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Book Review: Superpowerless

Superpwerless by Chris Priestley – Published June 15th 2017 by Hot Key Books

I’ve quite liked Chris Priestley’s work in the past, but this was… odd. It wasn’t quite what I’d thought it was going to be. I appreciated the comic book references – David’s coping mechanism, if you will, is his superpowered alter-ego. I liked David’s character in this sense, and in several others, but I couldn’t get past one main factor: he spies on girls from his bedroom window using his telescope. Okay, he does acknowledge that it’s wrong, and it started out as an accident, and he even admits to the girl he watches that he watches her. But I still found it weird.
There’s a lot going on in this book (besides David spying on Holly, his neighbour). David actually begins to care for Holly after learning about her personal life, and David himself is still grieving his father. He has some girl problems, too, and ends up falling out with his closest friend, Joe. Amongst all the semi-normal adolescent problems, David also finally comes to term with a huge reality that he already knew, but could never bring himself to accept. It’s the reason he visualises himself as a superhero who can never quite save the car – or the people in it.
This was pretty unique in its own right, and touching, too. David’s relationships are all quite strained, and it takes some effort to repair things – effort that David has been neglecting to give up until now. 3.5 stars.

Book Review: Moth Girls

Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy – Published January 7th 2016 by Hot Key Books

I finished this book so long ago. I can’t believe I am only just getting round to writing the review… I’m afraid it will only be a quick one again, though.
This is a YA thriller/mystery novel where Mandy is recalling the disappearance of her two best friends five years ago, surfacing now due to the demolition of the house that they disappeared in, never to return. She remembers the things they did together, even that very day when they vanished. And she becomes obsessed with finding answers, determined to figure out what truly happened.
It’s a great book, honestly. It was exciting and intriguing and clever. It covered some unexpected, serious issues, and was resolved in an oddly and tragically nice way.
It’s definitely a good read for younger thriller fans, but can also be enjoyed by older readers, I think. 4 stars!

Book Review: We Are Not Okay

We Are Not Okay by Natália Gomes – Published May 2nd 2019 by HQ Young Adult

I’m desperately trying to write up the reviews of all the books I’ve finished over the past few months before the end of the year. Hopefully, I’ll keep on top of things next year!
Now this book was fantastic at tackling multiple social issues in modern society – issues that many girls and women have to deal with. Some of the main themes are teenage pregnancy, having underwear pictures leaked on the internet, rape, and disordered eating. These things aren’t all experienced by one single character, but by multiple girls whose stories are intricately intertwined with one another. This book alternates between different characters’ accounts/narratives, and the reader slowly pieces together the bigger picture of how they all connect.
I found it really clever how Gomes did this, actually. She managed to really accurately portray how one small action can affect so many other people. She also explored how young girls have the ability to help each other when in need and can overcome petty differences and feuds in order to tackle the real, serious issues. This is something that I think is often forgotten but should be remembered by more young women. There is often too much bitterness and dispute amongst girls in schools when we should put more effort into uniting, standing together and helping each other through difficulties.

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

The ending of this book was quite shocking, too, but in a sadly realistic way. I won’t discuss it too much, though. I did still find it a little too neatly wrapped-up, in a way, though; not everyone responds so well, not all girls do forgive each other or become so close. Which is a shame, but it is the truth.
Overall, I’m giving this book 4 stars out of 5.

Book Review: Read Me Like A Book

Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler – Published May 14th 2015 by Indigo

Another short review. (Sorry; I promise there will be some proper ones coming along soon!)
This book is about a teenager called Ash. We follow her through the start and end of a relationship with Dylan, the separation of her parents, and a huge falling-out with her best friend, Cat. Alongside all of this, Ash fears she is pregnant, and also begins to question her sexuality – brought on by her odd feelings towards a new substitute teacher. Basically, she is having a really hard time.
All of these issues are important ones to bring awareness to. I’m not sure if all the themes were discussed to as much depth as they could have been, though; I guess having so much going on means you can’t go into as much detail. Still, I think they were all represented pretty well, though I don’t have much personal experience with most of these things.
It was a really easy book to read; I saw several people mention how they read it all in one sitting. LGBTQ+ books are always important, and the combination of topics addressed was really quite unique. 3.5 stars overall.

Book Review: Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes?

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne – Published August 9th 2018 by Usborne Publishing Ltd

I cannot believe it’s been four months since I read this book! Again, this will only be a quick review. I found this book at my local library and having read Holly Bourne before, I knew I’d enjoy it. It’s about mental health, too (as many of her books are), so that was another reason I picked it up.
Olive has had problems with her mental health for years but refuses to be told her diagnosis. She goes through phases of extreme ‘happiness’ (otherwise known as mania) followed by severe depressive episodes. When she’s offered a free place at an experimental new treatment centre, she is more than happy to accept. She doesn’t know exactly what’s wrong with her, but she’s desperate to find the cure.
While at the facility – called Camp Reset – Olive makes some interesting friends. She also finds herself in a manic state without even realising it, and focuses all her energy on an innovative algorithm she believes can cure or prevent mental illnesses. Of course, this leads to a huge crash, which prevents Olive from partaking in the grand finale of her and her friends’ plan to spread happiness.
Throughout her treatment, Olive goes through a lot of things. She faces rejection and learns to help others. She also begins to work on her attitudes towards herself.
The main thing I’ve got to say about this book is the relatability of it. The thoughts that Olive has, and the way they cycle round her head on repeat, were incredibly close to home. When something bad happens, her first reaction is to blame and hate herself. I related to her character so, so much in this way.
I also really liked how Olive is not the stereotypical ‘nice’ girl. She’s not quiet and quirky and lovable. She’s a bit of a bitch sometimes, quite frankly. But mental illnesses don’t give you a free pass to being a jerk. They often make people more of a jerk, honestly. It’s important to acknowledge this. It’s important to think about how your actions affect others, even though it’s hard when you don’t care about yourself or anything at all.
This was a fantastic portrayal of mental illness, and of recovery. It didn’t have a perfect ending – Olive acknowledges how she’s got so much farther to go, and that her journey to recovery is only just beginning. She also learns how there is no easy cure, which I think people forget sometimes. 4.5 stars!

Book Review: The Shadow Girl

First of all, I’d like to say a huge thank you to the author/publisher of this book for providing me with a free copy in return for my opinion. (I desperately searched through my emails so I could send a link but hopefully you see this anyway!)

The Shadow Girl by Misty Mount
Published March 2019 by Between the Lines Publishing

This is a young adult book, with 13-year-old Zylia as the protagonist. She’s a fair bit younger than me, which can sometimes impact my enjoyment of a book. However, I didn’t have too much of a problem with it in this case. Mount managed to capture the young girl’s voice fantastically – it was like being inside Zylia’s head – but with a dark, more mature undertone. In fact, I think this may actually be a little too dark for most 13-year-olds.

I was immediately reminded of All the Lonely People when I read this. Not in a bad way, though; it wasn’t too similar that it was boring or anything like that. I just found it interesting to note that the two shared a similar premise, based on fading out of existence due to basically being forgotten or erased.

There were a few important social issues sprinkled throughout this book which was a nice touch. Underage smoking and even bullying and self-esteem problems were the key ones I picked up. If a younger person were to read this, I think these are great topics for them to be educated on.

I did notice quite a lot of spelling mistakes and typos which was a shame. Editing can really make or break a book!

Overall, I did enjoy this. It started off a bit slow, coming to quite a big crescendo near the end. 3.5 to 4 stars.

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!

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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