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review 2017-02-27 19:15
Review: How To Make a Wish
How to Make a Wish - Ashley Herring Blake

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

A gut wrencher of an emotional ride. This novel tells the story of Grace who lives with her flighty mom who goes through strings of bad relationships. Grace only has one real friend, Luca, who looks out for her. When new girl Eva comes to town and moves in with Luca and his mom, she begins a friendship with Grace that slowly turns into something more. All the while things with Grace’s mom go from bad to worse, all the while Grace claiming she’s coping with it all and she’s “fine”. But is she?

 

The novel was deeply moving and very emotional and made me cry more than a few times as Grace struggles to keep her head above water. Her mom is a new contender for one of the worst YA parents. Her dad has never been in the picture, her mom has always followed her “creative” side, flitting from place to place and relationship to relationship, with seemingly little care to how all of this affects Grace. Mom also drinks. 

 

At the start of the novel Grace’s mom has moved in with a new boyfriend, Pete, who happens to be the dad of one of Grace’s ex boyfriends, Jay, who was an asshole when they broke up. Pete actually turned out to be a pretty nice guy. Jay, who was big dick through most of the novel even stepped up to the plate and turned out to be surprising.

 

Grace and Eva start to bond and get to know each other, and it’s a delightful slow burn sizzle as things progress between them. Eva’s dealing with the death of her mom, (I can’t remember why her dad wasn’t in the picture). Grace sort of doesn’t know how to handle that. The more time they spent together the closer they become and it turns into a much deeper relationship. Eva’s completely comfortable and aware of her own sexuality - she makes it plain she likes girls. Grace is struggling - she likes both boys and girls and does eventually come to the conclusion she’s bisexual. Bisexual representation was handled really well. And there were some lovely romantic scenes between Grace and Eva. 

 

But all the while Grace’s mom is flitting about, things start to go missing from Pete’s house.  While Grace is mortified, mom’s like, oh it’s no big deal. Then Mom starts cooing over Eva, focusing most of her attention on helping Eva deal with her grief, which is pissing Grace off to no end.

 

Grace had a bit of a loner complex about her, though she had her BFF Luca, Luca had a new girlfriend Kimber, who was taking up a lot of his time, and while she and Grace got along, they weren’t exactly on the BFF train. More for Grace to deal with. She had a snarky attitude about her, and given her circumstances, it’s understandable, she’s had to deal with some tough situations where her mom is concerned. Grace has always been the responsible one, taking care of her mother, dragging her out of seedy bars, making sure rent and bills are paid. Basically having to grow up way too fast.

 

Though Grace has a dream of being a concert pianist. She’s got the talent, and even has an audition for a fancy music school in Manhattan. Though reality gets in the way and she’s struggling with the idea of leaving mom to cope on her own. Mom never seems to listen Grace. Mom’s been telling her they’ll make a day of it for Grace’s audition and go spend some time together in New York, and Grace seems to be clinging to the hope this of this idea. Yet, part of her isn’t entirely sure of whether or not it will happen due to circumstances in the novel. It’s gut-wrenching to read about Grace agonising over this. 

 

Grace has comforting relief in Eva as their relationship takes a deeper turn, but with mom’s involvement in fawning over Eva, it’s not helping. Grace is pushing her anger and resentment back again and again and there’s only so much of this anyone can take before it inevitably explodes.

 

When it goes wrong, it goes wrong fast and hard and it’s painful to read. It was very emotional in parts, very raw and cut deep. I really wanted to slap the mother and hug Grace a lot.  Grace handled a lot of things with immense maturity, even though she had (and was more than entitled to) a few stroppy moments.

 

While her mom was awful, the saving light adult in the novel came from Luca’s mom Emmy, who was there throughout when Grace needed someone, and really came through like a beacon when things got to the really tough stage. Emmy was the mom Grace really deserved. Though while her own was awful, at the same time, you can understand Grace’s attachment and reluctance to leave her to it, even when things got bad. Until they reached boiling point. 

 

A beautifully, lyrically written novel, though can be very tough. I loved it. 

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group for approving my request to view the title. 

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review 2017-02-22 11:55
Review: Something In Between
Something in Between - Melissa de la Cruz

Review: Something In Between

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

This was an interesting book, as it dealt with a tough issue, but I can’t say I actually liked the main character much at all.  This book is about a Filipino girl Jasmine, who has spent most of her life in America, she’s captain of her cheerleading squad, incredibly smart and when she wins a very prestigious award that comes with a college scholarship, she’s thrilled to pieces, only to discover to her horror when her parents make a shock confession – they don’t have green cards, they are undocumented.

 

I can’t even begin to imagine what that must feel like. Jasmine’s whole world is thrown into total chaos, there’s an immigrant reform bill going on as well that would be helpful, but it’s not doing so well. On top of that Jasmine meets a handsome boy Royce, who just happens to be the son of a very powerful Senator who’s supposedly big on anti-immigration.

 

With the deadline for college applications coming up, getting her cheerleading squad to Nationals, a new budding relationship, Jasmine doesn’t seem to know which way is up and which way is down. Her family are very close, which was nice to see, though her dad is a bit on the strict side.  They banded together to deal with the problems. There was a really good family dynamic, which was believable, Jasmine had two annoying little brothers who at the start of the book were loud irritating and got in the way, but the way the novel was written made them likeable (if annoying) characters. The parents had nicely formed personalities as well.

 

Jasmine herself, I didn’t actually like much after all. She was supposed to be one of these really nice, smart and popular types, but I found her pushy and condescending. I certainly empathised with her struggles as the novel progressed. I read the first hundred pages or so, then the second time I picked it up I finished it in an afternoon, I couldn’t put it down.  Naturally she’s struggling with her family situation, and it’s worrying her to no end – are they going to be deported?

 

They find out what options are open to them, and decide which route to go down.

 

Then there’s Royce, the rich boy she falls madly in love with. Royce at first appears to be your typical senator’s son – rich and charming, but turns out to be a total sweetheart. He was lovely, very considerate and nice and not at all what you tend to expect from the very wealthy background he comes from.

 

The class divide between him and Jasmine seems to be a big issue as the relationship progresses throughout the book. Royce claims he’s not affected by it. She’s the one with the issue. She makes big deals out of little things and whines a fair amount. Yes she’s struggling with something gut wrenching, but she’s not the only character with problems in the novel. Royce is offering her help but she’s too stubborn to take it.  

 

It was certainly an interesting read, if kind of predictable in the plot.  Jasmine wasn’t my favourite character, but I definitely would recommend this for a good read about a tough issue.  I did purchase a finished paperback copy.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Harlequin (UK) Limited for approving my request to view the title.

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review 2017-02-13 11:41
Review: Frostblood
Frostblood (The Frostblood Saga) - Elly Blake

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

Initially I went into this one not knowing much about it. It was a bit of coverlust, really. Though rereading the blurb when my Netgalley request was approved it sounded like a generic YA fantasy, also sounding a bit too much like Red Queen (which I really didn’t like) though Frostblood wound up really surprising me. I didn’t quite finish it before it came out, but before I was half way through I purchased a finished copy.

 

The main character Ruby lives in a world of ice ruled by Frostbloods who are cruel and vicious. Ruby has a special power of her own, she can create and manipulate fire – she’s a Fireblood. Firebloods are hunted down by Frostbloods and either killed or imprisoned. There’s a big dramatic history between the two factions of why things are the way they are which is revealed as the novel progresses.

 

Sounds a bit generic, but the world building is surprisingly in depth with well thought out mythology and history and works well with the plot. Ruby is captured by Frostblood soldiers after an attack on the village near her home which results in a personal tragedy for her, driving her need for revenge. Rescued by local monks Ruby is given an opportunity to help them bring down the Frostblood king.

 

Not all the monks are happy to have Ruby with them – she is unpredictable, can’t control her powers and a dangerous liability. Ruby has to train to master her ability. With the help of Arcus, who comes across as one of the monks less than pleased to have her there. He’s mysterious, and quite rude and obnoxious. He and Ruby rub each other the wrong way. It’s kind of obvious immediately where it’s going but it’s delightfully shippy, and quite fun to get into their training and snide back and forths with snarking at each other. (I did find myself wanting to shove them together and yell JUST KISS ALREADY! As they sort out their true feelings for each other).

 

Ruby has her doubts about what she’s got to do, and learns a few things that she’s unsure about. There’s of course a prophecy involved, a few twisty setbacks, and one big ass plot twist towards the end that was really good and completely unexpected when the truth of Arcus’s real identity and his intentions are revealed.

 

Despite the fact that the plot is nothing that hasn’t been done before, the novel is exceptionally well written, the characters are all interesting and well fleshed out, a mix of good guys, bad guys and one or two you’re not quite sure about. Good solid world building with an interesting history and its own belief system of gods and goddesses which work well within the plot and ties up nicely.

 

A lot of fun. I have already pre ordered the sequel, and am really looking forward to more from this series.

 

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

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review 2017-01-17 11:33
Review: Some Girls Are
Some Girls Are - Courtney Summers

This was one tough book to get through, but at the same time it’s really hard to put down once you get into it. It tells the story of fall from grace of mean girl Regina Afton. Trigger warnings for attempted rape (twice in the book) physical and emotional violence. This is bullying to the extreme. The problem with this book is Regina is a big bitch and flat out unlikeable. Part of a clique of rich pretty mean girls she’s engaged in bullying behaviour herself to the point of completely destroying other girls to the point of the victims attempting suicide. So when she finds herself with her best friend’s asshole boyfriend who doesn’t get no means no and makes the mistake of confiding in someone she shouldn’t have – it’s all over the school that she slept with the most popular girl's boyfriend, and Regina finds herself the subject of the same abuse she’s inflicted on other girls.

 

It’s deep and emotional and horrible and the bullying goes from bad to worse and turns physical.  At the same time there’s a sort of morbid sense of glee seeing Regina getting her comeuppance (especially as a reader who has suffered at the hands mean girl bullying) even though it’s still horrible. She’s got no one to really turn to and finds herself trying to sit with one boy Michael who everyone has dismissed as weird and unlikeable – because of rumours Regina and her former friends spread about him. Despite everything this poor guy has suffered at their hands he still (sort of) gives her a second chance. Doesn’t make them friends or anything, but he’s definitely the bigger person. 

Even though she’s getting herself dragged through the mud Regina acts like she’s so above it all and better than everyone else (which makes her even more hateable) she’s done it to other girls, it’s sort of like so what? Doesn’t mean she deserves it (well, no she really didn’t deserve what the boy at the party tried to do, no one deserves that no matter how horrible they are as person).

 

 It’s complex because as I said she does deserve some sort of consequences for her actions in abusing others.  Her attitude doesn’t help endear her to anyone, and thankfully, it appears she’s not at all trying to be liked. She’s just getting through it as best she can. She wants to lash out and hurt the girl who’s responsible for spreading the rumour that knocked her off the top. (They have a less than pleasant history) and of course no one believes her about the attempted rape.

 

It is a tough, gut wrenching read and extremely uncomfortable in places. It did have a how on earth is this going to end tug pulling at me through the later parts of the book.  The violence gets worse, it doesn’t let up at all. The novel makes no apologies for characters’ behaviour either, it’s something that happens and it doesn’t always end well or tie up with a nice satisfying bow. It’s very open ended and that, on reflection, actually worked quite well.

 

It’s a very good book, just a difficult one with some tough topics to deal with.

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review 2016-08-26 11:50
Review: Stealing Snow
Stealing Snow - Danielle Paige

I received a copy from Netgalley.

 

I requested this title on a bit of a whim. I was less than impressed with the author’s debut novel Dorothy Must Die, which I read about 200 pages of and gave up.I really wanted to give the author another chance as sometimes while I've hated first novels, I've really enjoyed the second novel. 

 

I had the same problems with Stealing Snow that I had with Dorothy Must Die. Certainly very creative, but I felt they were both very flashy but nothing had any substance. World building was all over the place, and the characters were flat.

 

Stealing Snow is “Snow Queen” retelling. I certainly credit it for it’s originality. It’s hard to think of a Snow Queen retelling without delving into a Frozen references, even though I didn’t like Stealing Snow, I was pleased to see the main character Snow’s ice magic was quite unique, and there was nothing resembling Frozen that I could pick out at all.

 

However, I just didn’t like this novel. It introduces the main character, Snow, who after trying to walk through a mirror as a child has spent almost her entire life in a mental hospital. She spends her days getting her education out of Encyclopaedias, a haze of drug cocktails, and watching a soap opera with her favourite staff nurse, getting into fights with one other difficult patient, a thief nicknamed Magpie, and swooning over a boy she calls Bale, a firebug who is her only friend but she is not allowed to see; for reasons of course.

 

At one point a strange boy, Jagger, shows up with a cryptic message Snow thinks is a dream, next think you know, she’s escaping and running into this new boy Jagger who leads her into a strange snow covered word called Algid. Somehow Bale has gotten loose – or something happens and Snow comes to learn Bale has escaped into Algid as well.

 

Snow meets a variety of characters who we don’t know if they’re good or bad. She learns of a the evil king has frozen the landscape and there is a prophecy of a girl who’s the most powerful thing ever – the king’s long lost daughter – she’s the most powerful thing in the whole world and this girl will off the king and set the world right again.  Of course she thinks it’s ridiculous but everyone else is convinced Snow is the long lost princess. As the novel progresses Snow starts to realise she is incredibly powerful; (of course) but can’t control her magic. She meets a River Witch and her assistants Kai and Gerda who offer to train her and get her ready for the prophecy after she runs off from Jagger deciding to search for Bale on her own.

 

As things progress and we learn some characters aren’t what they seem and new ones and new plot lines are introduced, Snow’s desperate search for Bale, the possibility that feelings for Jagger might be developing from tentative trust to something more.

 

There were bits of it I liked, as new characters were introduced, particularly when Snow falls in with a group of female thieves thanks to reuniting with Jagger after ditching him. The girls are all different and uniquely pretty in their own way, but do use some overly flashy and dramatic magic, run by a Queen Margot. She has her own plans for Snow and her magic.

 

While there were some bits of I like, the biggest problem I had with this novel was I came to loathe Snow. The girl was a fucking idiot. Each new group of people she meet warn her quite bluntly that the king knows she’s now in Algid and training her magic. He’s sent his most deadly warriors and magic beasts after her, including the feared and dreadful Enforcer.

 

Talk of Snow and the prophecy is strictly forbidden. On several occasions Snow ignores this completely and heads out into public places –

one market where she’s recognised and a little boy sings a song about her – the guards storm in and are about to execute the boy not giving a crap about the boy’s wailing parents. Snow kicks up a fuss and her uncontrollable magic lets loose and it’s a big fight between herself and the guards and the enforcer and big upset for the regular people.

(spoiler show)

 

 

She does this several times. Ignores warnings and the possibility she will put others in danger to do whatever the hell she wants. The thief group she joins sets her off on an initiation task. She’s given very strict instructions. It doesn’t go according to plan and Snow lets off her magic again – creating danger for those around her.

 

By the end of the novel I wanted to punch Snow several times. She’s a selfish moron. All she wants is to get Bale and get back to her own world. Fair enough, that’s understandable. But let’s ignore all the people who have been depending on you to show up learn your gifts and help make their world right.

 

There were quite a few twists at the end of the novel that were quite surprising and unseen. Certainly original, I will say that, definitely something I never saw coming. Unfortunately, I was so sick of Snow and fed up with the novel in general by the end that the twists just made me roll my eyes. Not a series I will be continuing.

 

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

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