Recent Reads #Minibookreviews

Recentreads

Here are some thoughts on my recently read books

 

chiffchaffreview.jpg

Chiff Chaff // David Barnard //  February 2018 // Troubador Publishing // Goodreads

I really wanted to love this quirky book because I’m kind of obsessed with Orkney and Shetland. Not that I’ve been, but I’m pretty sure my dream home is around there somewhere.

Sadly, I just couldn’t get into Chiff Chaff and had to DNF.  I didn’t even make it to the Chaff!

The writing was interesting. I liked the use of dialect and the descriptions of the landscape, but the 16 year old narrator in the first part of the book was too repetitive and muddling for my liking. It was too much effort to figure out what was going on, so I admit it – I gave up. A great idea, but it didn’t work for me. 

unicorn rating 2

 

finaldraftreview.jpg

Final Draft // Riley Redgate // June 2018 // Amulet Books // Goodreads

It’s always interesting reviewing books a long time after you’ve read them. It really shows whether the book has staying power or not, especially for someone like me with terrible memory!

I read Final Draft in May, and while I probably couldn’t give you a concise synopsis, parts of it have definitely stayed with me. Laila was a great protagonist full of complexities and heart. She is probably the most diverse character I’ve ever read being pansexual, biracial, Ecuadorian, suffering from anxiety, and plus size, but I never felt like it was a tick-box-of-diversity book – Redgate made Laila 100% real. It’s a wonderfully modern coming-of-age story for anyone who’s ever felt different. So basically, for everyone, right? 

unicorn rating 4

 

leahrview

Leah on the Offbeat // Becky Albertalli // Creekwood #2 // April 2018 //  Balzer + Bray // Goodreads

The highly anticipated companion novel to best-seller Simon Vs was everything I hoped. In fact, I think I preferred it to the first book. Leah is like my spirit animal, I need her to be my bff. Maybe I can join her band…

Anywayyyy, in this Creekwood instalment, Leah takes the centre stage as she tries to keep her band together and figure out who the hell she is. I thought one of the most interesting parts of this story was that Leah is out (as bi) to her mum, but is struggling to tell her best friends, especially recently out Simon. It’s usually the other way round in coming-out stories. I guess it shows how much she thinks of her friends. 

Leah…is one of those great books that takes you right back to how it feels to be a teenager  approaching the end of high school. On one hand relief, on the other, crippling fear of the unknown and the inevitable fracturing of friendship groups. Another perfectly-crafted book portraying the complexities of friendships and growing-up by new fave Becky Albertalli. 

unicorn rating 4

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you thought!

Other reviews you may be interested in: Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli // The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee and others

 

 

Advertisements

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus #BookReview #YA #Mystery

icon-bookreview

 

oneofusislyingTitle: One of Us is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Series: n/a
Format: Digital ARC, 370 pages
Publication Details: June 1st 2017 by Penguin
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary, Mystery
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free advance copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Five students go to detention. Only four leave alive.

On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention. Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. Nate, the bad boy, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the jock, is the all-star baseball pitcher. And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app. Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident.

On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Review

One of Us is Lying is a super-fun, light read, perfect for the summer holidays.

Full of everyone’s favourite high school stereotypes, the story centres around five students who end up in detention for something they apparently didn’t do. Were they set up? During the detention, the “geek”, Simon, drinks a cup of water and dies. He’s severely allergic to nuts and it appears that someone spiked his water with nut oil.

And so, the four remaining students are suddenly murder suspects. There’s the pretty, goody-two-shoes, Bronwyn, the jock, Cooper, the bad boy, Nate, and Addy the insecure beauty. They all have reasons to hate Simon, as he had dirt on all of them and wasn’t afraid to post it online for all to see.

One of Us is Lying is written from the perspectives of all four suspects. Multiple narrative stories usually annoy me, but I think it was necessary in this novel, and it worked really well. Each character had their own, very different reasons to want Simon dead, and their own problems aside from that too, which brought a nice element of realism to the story.

I thought it was a really fun, quick read that kept me intrigued most of the way through. The only let down was that I guessed the outcome from about half-way through, but it was still enjoyable.

It has a bit of everything; mystery, romance and action all rolled into one. 

unicorn rating 4

 

Release by Patrick Ness #BookReview #LGBT #YA

releaseTitle: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: n/a
Format: Hardback, 287 pages
Publication Details: 
May 4th 2017 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Contemporary; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, my copy came with a ticket to the book launch – I was under no obligation to post a review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.


Review

You should all know by now that I love Patrick Ness, so I was of course very excited about his new release, Release, especially considering my friend Dora and I got tickets to the premiere of the book tour.

I posted about the whole shebang here. It was such a great night with insightful and inspiring discussions that my already high expectation bar was pushed through the roof…and I can’t help feeling a little deflated by the whole thing now that I’ve finished the book. SAD PANDA.

Adam Thorn is a gay 17 year old with a bad-boy magnet best friend called Angela, a strict preacher father, and a couple of ex-boyfriends who have treated him pretty terribly. What could go wrong, I hear you say!?

I loved everything Patrick Ness said when discussing this book – the need for diversity in books to reflect the world we live in, the need for YA books with gay protagonists to not shy away from sex scenes, all of it, but it just felt a bit forced here and I think the story suffered because of that.

Release is actually quite a subtle book, and whereas I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I just wasn’t expecting that from all the passionate discussion points in the book launch. I’m not sure this is quite the book Patrick Ness thought he had written. It does spotlight some important issues, but I felt like it needed more drama to really pack a punch. In trying to make it tender, I think a lot of its potential was quashed.

Running alongside Adam’s story is a strange, morbid fairy-tale allegory about a faun and a queen who is actually the ghost of a recently deceased fellow student of Adam’s, and this just did not work for me at all. It came across as a bit pretentious to be honest and I ended up skipping nearly all of these sequences after about a third of the way through. VERY SAD PANDA.

It’s actually quite painful to slag off one of your favourite authors, but I’d be a pretty rubbish book blogger if I couldn’t be honest with myself about how I feel about a book. It has some lovely moments, and is of course written beautifully. And I love everything Patrick was wanting to say with Release, but I think maybe he tried a bit too hard and didn’t quite manage to pull it off.

unicorn rating 3

 

Lazy Saturday Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness #MiniReview #YA

icon7

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 (or content) and writing and more on my overall feelings about said book. They generally end up being a bit of a rant. My fave!

therestofusTitle: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: N/A
Format: Paperback, 434 pages
Publication Details: 
August 27th 2015 by Walker Books
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy; LGBT
Disclosure? Nope, I borrowed it from Dora, thanks Dora! 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

What if you aren’t the Chosen One? The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Review

I wasn’t sure about this at first but ended up absolutely loving it. Patrick Ness has this amazing ability to nail that insecure, confusing time of adolescence when you don’t really understand who you are yet, and he does so in increasingly imaginative ways.

TROUJLH is set in a world where zombies and vampires are real, but the main characters aren’t part of that world, they’re always on peripheries  – just watching, they’re just the normal kids in world full of superheroes and martyrs.

I loved everything about this book – the way it was structured, the uniqueness of the premise, and as always, the execution by Ness was perfect. But it’s the characters that really stand out. All completely different and unique but startlingly real. Whether they’re gay, unsure, struggling with OCD, depressed, or desperate to go to a concert, they’re all just doing what everyone is trying to do – get through the day, the week, high school, life.

Have all the unicorns, Patrick Ness!

unicorn rating

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold #BookReview #Memoir

icon-bookreview

amothers

 

Title: A Mother’s Reckoning
Author: Sue Klebold
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 296 pages
Publication Details: February 9th 2017 (reissue) by Ebury Publishing
Genre(s): Biography/ Memoir; True Crime
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

 

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.


For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?


These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In”A Mother s Reckoning,” she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.


Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, “A Mother s Reckoning”is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.


“All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.”

 

Review

I was interested in this book because I remember when I first heard about the Columbine shooting – the first of many tragic school shootings to come (in America), in 1999.

I was of similar age as the shooters and in my penultimate year of high school. I was going through my goth phase (Goths 4eva IDST – LOL!) and was big fan of Marilyn Manson at the time. The media was singling the band out as the reason for the shootings. Because we all know how damaging rock music is to impressionable teens don’t we!? Sigh.

Even back then I knew that was a load of bull, however the media spotlight was infuriating but also seen as some sort of badge of honour. Of course that sounds ridiculous and callous now but being full of teenage angst – it was “cool” to be a Marilyn Manson fan for a while because of that.

This book is the account of Dylan(one of the shooters)’s mother Sue. It’s a really interesting look at parenthood, adolescence, mental illness and tragedy but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

The first 20% of A Mother’s Reckoning seems to solely aim at frantically proving how normal the Klebold family were; what such good, normal parents Sue and her husband Tom were and how they couldn’t possibly understand how their nice, normal son could have killed so many people. The idea of normal really annoyed me throughout this part of the book – Sue of all people should understand that there’s no such thing as normal.

The disquieting reality is that behind this heinous atrocity was an easygoing, shy, likeable young man who came from a ‘good home’. Tom and I were hands-on parents who limited the intake of television and sugary cereals.

This was made even more frustrating by the next 20% of the book where Sue goes from describing Dylan’s perfect childhood and the morals and discipline (a ‘normal’ amount of course) they imparted on him, to all the worrying behavioural signs they missed. One minute he was perfect, the next he was a teenager who had made some worrying life choices.

And the more ‘normal’ and good at parenting she was trying to prove to be, the more strange she sounded; the type of parent I’m glad I didn’t have. A control freak…

I thought of all the times I’d called the mom hosting a sleepover to find out what movie she was planning to show. More than once, I’d asked for a less violent selection.

Now, I’m certainly not one of those people who blame the parents for everything, but don’t write 100 pages with your hands in the air saying ‘look at what good parents we werewe couldn’t possibly have known…he showed no signs,…we couldn’t have done anything’ etc and then tell us the exact opposite. Argh!

I was also not happy about the conclusion Sue came to about Dylan’s actions being caused by ‘depression or some other brain illness’. It is perfectly possible that Dylan was depressed – aren’t most teenagers!? but depression does not a murderer make!

In this book Sue Klebold researches what she calls ‘brain illnesses’ (she doesn’t believe the term mental illness is as accurate) and suicide, especially in teenagers. It is researched well and I found it interesting but it just felt like she was trying lay blame on anyone but herself or her troubled son.. I can’t blame her for trying to find a reason for her son’s actions, but I think it was a very one-sided view.

For me there was a huge elephant in the room the whole way through this book. I think working in a prison has given me a little insight into criminal behaviour and how people tick. And the one thing that people never want to believe is that humans are capable of hideous things, without making them evil.

Every single one of us has the occasional evil thought but thankfully most of us wouldn’t dream of acting upon them. Lots of things prevent us from doing so. But something didn’t stop Dylan from that terrible act. In fact it sounds like instead of him having lots of reasons to not act on those thoughts – he had lots of reasons to go through with it. School is hard, adolescence is hard, and his circumstances sound worse than most. As one of the survivors said at the time ‘I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner’.

Klebold does make some insightful psychological points which – although few and far between-  did make this book worth reading for me.

The expertise with which desperate people can mask their true feelings and intentions is the far more important message.

It’s nothing groundbreaking but was interesting enough to keep me reading and thinking. This is definitely a book worth reading for those interested in psychology, especially criminal psychology, but despite the fact that this whole book is Sue pouring her heart out, I couldn’t relate to her because I didn’t believe that she completely believed what she was saying. I think there is a huge element of denial here, and that she wrote this story to rid herself of guilt.

I’m not saying she has anything to feel guilty about – who am I to make that judgement – nor am I saying that she doesn’t deserve empathy or closure, but I just felt like she is masking something in this book, which is strangely something that the victims’ friends and family have said from the beginning. Maybe that’s the only reason I’m so suspicious, but maybe not…

unicorn rating 3

 

 

 

DNF Review: The War Against the Assholes by Sam Munson

waragainstTitle: The War Against the Assholes
Author: Sam Munson
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 272 pages
Publication Details: June 9th 2016 by Atom
Genre(s): YA; Fantasy
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

Mike Wood is a teenager at a decidedly unprestigious Catholic school in Manhattan, accustomed to solving problems using brawn rather than brains.

One day, his nerdy classmate Hob Callahan persuades him to read a mysterious old book of unknown authorship, The Calendar of Slights. On the face of things, the book is a guide to performing clever card tricks; but in fact, it is a test for recruiting new members to join a secret cell of radical magicians.

Amazingly, Mike passes with flying colours unlocking not only his potential magic powers – but also the door to New York City’s vast and hidden underground network of warlocks, sorcerers and mages.

Here, with Hob as his unlikely guide, Mike’s role as a steadfast soldier begins. For there is a war being waged. A war between rivaling factions of magicians that has spanned the ages. A clandestine war against the establishment: a war against The Assholes.

Review

I completely misjudged this book. From the cover and the title I assumed it was going to be a contemporary YA high school read when in fact it’s more of a contemporary fantasy. I realised that I was wrong quite early on and I was then looking forward to it even more… but unfortunately I just couldn’t gel with it. 

Mike is the average guy at school. He’s not the most popular, he’s not the most nerdy. He’s not a bully, but he will (and does) pull punches to defend himself. 

Hob is a loner who is always lurking around reading the same little book with intensity. He never participates in anything and therefore no one really knows him. But when Mike and Hob are thrown together by a common enemy, Mike is intrigued and pleasantly surprised by him.

Hob gives Mike his little green book and urges him to read it, and from there on out things get crazy-weird. 

Even as I was typing that summary I was thinking ‘this sounds great, why couldn’t I get into it!?’ And the only answer I can think of was the writing style. 

It felt very disjointed and jumpy to me. I don’t know if it was because I wasn’t paying enough attention, but it seemed like the characters jumped from one scene/location to the next without an explanation. It may well have all been explained by the end but I’m sorry, I just had to give up. 

I love the idea of a secret magic circle, and being initiated via his strange little book, but I couldn’t follow the story. The world-building didn’t seem fully developed, nor did the characters. 

I struggled through 30% of The War Against the Assholes and I had to give up. There is a huge chance that it could have gotten a lot better after that so I don’t think it’s fair to give it a rating, or put people off it. Maybe try it for yourself and let me know? 😉

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