Sucktown, Alaska by Craig Dirkes (Out Today) #BookReview #YA

Title: Sucktown, Alaskasucktown
Author: Craig Dirkes
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 350 pages
Publication Details: 
May 1st 2017 by Switch Press
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Looking for a great adventure, eighteen-year-old Eddie Ashford stumbles into a job as a reporter in tiny Kusko, Alaska, a place so remote that bush planes are the only way in or out.

When the job and the place, which sits on the flat and desolate tundra and not in the stunning mountains he’d imagined, turn out to be disappointments, Eddie thinks maybe it’s time to bail.

But three things tie him there: 1) Taylor, a girl who might be a little too pretty and a little too smart for him; 2) Finn, a new friend who is an all-around good dude but also happens to be a small-time pot dealer; and 3) Eddie’s empty wallet, which means he can’t afford to transport himself and his possessions back to civilization.

Despite every good-guy instinct inside him, Eddie flirts with trouble as he tries to find a way home.


Review

As most of you already know contemporary YA is usually a little bit marmite for me. I either really dislike it, or I love it. Sucktown, Alaska has ruined that theory because I thought it was good, but not great.

The story is about Eddie. A seventeen year old who has flunked out of college for partying too hard. To make amends he has bagged himself a job as a journalist in the remote village of Kusko, Alaska, to prove that he can apply himself. If he can stick it out for a year, he will be allowed to continue his studies.

I was drawn to this book because it’s not often I read YA books from the male perspective, well, not straight males anyway. And I’ve always wanted to visit Alaska, there’s something just so raw about it that appeals to me.

I think Sucktown, Alaska has a lot going for it. The thing I enjoyed the most was the realness of it. Eddie is a real guy. He’s a man’s man, if not an immature one. At times he can be vulgar and obnoxious like any teenage boy. He has moments of sweetness and loyalty but he’s also monumentally stupid, and objectifies women.

Nothing is sugarcoated in Eddie’s story. Alaska is portrayed as a harsh place to live, especially in winter. I wasn’t aware of the state’s tribulations with alcohol and drug abuse, and in turn the prolific amount of bootleggers, and the story inspired me to learn more about the place instead of just thinking it looks pretty. Good stories do that, inspire.

However, on the whole I was a little bit disappointed with the story. It had a gentle pace and I felt like more needed to happen. Eddie starts selling drugs about half way through the story and considering that seemed the main plot point I wondered why it took so long to get to it.

I feel like there were things missing. Relationships, mainly. Eddie’s infatuation with Taylor was pretty superficial, and I thought more should have come out of his relationship with his boss/landlord. The only really meaningful relationship was between Eddie and the husky dogs, and maybe his drug-dealer friend.

I do think Sucktown, Alaska is a good coming-of-age tale for young male readers. I don’t think there’s enough of that. We see Eddie grow up a lot during his time in Kusko. He’s pretty hard on himself about his past discretions and needs to let that go. He’s a good guy deep down, he just needs to learn how to care about himself and other people, and by the end he’s done just that.

Overall, there was a lot I enjoyed about this book, but it needed an extra injection of action or romance to make it a must-read. I’m surprised by how many bad reviews there are on Goodreads, and I urge you to not be put off by them. I guess some people can’t handle the sometimes vulgar mind of a seventeen year old boy, but I for one think that was what made it a realistic story.

unicorn rating 3

My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul (out next week) #BookReview #YA

mykindofcrazyTitle: My Kind of Crazy
Author: Robin Reul
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
Publication Details:  April 5th 2016 by Sourcebooks Fire
Genre(s): YA Contemporary
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

 

 

Despite the best of intentions, seventeen-year old, wisecracking Hank Kirby can’t quite seem to catch a break. It’s not that he means to screw things up all the time, it just happens. A lot. Case in point: his attempt to ask out the girl he likes literally goes up in flames when he spells “Prom” in sparklers on her lawn…and nearly burns down her house.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Peyton Breedlove, a brooding loner and budding pyromaniac, witnesses the whole thing. Much to Hank’s dismay, Peyton takes an interest in him—and his “work.” The two are thrust into an unusual friendship, but their boundaries are tested when Hank learns that Peyton is hiding some dark secrets, secrets that may change everything he thought he knew about Peyton.

Review

I’m usually quite wary of contemporary reads in YA because I feel like they’re really hard to get right and also really hard to stand out amongst the crowd; they all get a bit samey for me.

My Kind of Crazy falls into the boy meets girl category, and whereas it was quite predictable, and not particularly unique or fresh, I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Protagonist Hank is trying to get a date to the prom and has his sights set on one of the most popular girls in school. Hank isn’t unpopular, but he’s not quite in her league either so he needs to make a lasting impression…but perhaps almost setting her house on fire was a bit extreme.

Luckily for Hank, no one knows he was the culprit apart from one random girl lurking in the shadows. Unluckily for Hank, the random girl shows up at his school the next day. 

Peyton, however, promises not to tell anyone about his uber failure of a prom proposal and  Hank is instantly intrigued by her. They quickly become friends, bonding over their unconventionalities, but Peyton might just be one step too crazy for Hank…

I liked a lot of things about this book. It was refreshing that it wasn’t about the popular kids Vs the unpopular, the jocks Vs the geeks…you know how it goes.

Hank was a great protagonist who sat somewhere in between those high-school social statuses. He has a difficult home life – as does Peyton – but is doing his best to get through it. I think what I liked most about him was that he didn’t judge people, and he saw the best in everyone, even when he couldn’t see the best in himself.

My Kind of Crazy was a cute, quick read. I found it both witty and sad, and couldn’t put it down. It’s not the most original story, but it still managed to stand out in a sea of contemporary beigeness. 

unicorn rating 4

 

Lazy Saturday Review: Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira #YAreview

I started doing ‘lazy Saturday reviews’ as a way of getting reviews done in just 30 mins, and they proved to be quite popular. They are quick and snappy, and concentrate less on the plot and writing and more on my general feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

bookishlyTitle: Bookishly Ever After
Author: Isabel Bandeira
Series: Ever After #1
Format: Digital ARC, 416 pages
Publication Details: January 12th 2016 by Spencer Hill Contemporary
Genre(s): YA Contemporary
Disclosure? Yep! I received an advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads // Purchase

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

Review

Oh, this book!

I was totally into it at first. I think any book-lover would find it hard to resist the premise of Bookishly Ever After, but unfortunately my initial love for it was short lived.

I liked that Phoebe is flying the flag for ‘kooky’ introverts. I liked that she’s a geek and OK with that. What I didn’t like was the painfully drawn-out he likes me, he likes me not… OMG he text me and so on and so on.

On one hand I had totally lost interest by about half way through, but for some reason I couldn’t stop. I did feel compelled to find out the outcome of all the will-they-won’t-they whiny teen angst, so I guess it was successful in that way, but I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy the journey, or where the journey led. It was very bland for me.

I would like to say however, that I’m not really the target audience and I do have a love/hate relationship with contemporary YA at best. If I’d read this when I was in school, I probably would have empathised with the characters a lot more. It also didn’t help that the advanced readers copy I received was really distracting with missing words, jumbled up sentences and ADVANCE COPY plastered all over it. I really tried not to let that influence my feelings towards the book, but it made what was, for me, a slow-paced book even more tedious.

This won’t put me off reading other books by Bandeira in future; I enjoyed her fluid writing style, but not the story.

unicorn rating 2

 

 

Lazy Saturday Review: Hold Me Closer by David Levithan

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Title: Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story
Author: David Levithan
Series: Companion to Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Edition: Paperback, 256 pages
Publication Details: March 17th 2015 by Puffin
Genre(s): YA; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it

Goodreads // Purchase

Larger-than-life character Tiny Cooper, from the bestselling novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson, finally tells his own story the only way he knows how – as a stupendous musical.

This is the full script of Hold Me Closer, the musical written by and staring Tiny Cooper, from the New York Times bestselling novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written by David Levithan and John Green. Filled with humour, pain, and ‘big, lively, belty’ musical numbers, readers will finally learn the full story of Tiny Cooper from his birth and childhood to his quest for love and his infamous eighteen ex-boyfriends.

Review


I loved John Green & David Levithan’s Will Grayson, Will Grayson. It’s a beautiful coming of age story about two different Will Grayson’s who both struggle to be open with people for different reasons, and whose lives intertwine during the makings of the biggest, gayest high school musical in the history of high school musicals.

When I finished reading WG, all I could think was that I wanted to watch (or read) Tiny Cooper’s musical so badly, it was definitely one of my favourite things about the book – and here it is; The story of Tiny Cooper, BFF to Will Grayson, hopeless romantic, and self-proclaimed biggest, gayest, most fabulous human there ever lived!

Hold Me Closer is a funny, adorable, sometimes sad, but always fabulous story of Tiny cooper’s life, written as a musical, the very musical Tiny and Will worked so hard to produce in Will Grayson, Will Grayson. I loved it. The songs were great and funny, and I could picture exactly how it would look on a stage – it totally needs to be a stage show now, right?

It was exactly what I imagined from reading Will Grayson, I only wished it was longer! Hold Me Closer is an extremely quick read and easily devoured in one sitting. I highly recommend reading WG first, but it would probably still be a fun read regardless!

unicorn rating 4

Available now in hardback, paperback and e-book from Waterstones

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

ARI
Title: Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
Author: Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 359 pages
Publication Details: April 1st 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, I bought it

Goodreads // Purchase

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

Review


So you know the other week when I said I’m over Contemporary YA and have had enough of traumatic school-days reads? I take it all back. This book made me take it all back and eat my words. The shame!

Oh this book, you guys.

I fell in love with it instantly and read it in two sittings. The story is set in El Paso, Texas, and narrated by Ari. Ari’s a loner and more troubled than he even lets himself acknowledge. He’s clever and funny, but he’s angry too. He’s angry that his dad won’t talk about the war that has affected him so badly. He’s a angry that his brother is in prison and that his family won’t tell him why. In fact they pretend he doesn’t exist at all.

Ari meets Dante, who offers to teach him how to swim. On paper they are complete opposites. Dante is effervescent and loved by everyone who meets him. He finds it easy to open up to people and talk about his feelings; everything Ari isn’t, and can’t do.

The two become inseparable during one summer, and together they try to make sense of the world.

I’m reluctant to say much more plot-wise but just know this: Aristotle and Dante is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching coming-of-age story that I know will stay with me for a long time. I’ll definitely be reading this again in the future.

I love the setting, I loved the relationship between Ari and his mum, and obviously the relationship between Ari and Dante…I just can’t even… have ALL THE UNICORNS. I need to get my hands on Alire Sáenz’s other books STAT!

unicorn rating

Friendship is a Haunted Doll

HorrorOct2014

Doll Bones by Holly Black

doll

Title: Doll Bones
Author: Holly Black
Series: N/A
Edition: Paperback, 256 pages
Publication Details: February 27th 2014 by Corgi Childrens
Genre(s): Children’s; Supernatural
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed a copy.

Goodreads
Purchase


My name is Eleanor Kerchner.

You can call me the Queen.

I died in 1895.

Now it’s time to play.

A chilling ghost story by the bestselling author of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Holly Black.

Zach, Poppy and Alice have been friends for ever. They love playing with their action figure toys, imagining a magical world of adventure and heroism. But disaster strikes when, without warning, Zach’s father throws out all his toys, declaring he’s too old for them. Zach is furious, confused and embarrassed, deciding that the only way to cope is to stop playing . . . and stop being friends with Poppy and Alice. But one night the girls pay Zach a visit, and tell him about a series of mysterious occurrences. Poppy swears that she is now being haunted by a china doll – who claims that it is made from the ground-up bones of a murdered girl. They must return the doll to where the girl lived, and bury it. Otherwise the three children will be cursed for eternity . . .

I loved everything about this book in theory. Unfortunately in reality, it didn’t quite deliver.

Doll Bones is very much a book with a message, or rather multiple messages.

Zach’s often absent father is back in his life and decides that it’s time for Zach to grow up. He believes he’s too old to play with action figures and dolls, and should be playing basketball instead of hanging around with his two female best friends.

So, in a moment of madness, and without warning, Zach’s father throws away all his toys, ending Poppy, Alice and his ongoing game of make-believe. Whilst Zach is trying to come to terms with this Poppy believes an old china doll they call The Queen is possessed with the spirit of a girl who was murdered, sending them on a real life spooky adventure.

I’ve heard Holly Black talk about this book and the messages within it, so I should have known what to expect. But I was a little disappointed. I didn’t expect these messages to be so blatant and overbearing. I realise that Doll Bones is aimed at a sightly younger audience than the books I usually read, which could explain it, but I really wished the story had a bit more of an edge.

I feel like the cover art and the synopsis suggests that this book is a lot more spooky than it actually was. I mean, I’m terrified of china dolls, so the idea of a doll made out of the ground-up bones of a little girl, and possessed by her should have at least resulted in a slight shudder, but it just didn’t.

It was too nice.

I’m sure if I’d read this when I was nine I would have liked it a lot more, but I still think I would have wanted more of the creep-factor.

That being said, it was a really adorable story about the pressures of growing-up and how it can affect even the closest of friendships. I also thought it was written really beautifully, so all is not lost.

I definitely want to read Holly Black’s YA books. I’m certain they’d more to my taste.

unicorn rating 3

Doll Bones is available in hardback and paperback at Waterstones now.

Top Ten Tuesday: High School BFFs

toptentuesday Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the image to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is: Top Ten Book Characters That Would Be Sitting At My Lunch Table (you know…back to school theme).

OK, so these characters wouldn’t necessarily be sitting at my lunch table (especially not all at the same time – they’d probably kill each other), but here is my Top Ten of characters that I would have liked to be friends with at school.

Buffy Summers – BTVS: Well they didn’t specify book characters did they! I would totally want to be friends with Buffy in high school. I mean, I know I’d be in danger every day if I was one of the scooby gang, but she’d totally save my life. That’s what she does.

Stephanie/ Valkyrie Cain – Skulduggery Pleasant: It would likely be Stephanie’s mirror self who I would be friends with in school, because Valkyrie is always off fighting the bad guys with Skulduggery. But that would be OK with me. She’s awesome in all of her forms.

Patrick – Perks of Being a Wallflower: We would just be the bestest of BFF’s OK.

Tiny Cooper – Will Grayson, Will Grayson: I would totally help Tiny Cooper put on his Rocky Horror musical and become the very best of friends. I’m sure of it. I mean, I can’t sing, or act, so I’d probably be in charge of props or help with the script or something. He would relentlessly try to get me on stage. Oh the lolz we’d have.

Laureth Peak – She is Not Invisible: Granted, this one is unlikely as Laureth goes to a school for the blind and partially sighted, but maybe we’d meet during one of her adventures. Lauren (that’s me btw) & Laureth could take over the world.

tttbffs

Rose Hathaway – Vampire Academy: Rose is probably too hot to be my friend, and she’s always chasing after Lissa and Dimitri. But maybe I could win her over. I would totally let her feed on me if she ever felt like it.

Allison Reynolds – The Breakfast Club: Obviously, Allison and I would sit in the back of all of our classes listening to our Walkmans and hating the world in our all black outfits and unnecessarily heavy eyeliner. It would be a good time.

Alec – The Mortal Instruments: Me and Alec would totally swoon over Jace together, but I’d definitely support him in his relationship with Magnus Bane. I think he’d be a great friend. He’s pretty badass but sensitive and cute to boot.

Leo – Stargirl: I’d like to be Leo’s Stargirl. That is all.

Nick & Norah – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist: I feel like both Nick and Norah are my soul mates. We could be a threesome, yeah? Kinky.

I’m looking forward to seeing who made everyone else’s list this week. Leave a comment and I’ll come take a look 🙂

Top Ten Tuesday: Books About Friendship

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the image to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is: Top Ten Books About Friendship.

I actually found this topic harder than I expected to, but I think I’ve managed to come up with ten books that I love (OK 9 – I cheated on one) and that hopefully won’t be on everybody else’s lists.

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The BFG by Roald Dahl: This book is definitely in my top 3 Dahl books! Sophie and the Big Friendly Giant are just so cute together. He even makes her a dress.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson: This one is the cheat because I haven’t actually read it yet…I have no idea how or why! However, if the film is anything to go by, the friendship between outsiders Jess and Leslie is beautiful, and inevitably heart-breaking.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: I really didn’t rate the film, but this is one of my favourite books, and definitely one that will make you think about how important friendships can be.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan & John Green: This is one of my favourite coming of age stories, set around what sounds like an amazing high school musical.

A Million Little Pieces & My Friend Leonard by James Frey: Sometimes in the unlikiest places with the unlikliest of people, friendships can strike and that’s what happens in Frey’s controversial books about one man’s struggle with drink, drugs and rehabilitation.

ttt2PicMonkey Collage

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak: Oh this book. Has friendship ever been so dangerous?

Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants by Anne Brashares: I really liked the first book in this series, but the second one just didn’t have the same magic so I read no futher. If I’d read these when I was at school though I’m absolutely positive I would have loved them. Every girl longs for a close circle of friend like these girls have.

Let the Right One in by John Ajvide Lindqvist: A lonely, bullied boy and a strange, wild girl who only seems to come out at night makes this the epitome of an unlikly friendship story.

Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman: If you think Romeo & Juliet had problems just see what Sephy and Callum have to put up with. This story of racism and prejudice blew me away, and at the heart of it is such a beautiful friendship, despite everything going against them.

What would make your list?

Top Ten Tuesday #3: Books That Should Be Taught in Schools

toptentuesday
Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (Click the image to visit them). This week the theme is Top Ten Books that I think should be taught in schools.

Here are some of the books I think should be taught in schools and some of the themes they explore which made me pick them.

1. The Chronicles of Narnia: Faith/Hope/Good vs Evil/Responsibility
2. His Dark Materials: Questioning Religion/Introduces Fantasy in a ‘Real’ Way/Physics/Loyalty/Love
3. Speak: Sexual Abuse/Bullying/Everyone Has a Voice that Deserves to be Heard/Overcoming the Impossible
4. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: Autism/Humanity/Understanding Emotion
5. Peter Pan: Imagination/Independence/Love/Family Values
6. Will Grayson Will Grayson: LGBT/Acceptance/Friendship
7. Mudbound: Prejudice/Racism/Social Justice/Love
8. Stormbreaker: Makes boys want to read – that is reason enough!
9. Look into my Eyes: Girls Can be Spies Too – that is reason enough!
10. Noughts and Crosses: Prejudice & Racism in an Alternative Society/Dystopian Elements/Star-Crossed Lovers

Also, how about we read The Book Thief instead of Anne Franks’ Diary…no???

Favourites Friday #7: Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

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The first ten lies they tell you in high school. “Speak up for yourself–we want to know what you have to say.” From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s powerful novel, an utterly believable heroine with a bitterly ironic voice delivers a blow to the hypocritical world of high school. She speaks for many a disenfranchised teenager while demonstrating the importance of speaking up for oneself.

Speak was a 1999 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature. Image & Synopsis from Goodreads.

Speak is one of those books that doesn’t blow you away at first. It’s a slow burner but once you have read the final word you are left speechless. It is a dark and frank portrayal of the high-school experience that will speak to many, and move most. It’s harrowing and depressing but also intensely funny.

Anyone who has ever felt like an outcast or a victim can find solace in Speak, and all can learn from it. Pay attention to your kids, World.

Favourite Lines:
Opening line: ‘It is my first morning of high school. I have seven new notebooks, a skirt I hate, and a stomach ache’.

OUR TEACHERS ARE THE BEST… My English teacher has no face. She has stringy hair that droops on her shoulders. The hair is black from her parting to her ears and then neon orange to its frizzy ends. I can’t decide if she has pissed off her hairdresser or is morphing into a monarch butterfly. I call her Hairwoman.

‘Sometimes I think high school is one long hazy activity: if you are tough enough to survive this, they’ll let you become an adult. I hope it’s worth it.’

When people don’t express themselves, they die one piece at a time. You’d be shocked at how many adults are really dead inside—walking through their days with no idea who they are, just waiting for a heart attack or cancer or a Mack truck to come along and finish the job. It’s the saddest thing I know’

You should probably read the book before you watch this video, just sayin.