Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Pretty Girl Thirteen by Liz Coley

Title: Pretty Girl Thirteen
Author: Liz Coley
Published by: Harper Collins
Publication date: 28th February 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Young Adult/Paranormal Thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

When sixteen-year-old Angie Chapman walks in the front door of her house, everything looks the same.

The same, but not quite.

Why is her handsome father's black hair completely grey?

Why does her mother collapse in tears? Then they tell her: she has been missing, presumed dead, for three years.

But while Angie can't recall a single detail of where she has been or how long she's been gone, there are people who do remember. People who can tell her everything. If only they weren't locked inside her mind.

Is she ready to learn the truth about Pretty Girl Thirteen? 

When I first received this book, I had no idea what to expect. I had never heard about this book before, and from reading the press release that came with it, I didn't think it would be my kind of book. Luckily, I was pleasantly surprised!

The story starts with a thirteen-year-old girl called Angie, who is in the woods on a girl scout camping trip. Early one morning, she goes into the woods to pee. One moment she's innocently crouching amongst the leaves, and then suddenly she is three years older, on her own street walking towards her house. Through DNA tests and assessments, she finds out that she has been violently and sexually abused. However, she doesn't remember anything about what happened in the three year gap in her life. That's when she finds out she has developed Disassociative Identity Disorder, meaning her brain has created multiple identities that she constantly switches between, much to the confusion of her family and friends.

I think this is the only psychological thriller I've ever read, but I'll certainly try to read more of those from now on. This book didn't disappoint!

The only fault I found was that I didn't feel very connected to Angie. For someone who is meant to be confused, overwhelmed and emotional she didn't say much about how she was feeling. It was hard to feel empathy for her - actually, I felt quite detached. However, this isn't a huge problem for me as the plot was fantastic and unique!

I know I would have read this book in one sitting if that was possible (school gets in the way of everything...). It's such a gripping book and I could hardly bear to put it down!

One thing about this book: there are a LOT of twists. Some of them seemed pretty unnecessary to me, but they didn't really do any harm to the story. Some of them were predictable, and some of them added just the right amount of drama.

'Pretty Girl Thirteen' is a very enjoyable read - although it's really creepy in some places, but that adds to the excitement of it all! I recommend this to everyone. Mysterious, poignant, exciting and sinister - not to be missed! 5/5.
Sunday, 24 February 2013

Queenie by Jacqueline Wilson

Title: Queenie
Author: Jacqueline Wilson
Published by: Random House
Publication date: 31st January 2013
Pages: 416
Genres: Children's/Young Adult
Format: Hardback
Source: Bought.

It's 1953, the year Elizabeth is to be crowned Queen of England. Elsie Kettle can't wait to go to London with her beloved nan to see the Coronation Day celebrations. Then tragedy strikes. Nan and Elsie both fall ill with tuberculosis and Elsie is whisked away to the children's ward of Miltree Hospital.

Confined to bed for months, Elsie misses Nan desperately, and struggles to adapt to the hospital's strict rules. But every night after lights-out she tells magical tales of adventure to the other children on the ward. For the first time, Elsie finds herself surrounded by true friends - including Queenie, the hospital's majestic white cat.

Finally Elsie is well enough to leave the hospital. But before she does, she has one very special, very unexpected visitor...

I was a bit apprehensive about reading this. I hadn't heard anything about this book before, and I didn't even know what it was about. However, I decided to give it a try as I used to enjoy Jacqueline Wilson's books a lot when I was younger.

The main protagonist is a young girl named Elsie. She doesn't see her mum very much, and lives with her Nan who she adores. But suddenly her Nan gets seriously ill, and that's when things start to go very, very bad.

Elsie was very sweet, kind and caring but at times she was very naive and seemed a bit clueless about...well, everything. Maybe I just found that a bit annoying because of our age gap, I don't know. However, she was entertaining to read about, especially when she got up to mischief in the hospital.

The story revolved around a very sad topic, but the author managed to keep it lighthearted in most places so it's perfect for her younger readers, whilst still being informative and exciting for her older readers. It took me a while to get into the story, but after that I couldn't put it down (which is why I was awake until 3am...).

This is a great book for girls aged 9+, although it is quite long (400 pages or so.) I give it a rating of 4/5. Definitely a good book for current/previous fans of Jacqueline Wilson.
Saturday, 23 February 2013

Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham

Title: Finding Cherokee Brown
Author: Siobhan Curham
Published by: Electric Monkey
Publication date: 4th March 2013
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult/Bullying/Contemporary/Family
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

His lips touched mine and for one split second the whole world stopped. Then every cell in my body fizzed into life...
When I decided to write a book about my life I thought I'd have to make loads of stuff up. I mean, who wants to read about someone like me?

But as soon as I started writing, the weirdest thing happened. I found out I wasn't who I thought I was. And I stopped being scared. Then everything went crazy!

Best of all, I discovered that when you finally decide to be brave it's like waving a wand over your life - the most magical things can happen.

Everything changes when you dare to dream... 

I really enjoyed reading Siobhan Curham's debut 'Dear Dylan' a while ago (you can see my review of it HERE) so I was excited when I was offered her new book, Finding Cherokee Brown, to review.

This book focuses on fifteen-year-old Claire Weeks. Claire is a nerd who gets bullied constantly, she has very low self esteem and her only friend moved far away. She doesn't get along very well with her parents and she has never known her real father.

As a way to escape her unpleasant life, she decides to write a book, which unknown to her, has the power to change her life for the better. On her fifteenth birthday, she finds out a big family secret that causes her to question everything she thought she knew about herself.

The author is fantastic at writing characters who you can relate to and feel empathy for. Claire aka Cherokee has several problems that most of us face at least once in our lives. It was nice to see her finally become the happy, confident person that she always wanted to be, watching her finally become herself. I loved watching her start to channel 'Cherokee' when she met her father, and start taking control of her life. She started sticking up for herself, which was great.

Anyone who is being bullied, has been bullied in the past, or is bullying someone should read this book. Cherokee is a very inspirational character and the book itself carries a powerful message. Overall, I loved this book! It is funny, poignant and really makes you think. 5/5!
Friday, 22 February 2013

Rainbow Beauty: Peppermint Kiss by Kelly McKain

Title: Rainbow Beauty: Peppermint Kiss
Author: Kelly McKain
Published by: Usborne
Publication date: 1st February 2013
Pages: 272
Genres: Young Adult/Family/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Abbie's life feels like one big rain cloud since her parents split up.

Now she lives with her mum and sisters in a grotty flat.
Only new friends, Ben, Summer, and gorgeous, guitar-playing Marco, offer Abbie a silver lining.

But then Abbie has a bright idea to turn her family's fortunes around. She's always loved making her own luscious beauty products.

Could opening a new business - the Rainbow Beauty parlour - bring her family a pot of gold and heal their hearts too? 

 Abbie's world is turned upside down when her parents split up. They leave their luxurious, happy life in a big house with plenty of money, for a grotty flat, with no money, barely managing to pay the rent. They all become really miserable. Will bonding over making beauty products help them all to be happy again? Will a rainbow appear from behind the cloud? (Cheesy I know, it's all I could come up with...)

Abbie is pretty, clever, fun and relatable. I really liked her as a character. Her sisters were cool too, with their different personalities. They all seemed so...real! This book is beautifully written. I also really liked Ben, Summer and Marco. They reminded me of my own friends! I especially liked the chapter where Abbie starts at her new school and meets new people.

The plot is fun to read, and it's lovely to see the close relationship Abbie has with her mother and sisters. It was nice to see them all stick together during the hard times. Occasionally it was emotional, like when Abbie talked to her dad, but other than that it's a pretty cheerful read!

I love the cover so much. It's pretty and I like the colours that have been used and the swirly writing. The covers for this new series look similar to Kelly McKain's 'Totally Lucy' series so it's easy to tell that they are all by the same author.

Overall, I give this book a rating of 5/5. Woo hoo! I loved this book and can't wait for the next one in the series. I recommend this to girls aged 11+ (but it's a nice, short book for slightly older readers too like myself.)
Thursday, 21 February 2013

Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick

Title: Drowning Instinct
Author: Ilsa J. Bick
Published by: Quercus
Publication date: 28th February 2013
Pages: 368
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Student-teacher relationships
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the author.

Falling for a teacher breaks all the rules...what if he wants to break them too?

Jenna's parents say they love her. So why do they ignore her?

Jenna's brother says he loves her. So why hasn't he visited her in years?

Jenna's teacher says he loves her. He treats her well, he protects her and he tells her she's beautiful.

Mr. Anderson is the only one she can trust.

So why is Jenna telling her story to a detective?

Jenna is sweet sixteen, the age when a girl is supposed to find her prince.

Instead she finds Mr Anderson – intelligent, handsome, married Mr Anderson, who just happens to be her chemistry teacher. With a dark past and a difficult family, Jenna is just happy to have someone to protect her, to worry about her, to love her.

But should she be suspicious of Mr Anderson’s reputation for helping ‘damaged’ students? Why is the most popular girl in school suddenly jealous of her? And where is Mr Anderson’s wife?

Jenna and her family all have their own problems, whether it be mental or physical. Jenna is vulnerable - she feels like no one cares for her and she feels like she can't trust anyone. Some things she did confused me. For example, she is very clumsy, especially at the beginning, yet she is meant to be an elegant, graceful runner. Also, Jenna's problematic parents don't trust Jenna at all, but then they're suddenly fine with leaving her to live alone for a week. In general, some parts of the story didn't really add up. But I appreciate that it is fiction, so really, anything could happen.

I couldn't relate to any of the characters in this book - in fact, I felt quite detached from them. I really disliked Mr Anderson. I'm not sure what the author wanted us to feel about him, but I definitely didn't feel sympathetic towards him. He was creepy!

I really don't know how to feel about this book. One good thing about it is that it manages to keep the reader intrigued - it's definitely not a book you can just put down! It was amazingly written, but I don't know if I enjoyed it very much. It was full of traumatic experiences, and it was all about Jenna's vulnerability and fear.

'Drowning Instinct', for me, was predictable until maybe the last 100 pages or so. That's where the plot really started getting exciting and interesting, and maybe even a little scary. Personally I think there were too many subplots in this book. I can't help feeling it might have been better if it was two books instead.

Don't get me wrong, this book is great, but it's definitely not for everyone. Most reviews I've seen for this book have been positive, but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I do recommend this book, because the author has obviously tried to write about a subject that is extremely complex, and she's done it rather well, but you should only read it if you don't mind a depressing story about traumatic experiences. 3.5/5.
Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton

Title: Emma Hearts LA
Author: Keris Stainton
Published by: Orchard
Publication date: 7th July 2012
Pages: 256
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

Emma's just arrived in Los Angeles, a million miles away from all her friends, and any chance of a boyfriend.

Unless you count geeky Oscar - which she doesn't.

Not at first, anyway.

Teen heartthrob Alex might have potential too. If she can get him away from the prying eyes of the paparazzi, that is.
Two boys, unlimited sunshine and a new life amongst the stars.

Maybe LA's not that bad, after all. 

I knew I would love this book as soon as I saw it. Firstly, Keris Stainton's other books 'Della Says: OMG!' and 'Jessie Hearts NYC' are both fabulous and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Plus, I have always loved LA - I've never been, but it just sounds like an amazing place and now I've read this book, I want to go there even more!

In this story, teenage girl Emma moves to LA when her mum gets offered a new job. Emma doesn't really want to go, but gives it a try for her mum and sister's sake. When she arrives in LA, she is reunited with childhood friend Oscar, and he shows her everything the area has to offer. But then she has to accompany her sister Bex to a casting for a TV show, and she meets Alex - a famous TV actor - and she has to choose what she really wants from life.

This is an ideal summer read, perfect to take with you on holiday! It's such a fun and exciting story.
Emma was also in Jessie Hearts NYC, so it was nice to catch up with her and find out what has been going on in her life in this book. It was a bit like catching up with an old friend. It's lovely to read about the close relationship she has with her mother and younger sister. Emma's witty narration made it easier to relate to her, and I loved drama-queen sister Bex - she was so determined to get what she wanted it was inspiring, and she had real depth as a character.

Both love interests were awesome, but I'm definitely more a fan of Oscar. He's funny, interesting, loveable and a total geek! I didn't really like Alex that much. It was nice that he offered to help Emma's sister Bex learn her lines etc, but it seemed all he wanted from Emma was the publicity - 'Who's the new girl, Alex?'.

I read Emma Hearts LA the day I got it, and it left me feeling cheerful and sad. Cheerful, because it's an amazing book, but sad because I really didn't want it to end! It's a very fun book to read, but I recommend you read Jessie Hearts NYC before starting on this one. I think all readers aged 12+ would enjoy this. 5/5!
Monday, 18 February 2013

Speechless by Hannah Harrington

Title: Speechless
Author: Hannah Harrington
Published by: Mira Ink
Publication date: 1st February 2013
Pages: 272
Genres: Young Adult/Friendship/Homosexuality
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Chelsea can't keep a secret...until now.

Everyones' shared gossip that they shouldn't have - but the last time Chelsea told a secret nearly got someone killed.

So Chelsea takes a vow of silence. If she keeps her mouth shut, at least things can't get any worse, right?


Suddenly taking a stands' making previously popular Chelsea a social outcast. But finding new ways to communicate is making her new friends in unexpected places, especially rebellious skateboarder Sam.

Sam's the last person who should give Chelsea a second chance.

It's his best friend who her gossip hurt the most - yet he's the only one who understands.
And the only one who can help Chelsea discover who she really is...and who she wants to be.  

When I got offered this book, I was very excited as I enjoyed Hannah Harrington's previous book, Saving June. 

First I'm just going to say - the cover is...interesting. I really like how the title of the book is designed, but I'm not a big fan of covers that have actual people on them. That's just my opinion though!

I didn't like Chelsea much at the beginning. She was one of those girls who I tend to dislike and avoid at school - loud, popular, and...fake. She only liked things if her 'best friend' liked them too.

It started at a New Year's Eve party, where she accidentally stumbled across two boys in bed together. Realising who they were, she decided to tell everyone at the party, without thinking about the possibly dangerous consequences. However, as the book went on, I found myself liking her more and more. She became herself, and she seemed to realise how bad the consequences of her actions had become.

Chelsea decides to take a vow of silence - if she keeps her mouth shut, life can't get any worse right? She begins to have a better outlook on life and generally becomes a better person.

My favourite character was Sam. Even though he wasn't very nice to Chelsea at the beginning, it's nice that he was eventually supportive even though it was his best friend that she had hurt the most. He was likeable and made everyone around him happy.

'Speechless' has a lot of hidden messages. For example, discrimination against gays (which needs to stop) and it also shows typical things that can happen in high school (bullying, hierarchies etc.)

This story is incredibly well written and it's a book that you just can't put down! The chapters aren't very long, which is a nice change from what I usually read.

I recommend this book to all teenagers. It shows that even with the hardest challenges in life, things will always get better eventually. 4/5!
Saturday, 9 February 2013

From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas

Title: From What I Remember
Author: Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas
Published by: Electric Monkey
Publication date: 7th January 2013
Pages: 448
Genres: Young Adult
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

I am jolted awake by sunlight flooding the room.

What time is it? Where am I?

I turn my head and that's when I see him. The gorgeous boy lying next to me.

Oh. My. God. Max.

This is bad. Very, very bad.

At midday, class brainiac Kylie Flores is due to give the most important speech of her life. And yet somehow she's woken up in Mexico, in a bed she doesn't recognise, with the hangover from hell and the hottest boy in school - and they're both wearing wedding bands.

She might be a budding screenwriter, but even Kylie's vivid imagination can't come up with the ending to this movie.

Rewind 48 hours...

This is one of the most exciting books I have read in a long time! It all starts with Kylie's laptop and a truck full of stolen goods. It ends in Ensenada, Mexico, and they only have 24 hours to get back home for graduation.

'From What I Remember' is a story told over three days, from five different characters' points of view. That would usually annoy me but it actually worked really well and gave a bigger depth to the plot. The characters grew throughout the book, so my opinions of them were changing frequently. They were all so different from each other so it was easy to tell them apart, and they all had their own problems to deal with. You'd think getting to read all of the characters POVs would mean nothing was left as a surprise for the reader, but actually there were a lot of big surprises and plot twists! I wish I could say what they were, but I guess you'll just have to buy the book yourself and find out.

Something I thought of whilst reading the book is that we shouldn't judge people when we barely know them. They could be a decent person under the 'mask' they put on when they're with their friends, or at school or something like that. At the beginning, Kylie and Max hated each other, but they were forced by certain circumstances to get to know the other person, and it didn't end up too badly!

I really like the cover of this book. I'm not sure which edition I have (it's the same as the picture above), I'm guessing it's the UK cover seeing as that's where I live. I like how Kylie and Max's faces are peeking out at the top, but you can't see their whole faces so you can still imagine what they look like. It's also pretty cool how there are significant items from the story hanging off of the title (the sombrero, the wedding rings etc.)

This book is so exciting and adventurous, I felt like I was in the story right until the end. It's a great book! I highly recommend it to everyone who enjoys a bit of escapism. 5/5!
Monday, 4 February 2013

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

Title: The Fault in Our Stars
Author: John Green
Published by: Puffin
Publication date: 3rd January 2013
Pages: 336
Genres: Young Adult/Cancer/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Despite the tumour-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis.

But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

I already had high expectations of this book, as I have only ever seen positive reviews of 'The Fault In Our Stars' and John Green is such a good writer who gets highly praised by just about everyone. So when Puffin offered me this book to review, I jumped at the chance!

It took me a while to get into the story as at the beginning it's quite slow paced. However, eventually I was fully immersed in the plot, cheering on Hazel and Augustus, and getting excited about their adventures in Amsterdam.

Augustus Waters is such a nice character and I like how he seemed to change Hazel's thoughts on life. He was always coming out with interesting things to say and he added lots of humour to the story. No matter what was going on in his life, he remained positive enough for both himself and Hazel.

To get an idea of how much I loved reading this book, here are a couple of my tweets from just after reading TFIOS.

So yeah, as you can see, 'The Fault In Our Stars' is possibly the best book I have read this year. I know it's only February, but still...

TFIOS does have quite a tragic plot, but it's nicely balanced with love and humour so it's not too depressing. The various plot twists in this story are genius, I literally couldn't put this book down!

I also really like the cover. It's simple yet eye catching, and I like the bold cloud shapes.

It's really hard to find fault with this book (except the ones in our stars...see what I did there?). I suppose the only thing I found annoying with this was that it was slow-paced, but then that's just down to personal preference and might not be a problem for other people.

I recommend this amazing book to teenagers and adults - I think it can be an enjoyable read for people aged 14-99 years old! It's a very interesting, insightful book and I think I might have to go and re-read really makes you think. 5/5!