Monday, 31 August 2015

Review for Night Owls by Jenn Bennett

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release: 13th August 2015
Genre: Contemporary
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Meeting Jack on the Owl - San Francisco's night bus - turns Beatrix's world upside down. Jack is charming, wildly attractive ...and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists.

On midnight rides and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who this enigmatic boy really is. But Jack is hiding much more - and can she uncover the truth that leaves him so wounded?"

Night Owls is a highly accomplished YA debut that fluctuates between sexy, sad and sweet and puts a new spin on everything that I love about Contemporary YA. It’s a book that tackles themes that I’m used to reading about but Night Owls delivers them in a fresh new way with art at the heart of the story.

Bex and Jack are two of the most edgy new characters that I’ve come across recently. Both of them love art but choose to express it in different ways. Bex’s heart lies with anatomical art (which was actually more cool than creepy to read about) and dreams of illustrating science textbooks someday. Jack on the other hand is a graffiti artist who has become infamous for his spray painted words that keep appearing all over San Francisco. I loved how passionate both characters were about their work and the lengths they would go to for it.

As well as Bex and Jack’s passion for art, they also have a passion for each other that burns slowly after meeting on a night bus. I have to say that this is one of the most accurate accounts of a teenage relationship that I’ve read about. The chemistry between Bex and Jack is steamy but also sweet and tender. This book also gets major props for portraying teen sex in a mature and realistic way that bursts harmful stereotypes about teenagers being “irresponsible” or “immature” and doesn't make teenage sex feel shameful or taboo.

I also loved the family relationships portrayed in this book, they reminded me so much of the relationships I had with my own family as a teenager. Jenn Bennett delivers these authentic feelings of that strange in between time when you’re no longer a kid but not quite a grown up and so everything is still under your parents control and the frustration that can bring.

Overall Night Owls not only was the perfect blend of everything that I love about this genre but it also went that extra mile in making this book read so authentically. If you’re a contemporary fan looking for something a little bit special that stands out from the crowd look no further than Night Owls.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Review for Darkmere by Helen Maslin

Darkmere by Helen Maslin 
Publisher: Chicken House
Release: 6th August 2015
Genre: Horror, Thriller, UKYA
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer.

Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all."

I’m loving the horror trend in UKYA at the moment and Darkmere was a summer release that I couldn’t wait to get my hand on! That cover and tagline was enough to sell me on it and Darkmere delivered that blend of summer contemporary and gothic horror story that I wanted from it.

The book is told in alternate chapters set in both the past and the present. It follows Kate in the modern day and Elinor in 1825 as they both come to spend time at Darkmere castle. Kate is spending her summer there with her crush Leo and his friends and Elinor becomes lady of the castle after marrying Darkmere’s master Mr St Cloud.

The girls’ stories are eerily similar and as you get to know Leo and his ancestor St Cloud you hope that Kate’s story isn’t destined to follow in the same footsteps as poor Elinor. Despite our two characters destiny’s being scarily intertwined the voices were very distinct and so it never got confusing to read.

I think that my favourite thing about this book was exploring Darkmere castle itself. At the start of the story Darkmere seems like an idyllic place to spend the summer with its private beach and remote location but you gradually learn that it’s not a place you’d want to stay in by yourself after dark! Darkmere castle felt very much like a character in its own right and like Kate I loved exploring the secrets and mysteries it held within its walls.

Darkmere is the perfect blend of gritty summer contemporary and intriguing historical ghost story and is perfect for fans of C.J. Skuse and James Dawson. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a different kind of holiday read – just don’t read it near water!

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Dead House Mirror Tour: Scariest Moment of Your Life and Giveaway

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be part of today's The Dead House Mirror Blog Tour. The Dead House is about two girls who share the same body. Carly gets the day and Kaitlyn has the night and so the idea for this blog tour is to represent that with a Carly and Kaitlyn post. Today I am sharing with you Carly's post and a chance to win the book for yourself. Make sure you stop by Katie's Book Blog for Kaitlyn's version!

Scariest Moment of Your Life 

Diary of Carly Johnson, 
Date Unspecified

When I was ten or so, I used to transition back in, to find dozens of panicked post-its from Kaitie all over the room. I’ve kept every single one of those post-its.
I remember one day it was particularly bad. I found myself huddled in the corner of the room, post-its stuck to the wall and floor all around me. My body was completely tense, muscles on the verge of spasm. My face was tight with dried tears.
Right away, I knew what had happened, and I burst out crying. Our body still had tears left to cry. I wanted more than anything to be there for her—and to understand why she was so afraid.
I picked up the first post-it.
Carly, there’s something by the window.
I wrote a reply to that one, and stuck it down in exactly the same place:
Don’t worry Kaybear, it was probably just a tree or the wind.
The next: What do I do?
I wrote: Stay calm. I’m here with you, remember?
The next: I’m scared.
I wrote: I know. I’m here.
The next: They’re asleep. They don’t care.
I wrote: They don’t realize. You can wake them up.
She wrote: I wish you were here.
I wrote: Me too.
She wrote: What does it feel like? The sun?
I wrote: Warm, Kaitie. So warm. Like a warm bath!
She wrote: I’m alone.
I crossed that one out. Wrote on top. Liar.
She wrote: I can’t do this.
I wrote: You can do anything. Oh, Kaybear, I wish I was there for you! I feel so bad. I want us to be normal. Why can’t we be normal? I’ve brought you a present!
That day, I left my school copy of The Outsiders under the pillow with a fresh post-it note on top. It read:
And on the inside of the book, another:
I hate English, but this one was OK. What do you think?
The next morning, there was only one post-it note.
Cool book. Any more?
I opened my bag to get my reading list, and found all of my S.E Hinton homework done for me.
I guess that’s cheating; it wasn’t really my scariest moment, but it led up to my scariest moment.

For years, I never heard a peep about Kaitie being scared at night.

But one day, I opened my eyes, and it was completely, utterly dark. I thought I was blind! I really, really knew what Kaitlyn meant by “dark” that day. I startled so badly, that I banged my arm on the side of something, and then I kicked out—kicked the wardrobe door open.
Kaitlyn had left me in the closet.
It was terrifying, because I just had no idea what she went through during her night. But also because I realized she had been lying to me for four or more years. She didn’t get over her fear.
She just hid it from me.
And I was never there for her.
And that terrified me to my core. I didn’t know my sister.

Giveaway Rules 
 To enter you have to fill in the Rafflecopter 
 Open to UK residents only 
 The winner will be drawn and contacted by email with 1 week to reply else another winner will be selected 
 Make sure you complete what the form asks of you - I do check! Any winner who has not completed an option will be disqualified

Check out The Dead House as part of Books With Bite's Dark Summer Read! 
Click here for more details

Monday, 10 August 2015

Review for Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham 
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release: 3rd September 2015
Genre: Contemporary, UKYA, Mental Health, Feminism, LGBT, Crossover, Disability
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story.

Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her. Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of anything', despite suffering from Alzheimers.

As Katie cares for an elderly woman who brings daily chaos to her life, she finds herself drawn to her. Rules get broken as allegiances shift. Is Mary contagious? Is 'badness' genetic? In confronting the past, Katie is forced to seize the present. As Mary slowly unravels and family secrets are revealed, Katie learns to live and finally dares to love.

Funny, sad, honest and wise, Unbecoming is a celebration of life, and learning to honour your own stories."

Unbecoming is like nothing else I’ve read before in YA. It’s an ambitious book with huge literary merit that I can see appealing to people of all ages.

The book is about three generations of women in one family: Mary the grandmother, her daughter Caroline and Caroline’s daughter Katie. Teenager Katie is struggling with her sexuality after kissing her best friend and her whole school finding out about it, grandmother Mary is struggling with dementia that seems to be getting worse by the day and Katie’s mum Caroline is struggling to hold everyone together after her husband leaves her for a younger woman and her teenage son who has learning disabilities is finding his dad’s absence hard to come to terms with. Unbecoming is a book about women and the different obstacles we’ve faced throughout history and how they compare to the difficulties that girls face growing up in today’s society.

I loved the family relationships in this book and also how family was front and centre rather than romance or friendship taking centre stage as it is prone to in YA. Unbecoming is a book that I can see grandmothers and mums and daughters bonding over and discussing together as it examines growing up as a girl throughout the ages.

Despite Unbecoming covering a lot of heavy themes like dementia, coming out and disability - to name a few - it doesn’t feel like an “issue book”. It’s not tragic or depressing to read, it’s just the characters muddling on with their lot in life like we all do. Jenny Downham has an extraordinary way of making her characters and their situations feel very real.

I’ve read all of Jenny Downham’s books but I think that this is her best so far. Unbecoming is a moving and thought provoking book about coming clean of social expectations and being true to you.

Monday, 3 August 2015

July Round Up and Book of the Month

July's Book of the Month is Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

So July's Book of the Month will come as no surprise to people who read my 5 star review for Am I Normal Yet? last month. This was a very special book for me covering themes close to my heart: OCD and Feminism. It was one of those books that I connected so deeply with that I felt like it had been written especially for me. If you'd like to find out more about the book or read more of my thoughts on it check out my review here.

Me as I was reading this book
Read in July 
53.) A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby (3.5*)
54.) The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich (3.5*)
55.) Lorali by Laura Dockrill (4.5*)
56.) Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill (3.5*)
57.) Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (5*)
58.) The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew (4.5*)
59.) Birdy by Jess Vallance (3*)
60.) First Class Murder by Robin Stevens (5*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Best Writing: Lorali by Laura Dockrill
Best Cover: Birdy by Jess Vallance
Best Characters: First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Best Ending: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Best Romance: The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Most un-put-down-able: First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Most Memorable: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Best Moral: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: Am I Normal Yet? First Class Murder and The Big Lie

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in August 
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
Another Day by David Levithan
Darkmere by Helen Maslin
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

 What did you read and love in July? 
 And what are you looking forward to reading in August?
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