More secrets are revealed, more plot twists. However, I just can't seem to get into this series at all. 

 

It's beautifully written, plus points for diversity in the characters, and there is clear attention to detail and a phenomenal amount of historical research must have gone into plotting the novel, but I just don't like it. It's long winded and boring and not capturing my interest at all. 

 

Not for me. 

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