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Book Review: Paper Bag Mask

A huge thanks to Hidden Gems for providing me with a copy of this book in return for my review!

This book is about a prank. Kind of. Not really. It’s complicated.

AP student Redmond Fairweather steals the whomper.

Ok, so the ‘whomper’ is this little wooden sword his AP History teacher, Mr. Street, uses as a prop in class. There’s nothing particularly special about it – the origin is different every time Mr. Street is asked about it – but he seems strangely fond of it. And when Redmond sees Mr. Street handing a suspicious little bag full of powder to a student, he decides that Mr. Street deserves a little pain.

And then Redmond, Alice and Deep (his two best (and only) friends) are making a ransom video, wearing paper bags over their heads to disguise their identity.

He didn’t plan it. He actually meant to give it back almost immediately, but then the exremely popular (and hot) Elodia Cruz confronts him about it, telling him he must not return the whomper. It turns out that Redmond isn’t the only one getting weird vibes from his teacher – there are rumours of past interactions with students, not to mention how his current wife was originally a student where Mr. Street was working as a TA.

Bit by bit, Elodia and Red (as Elodia calls him now) gather a team, including members of the school’s most popular band. Red and Alice start dating, Deep is clearly falling for the singer of the band, and Elodia is shocked at how much she realises she likes Red. It’s all very, very exciting.

Then the plan escalates. They decide to steal the giant whomper (a paper-mache debut to the original built by a past class, measuring about ten whole feet). And then, naturally, there’s another ransom video. And finally, Red tells Elodia what he saw happen between Mr. Street and Jasmine (the girl who received the bag of drugs, who also happens to be Elodia’s best friend). Linked with the rumours of the ‘White Whale’, a teacher distributing drugs through a network of students, the gang decide to out Mr. Street. Publicly.

They post all the videos online, including a final one where they destroy the whomper for good, and out Mr. Street as the White Whale. It becomes really quite messy. There are police involved, Alice and Red’s relationship is on the line, and they’re even interviewed on national television. Red thinks this is it, he’s finally been seen, he’s liked by the other students. And then it gets worse. And worse. And worse.

This was a super enjoyable book! It was set in high school (I think the students are around 17, so that’s the equivalent to Sixth Form here in the UK), so it was aimed at a slightly older audience than a lot of other YA books. It had a great sense of humour throughout, and an informal, ‘chatty’ kind of vibe. But there was a lot of more important stuff, deeper topics like drugs and even abuse being broached. And of course, there was the typical kid-messing-up-big-time followed by kid-finding-his-true-self aspect that pretty much all coming of age novels have.

I did notice a few tiny mistakes with grammar, simple typos and such, as well as a few instances where double punctuation has been used. This may have been purposeful, to give that whole teen voice, but I thought it just looked incorrect/immature/unprofessional.

Overall, I really did like this. I found myself feeling genuinely embarrassed on Redmond’s behalf, and although I could see where he was going so wrong at times, I couldn’t help but read on and see what happened. 4.5 stars!

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Book Review: The Secret of the Silver Mines (Dylan Maples Adventures #2)

I didn’t know that this was part of a series when I first requested it but luckily it was perfectly fine as a standalone read. It’s a young adult adventure novel, but I definitely got the feeling that it was aimed at younger young adults than myself. The main character is 12-year-old Dylan Maples, so I assume the target audience is around that pre-teen age, too.

Dylan’s father often moves around for his work, which is as a lawyer. They’re now moving to Cobalt, in north Canada. “Hicksville”, as Dylan calls it. It’s only for a few months, but Dylan is dreading leaving his friends behind. Cobalt is bound to be so boring. How will he ever survive?

But of course, Dylan finds adventure in this seemingly sleepy town. As usual, I won’t tell too much of the plot, but I will say that Dylan finds himself in the middle of the law suit his dad is working on.

Dylan makes a friend in Cobalt, too – Wynona. He meets her almost immediately, though they don’t become acquainted until a little later on. Their relationship remains platonic, though it is fairly obvious that there are some deeper emotions.

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Thank you to the author/publisher for accepting my request to read and review this book

Personally, I found this to be quite a young book. It included a huge amount of similes and metaphors and what I’d consider ‘simplistic’ writing. It wasn’t bad, it just felt like it was a bit too young for me to enjoy.

For a younger audience I could see this as being quite interesting, though I found it a little slow at times. 3 stars.

Book Review: Cuckoo

Sorry I haven’t been writing any reviews for a while. Life’s a little all over the place right now.

This was one of the books I picked up from the library without knowing anything about it, so I was pretty excited to read it. It was definitely different to what I expected; it’s written in “episodes” but not quite like a script. It’s more detailed and less firmly structured, but is from the point of view of the audience of the episodes (not any of the characters in the actual scene). The episodes are also acted by different people, who aren’t necessarily the actual characters. This was really interesting; it made it more like a ‘show’ that Jake was putting on, but did get a bit confusing.

It was definitely a good book. I enjoyed reading it and was interested to discover what happened next. I quite liked Jake as a character, although he did come across as a little overdramatic. (Maybe I’m being harsh by saying this, but did he really need to run away from home and cause such a fuss?) I understand how the author is perhaps trying to convey the message that even actors and “successful” people have problems, but I just wasn’t feeling it. I don’t know. Maybe a different issue should have been explored.

The story is basically Jake’s web-series after the soap “Market Square” is cancelled. After losing his job and income, his family is forced to move into a small flat. Jake can’t cope, especially with his disabled brother and his father who’s going through a bit of a mental breakdown, and so hops from one friends’ house to another. Somehow this leads to his best friend hating him, and he continues to be bitter through the comments of the web-series.

Quick side note: The comments are a good touch, but felt really fake. I liked having the ‘real-time’ dialogue, but the messages didn’t sound genuine/authentic at all to me.

Anyway, Jake ends up in some old woman’s house, who turns out to have been a director. He helps bring her out of her extreme dementia, and in return she allows him to live with her.

It all seemed a bit too much, too extreme, for what it was. Jake ends up homeless at one point, and his friend is still being all grumpy at him and it just seemed a bit off to me. But I don’t know, I might just be being way too harsh. Despite that, I did enjoy reading it. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Zenn Diagram

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Thank you to the publishers of this book for sending me a copy via NetGalley.com

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Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant – Review ARC/Galley, 222 pages – Expected publication: April 4th 2017 by Kids Can Press

Side note: I accidentally said Zenn diagram instead of Venn diagram to my A level maths teacher because of this book. It was incredibly embarrassing.

 I don’t usually like typical YA romance stories very much, but I quite liked this. It wasn’t just romance, but that was quite a big part of the story.

Eva is eighteen and has never really been able to touch anyone or anything. Not because she can’t, but because she gets serious fractals when she does. They’re like visions, only made of just patterns and colour that show Eva the issues and problems people are hiding.

One good thing from these fractals is that they make her a great math tutor. Her maths skills are amazing, and when she touches anyone’s calculator she can feel what math frustrations they have. Combining these two factors make Eva the best tutor, well, eva. 

She has two students currently; Josh, the footballer and her best friend’s crush, and the new kid, Zenn. Little does she know how both these boys are going to change her life…

Quick note: No, this is not one of those annoying love triangles.

Without giving too much away, it turns out that the circles of Eva and Zenn’s life overlap more than they ever knew.

So the themes in this book are wide and plenty, ranging from religion to death of family, loss of virginity, first loves, best friends, and way more. I like how Eva is, at first, a very stereotypical nerd who finds most girls shallow and horrible, but that she allows herself to try makeup and become obsessed with a boy because she knows it’s natural. Feminism should allow for love and crushes and makeup and girliness.

The writing is very appealing to the age group I think, the voice of Eva pretty accurate throughout the book. There is loads of humour, but also some pretty nice serious notes, too. The change brought on by her best friend beginning a relationship is very relatable, and well-portrayed. They drift apart, get new friends, but find their way back to each other eventually. It’s quite sweet.

Eva’s family is great, too. I won’t ruin too much but her mother reacts so naturally to the circumstances.

My only real issue with this book is with the ending. I like that we don’t know exactly what happens, but the whole deal with the scholarship/grant money… Hmm. Surely it would make Zenn angry to be treated like charity? And although it’s nice, it’s maybe a little too easy and perfect.

It was a really nice book. Not too long, but full of great content. Because of the ending, I will have to put my rating at 3.5 to 4 stars out of 5.

If you want to check it out, this book is available for preorder on Amazon.

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Book Review: Nain Rouge: The Crimson Three

pro_readerThank you to The Folkteller for allowing me a copy for review via NetGalley.

I would like to just point out that the copy I received may not be exactly the same as the publicised edition; some grammar or spelling mistakes that I mention may not be an issue for anyone who buys the book.

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Nain Rouge: The Crimson Three (Nain Rouge 1-3) by Josef Bastian – eBook, 390 pages – Published October 1st 2016 by The Folkteller

This includes the three Nain Rouge stories by Josef Bastian. They’re narrated by “The Folkteller” (which is also the name of the publication company), who is some unknown person that is only really acknowledged at the beginning of each book.

Two teenagers, Elly and Tom, find themselves witnessing strange happenings after a school trip to a local art museum. After speaking with Dr Beele, the curator of the institute, they discover that they have run into Lutin – the Red Dwarf. The kids do some research of their own, until they realise that they are both related to the original settlers of the city. These settlers were cursed by Lutin, and that curse was being passed down the generations to Elly and Tom.

Together, the three of them have to figure out a way to defeat the evil entity and protect the city from his influence.

The second and third book follow the same three characters, as well as other teens Lynni, AJ and Vic. Together, the motley crew of six must protect the entire world from the influence of evil once and for all, revealing the bitter truth of humanity to all who will listen. They find assistance in an old Garter of Knights, of which Dr Beele is a member. But even with these extra eleven people, will they be able to defeat the very embodiment of negative energy?

The use of The Folkteller in each book provides a break in the fourth wall, but I don’t see this carried through the rest of the books at all.

There are a couple of issues I found, besides the typos. One is that Bastian’s writing reminds me of a preteen who has a great range of vocabulary and tries too hard to show off, yet still has a young, immature feel. I’m not saying it’s awful at all, but I just feel like he’s trying a bit too hard. He seems to describe everything too much, especially things that should, in my opinion, just be hinted at so the audience gains their own impression. The direct definitions of everything just seem to take away from the meaning and effect. Also, the dialogue doesn’t sound fluid and natural to me. It feels too staged and awkward to sound real.

The plot was a little wishy-washy, but the idea of defeating evil with truth and positivity was kind of sweet. There weren’t any romance lines, which was refreshing to me but may put some others off of reading it. And the ending wasn’t too cliche, but still happy.

Maybe more aimed at younger readers, yet ones who have a decent range of vocabulary still. A nice story but kind of boring, personally. 2.5 stars.

Find the first adventure for sale here.

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Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

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Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli – Paperback, 303 pages – Published April 7th 2015 by Penguin

This was really a wild ride. I think this book managed to get me out of a mini reading slump (yay!).

The book starts off with Simon’s private email being read by some guy in his drama club. This may not seem like a huge deal, except Simon’s secretly been emailing this guy who he’s maybe in love with. But they don’t know each other’s real identity, and neither of them have come out yet.

So Simon has to help the guy – Martin – get with one of his best friends. Only she isn’t interested (at all). At the same time, Simon is falling for Blue more and more with each email, and is becoming desperate to find him in real life. He starts to decode the clues in an attempt to figure out his identity – only for Blue to beat him to it.

Simon’s also struggling with tons of friendship issues, a big play coming up, and his family (and the entire school, for that matter) finding out about him being gay. He doesn’t want any of it to be a big deal. But it is.

He’s a great character, portrayed to be a normal human being. His relationships all seem pretty realistic (though I’m sceptical about the situation with Blue. Would anyone really be that lucky?). I really felt for him throughout the novel, and I was so unbelievably pleased for him at the end. I’m so not used to such great, adorable endings.

My biggest issues are that sometimes the teen voice was being pushed a bit too hard – we don’t always say “freaking” or whatever. And the scenarios seemed a little too far-fetched sometimes. (Seriously, has anyone ever experienced people dancing in the crowd at a school talent show?) But generally this was a good representation of life, and I really enjoyed reading it.

very nearly marked this as a favourite, but decided on just 4.5 stars in the end. I loved the book, but there were a few minor details that put me off just a little bit. It is most definitely a fantastic book, though! I’d definitely recommend this book for the YA audience.

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Book Review: Geekhood

Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb - Paperback, 352 pages - Published June 4th 2012 by Stripes Publishing

Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind by Andy Robb – Paperback, 352 pages – Published June 4th 2012 by Stripes Publishing

Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind is a greatly humorous, relatable book about the struggles of a 14-year-old Geek.

Archie, a true Geek to his core, has a lot going on in his life. His parents are divorced, his step-dad is a Tosser, the only thing his friends are good at is the Game, and, to top it all off, he is struck by surprise by a Close Encounter with a Beautiful Goth.

After Sarah tries to help him battle his problems and insecurities, Archie replaces his snarky interior monologue with the voice of his psychic self, trudging alone along the path to psychic alignment. But things don’t go quite as he hopes, and he soon makes a serious mess of things. How has it all gone so wrong?!

When he no longer wants to be associated with the Geeks he once called friends, he starts to realise that maybe this isn’t what he wants after all. After so long of trying to fit in and fly under the radar, it turns out that maybe doing what you love is enough to keep you truly happy.

Geekhood: Close Encounters of the Girl Kind is a hilarious book, following Archie’s combat with problems that are well-known among us teens. I love the script of the interior monologue, and I think a lot of people can appreciate Archie’s attempts to mask his true feelings and use of his interior monologue to express himself without others hearing. Definitely a good book, which I enjoyed far more than I expected! A strong 4 stars from me.

Book Review: BZRK

BZRK by Michael Grant - Paperback, 407 pages - Published September 3rd 2012 by Electric Monkey

BZRK by Michael Grant – Paperback, 407 pages – Published September 3rd 2012 by Electric Monkey

BZRK is a unique, action-packed story about the war taking place “down in the meat”, the war that could determine the fate of the human race.

Sadie McLure, daughter of billionaire Grey McLure, is horrified when she witnesses the death of her father and brother. This was no mere accident, and Sadie is determined to discover the truth behind their deaths.

And Noah Cotton is desperate to find out the cause of his brother’s madness. He was an army recruit, Alex. But then something happened, something that drove him so insane that he was sent to live out his days in an asylum, screaming about Bug Man and repeating the word “nano”. It has to mean something, doesn’t it?

These two teens are joined in extraordinary circumstances, and thrown into the deep end of a major battle. A battle that is too small to be seen by the human eye. A battle between biots and nanobots. A battle that leads to multiple deaths, and could alter humanity entirely.

I loved the concept of this book. I’ve never read anything like it, about tiny bug-like robotic creatures and people who are linked to that are linked to their biots in such a way that they risk their sanity with every mission. But personally, I found it all somewhat… overwhelming. I wanted to enjoy it but I just got lost and, frankly, kind of bored. It improved again further on but I’m only going to give BZRK 3 stars.

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