young adult

Book Review: The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent #1)

The Darkest Bloom (Shadowscent #1) by P.M. Freestone – Paperback, 448 pages – Published February 7th 2019 by Scholastic

This was another book I picked up from the library at random. The cover was beautiful, and the idea of scent-based magic was certainly intriguing. While it was a decent book, it didn’t quite live up to my hopes and expectations, sadly.

Most of the book follows Rakel as she tries to make enough money to purchase a cure for her father’s Rot. She has an expert sense of smell, meaning she is a fantastic perfumer, distilling her own creations and experimenting with different methods. But she becomes the suspect for a horrendous crime that leaves the Prince in a coma, and so she flees.

Ash is the Shield of the Prince, and his best friend. He doesn’t believe Rakel is to blame, however, and believes she holds the key to curing him. So he runs away with her, searching for a place that may not exist, and hunting down valuable ingredients for a poison that nobody even knows about.

I found this book quite slow at the start. It just didn’t excite me. There was nothing wrong with it, but it just wasn’t right. However, towards the end there was a far more exciting plotline added, involving Ash. The cliffhanger ending left me actually wanting to read on.

While I didn’t love this, there were definitely some good aspects. It was unique for sure, and I do think there’s a lot of potential for the rest of the series. 3.5 stars!

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Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall – Paperback, 272 pages – Published July 7th 2016 by Chicken House

I picked this book up at my local library because I liked the cover. Then I read the quote on the front and knew I’d love it.

Agoraphobia is a horrific disorder. I’ve not found a single book about it before this one. While I myself don’t suffer from it, I do have anxiety and can relate to the main character, Norah, in so many ways.

The first thing I’m going to say about this is that it doesn’t overly romanticise the illness, which is so important. Yes, there are maybe a few aspects that aren’t incredibly accurate, but that’s always going to happen with works of fiction. Overall, I think this is a fantastic representation of Norah’s illnesses and how her life has been flipped upside down since her becoming ill.

I would have liked this to be less romantically-focused, though. Don’t get me wrong, the romance was lovely and I felt so happy for Norah. But I am a bit fed up of stories that portray romantic relationships as the ‘cure’ for mental illnesses.

As I mentioned above, I believe this depicts Norah’s behaviours and thoughts fantastically. I really related to her in a lot of ways, such as regarding her anxiety and panic attacks. Plus, her beliefs and emotions regarding her illness were very relatable; the guilt and shame of being a burden on others.

It was incredibly heart-warming to see Norah finally begin to make progress towards the end of the book. It was slow – which is how it is in real life. There is no magic, instant cure. It takes time and effort and a lot of pain.

I thoroughly enjoyed this. If it was less romantic, I may have given it a full 5 stars. As it is, I’m giving it 4.5 stars, and would definitely recommend it to others.

Book Review: As Far as the Stars

As Far as the Stars by Virginia Macgregor – Kindle Edition, 384 pages – Published April 18th 2019 by HQ Young Adult

This was another one of those books I read without knowing anything about. I knew the genre, and I’d seen the cover, but that was it. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it this way, and so I’ll try not to spoil anything for potential readers.

The book is narrated by a teenage girl called Air, who is on her way to pick her brother Jude up from the airport. Their sister is about to get married, but Jude tends to mess things up so Air is trying to figure out where exactly he is. Their mother is getting worried about them turning up late, but Air is sure that it will work out – Jude always fixes things just in time.

When at the airport, Air meets Christopher. He’s waiting for his dad, who’s flight has been delayed. But then news comes in of the plane being missing, so Air decides to drive Christopher to his mum’s. The problem is, he hasn’t seen her for years.

Amongst all the confusion and stress and grief, Air and Christopher (and Jude’s dog) begin to enjoy each other’s company. They take several pit-stops along the road, despite the urgency of the situation, and actually find themselves having fun.

The end of the novel was fantastic, full of emotion. It was resolved beautifully with the epilogue. However, I did have a few issues throughout the majority of the book. Firstly, I found it to be a bit repetitious. Air went over the same thoughts several times, which made sense in some cases as she was anxious and scared, but happened a little too much for my liking. I also found her to be a little too dramatic; for example, when Christopher finally told her about his dad, she got incredibly upset. I don’t really understand why. It wasn’t Christopher’s fault. It didn’t change anything. If anything, she should have felt more sympathetic for him.

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

I also noticed quite a few typos and missing words, but that may just have been because I have a review copy and not the final publication.
Overall, I’m giving this 4 stars. The ending really made the book for me.

Book Review: All The Lonely People

All The Lonely People by David Owen – eBook, 320 pages – Published January 10th 2019 by Atom

This was quite different to how I anticipated it to be. In a good way, I think.

The protagonist is Kat, and young feminist who loves Doctor Backwash and the YouTuber Tinker. As a fan of Tinker, Kat becomes the victim of a lot of online abuse. Slowly, she has to delete her entire online presence, including her YouTube account and her personal, custom-designed website. For so long, the online communities have been the only place she really felt she belonged. Now it was all gone.

And so was she.

The ‘fade’ that Kat experiences is very interesting. Suddenly nobody remembers her. Except one of the boys responsible for her disappearance, Wesley. He’s determined to find out what happened. Even if it’s just to alleviate his own overwhelming guilt.

There are a lot of important messages throughout this book, mostly about feminism and masculinity. The theme of sexism and abuse is huge. I did feel like it was maybe a bit exaggerated in places, but actually it does happen like that, sadly.

Kat also finds herself building a vital relationship during the fade, with another girl who is fading. Safa was one of a group of people, called ‘the lonely people’, who actively tried to fade. Like Kat, she is all but forgotten by the rest of the world.

The magic realism was great. It really felt like this was possible, if rather improbable. It was intriguing and exciting, especially when Kat discovers that a extremely sexist YouTuber is planning something bad. How is she going to stop him when no one can even see her?

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

I really enjoyed this book. It had emotional moments, funny moments, and plenty of endearing moments. Wesley is a problematic character but he learns from his mistakes, and definitely grows more mature throughout the book. I’m giving this 4 to 4.5 stars.

TRILOGY Review: The Firebird Chronicles

The Firebird Chronicles is a children’s/young adult fantasy series following two young Apprentice Adventurers, Scoop and Fletcher.

Rise of the Shadow Stealers (The Firebird Chronicles #1) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published January 25th 2013 by Our Street Books

The first book, Rise of the Shadow Stealers, follows the confused youngsters as they make sense of their surroundings. Neither has any memories of who they are or where they come from, and with the help of their mentor, the Yarnbard, they slowly piece together the story of their past.

Throughout the book, Scoop and Fletcher are held back by Grizelda, an evil old woman who’s determined to take control of the land. They are set monumental tasks by the mysterious Storyteller – the creator and controller of the world they live in. Grizelda desperately tries to prevent them from succeeding at every turn.

My immediate reaction to this book was that I was too old for it. I always emphasise the fact that children’s books can still be good books, enjoyed by any reader. This was, in all honesty, not fantastic. The plot wasn’t bad, and it wasn’t exactly hard to read, but the writing wasn’t particularly outstanding and there were tons of grammatical errors. One recurring mistake I noticed was the misuse of “passed” and “past”. Little things like that really affect how professional a book feels, or how immature the writing comes across.

2.5 stars for this book. The plot was okay, but the characters and speech were overly childish and didn’t feel authentic.

The Nemesis Charm (The Firebird Chronicles #2) by Daniel Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published May 27th 2016 by Our Street Books

The second instalment of this series is The Nemesis Charm. While this book had similar issues with character development, speech and grammar, I found it slightly better than the predecessor.

After rediscovering their identities, Scoop and Fletcher have settled into their lives and begun building a relationship with their parents. But of course, this calm does not remain for long. Soon, citizens are falling ill with a mysterious sleeping disease, the Storyteller’s Princess among them. Yet again, Scoop and Fletcher are tasked with saving everyone.

Grizelda continues to fight them at every step, while raising her own army and attempting to take control of the world (again). Scoop and Fletcher find themselves travelling with a Dark Pirate towards the Threshold, the Uncrossable Boundary to a mysterious world beyond.

There is also a whole other side to their story – the real Storyteller, if you will. A girl in Leeds called Libby, who is continuing the story her missing mother began.

I got strong Inkheart vibes from this series. The main difference was that this seemed a whole lot more immature, and amateurish, honestly. There were still so many mistakes, and Grizelda really felt like a typical children’s villain. I think this is supposed to be ‘cheesy’ and predictable to a certain extent, as it is playing on the idea of stories and heroes and so on, but it was hard to take it seriously at times.

2.5 to 3 stars for the second Firebird Chronicles book. It was alright, clever and exciting, but still had its faults.

Through the Uncrossable Boundary (The Firebird Chronicles #3) by Danial Ingram-Brown – eBook, Published November 30th 2018 by Our Street Books

The final book in this trilogy is called Through the Uncrossable Boundary. I think you can guess what that means.

In my opinion, this was the strongest book of the three. Again, it still had a fair few errors, but it was unpredictable and unique. Everything was finally explained in full, and the ending was tidy and satisfying. There was loss and heartbreak, and massive revelations.

Basically, Fletcher and Scoop end up in our world. While this is a little predictable, and some of the following events may be a little cheesy, I think it was quite good. It was a nice ending to the trilogy.

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

3 stars for the final book.

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: Fearless (Eye of the Beholder #2)

I may have done it again. I read a sequel without reading the rest of the series. I am so sorry. I really need to be more careful!

I was given the opportunity to review this thanks to Edelweiss+, so a huge thanks to them and the publisher/author for providing me with it.

This begins with an intro note from the narrator, Grace, which immediately set the scene perfectly. It was actually really convincing, and definitely a strong start to the novel.

It was immediately clear that I was in the dark due to not reading the previous book. However, I think the most impoprtant things were recapped in enough detail that I was still able to follow and enjoy this book. There were still references I didn’t get, though, which is a shame. I wish I had read the other book.

I’m not going to discuss the plot. What I will say is that it seemed incredibly plausible. I was taking some sociology exams while I read this, one of which contained questions on the topic of religion. This book tied into that perfectly. The future described was so realistic, and the details about secularisation and such were spot on. It was a bit too similar to my sociology books at some points, as in it almost felt like an assignment to read at times. That was only at times, though, when the political system of the rebel group was being outlined, for example.

The relationships in this book were a little inconsistent in my opinion. I thought Grace was really connecting with someone, and then suddenly she was almost falling for her ex again. I don’t know, it just seemed a bit wishy-washy to me.

This was a really clever book, and I did thoroughly enjoy reading it. There were a few things I wasn’t particularly keen on, but nothing that really put me off. 4 stars; I would suggest reading the first novel, Sinless, beforehand though.

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: All Rights Reserved

I finally got round to finishing this book a little while back, and I am so glad I did! As usual, I will avoid going into too much detail regarding the plot so as to prevent spoiling it for any potential readers. 

The protagonist in this novel is Speth. Her name was chosen for it’s low price – the world she lives in charges citizens for everything. After the age of 15, a special cuff tracks speech, gestures, purchases and so on, and fines the individual accordingly. It’s copyrighting to the extreme. And, sadly, it really doesn’t seem all that far-fetched.

Click on the image to be redirected to the Amazon product page.

On Speth’s fifteenth birthday, she has her speech prepared and sponsors ready with products to advertise at her party. But a friend of hers suddenly takes a drastic move, stunning Speth into silence. And so, unintentionally, Speth begins a revolution.

Speth continues to uphold her silence, even when offered money and even attacked. Miraculously, she runs into a near-mythical group of people – the Product Placers. Nobody has ever seen them before. There is no footage of them, even in this world of constant monitoring and recording. And, even more miraculously, is that the Placers decide to help her.

Along with her own issues, Speth is trying to solve problems in her own home. Her parents have been taken to repay an old, old family debt, while her sister has been sued for looking too much like a famous actress. People – the Silents – begin to look up to her as a leader, and there are lawyers who are willing to pay good money to stop her “rebellion”.

There is a lot going on in this book, as you can probably tell from this brief summary. The development of Speth’s relationships is really interesting, considering she can’t speak or communicate in any way. I was also really quite surprised with how the romantic plot went, honestly. And toward the end… there is a huge blow. I definitely was not expecting that to happen.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It took me a while to get round to finishing, but not because I found it tiresome or anything like that. I found myself actually struggling to put it down as I got toward the end, which sounds really cliche but is the honest truth. It was so realistic and plausible, scarily so. 5 stars for this.

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

Manga/Graphic Review: Seto Utsumi, Volume #1

This manga was comprised of seven chapters, each containing a separate story. Well, story is not quite accurate… Each chapter is really a new conversation between the two teens as they sit by the river after school. They talk about anything and everything, from girls to bullies to ghosts. It’s sweet at times, when the boys’ affection for one another is made apparent, even without them actually voicing it. They tease each other endlessly, argue and taunt each other, but all in good humour.

Some of the things they talk about did seem rather shallow to me, and the way they spoke was a little strange to me. I get the feeling that this is aimed more at readers who understand the culture a bit more and can relate to the characters.

Personally, I found the book a little boring overall. There was no real plot, which can be nice sometimes, but just felt a little… lost here. Sometimes the boys spoke about interesting topics, but I would have liked to hear more about their personal lives, their emotions and fears.

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

This was a strange read, honestly. I didn’t particularly like it, though I didn’t dislike it either. I just didn’t really connect with the characters or enjoy it that much. 2.5 stars.