Book Review: Truth or Dare by Non Pratt

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“Judge people on what they have control over. Judge them on the way they treat their friends, or whether they persevere when they can’t do something… Be careful not to confuse a beautiful face with a beautiful heart”. 

This book was kindly sent to me by Walker Books, but this has no impact on my review!

When ‘Truth or Dare’ slid through my letterbox and into my hands I have to admit I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t really know anything about the plot and I’ve never actually read any of Non Pratt’s other works (much to the dismay of my friend Jasmine who convinced me to buy Trouble, which I have only read one chapter of!) So seeing as I had some free time and a new book I thought I’d dive in blind – and boy, was it worth it! I read it in just a handful of days because it was so addictive; never was there a moment of boredom and I just thoroughly enjoyed it!

‘Truth or Dare’ is a contemporary YA novel that deals with family, friendship, and love – but really that doesn’t even scratch the surface.

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Mini Monday Review #11

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Kissing Christmas Goodbye by M.C. Beaton 

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“I wonder if you might find time to call on me. I think a member of my family is trying to kill me. Isn’t the weather warm for October?”

This book was so sweet! Sweet and…peculiar. I choose this book as I thought it would act as a good comparison for my crime work in English Lit. and I was certainly right about that!

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The crime(s) felt very unimportant, almost as if they were subplots,  because the main character Agatha Raisin wasn’t all that invested in them herself. She was too busy worrying about the perfect Christmas she had planned out. Therefore I couldn’t really invest myself in them and I found myself not really caring that much about who had committed the crime, how or why whereas when it came to the Christmas dinner and what she was planning to wear in order to seduce her ex, James, I was surprisingly nervous! This to me definitely felt the wrong way around. I also thought it was a shame how the resolution was rushed and a little random – the fatal clue actually occurred early on in the novel and was quite obvious even though it took the detectives another hundred pages or so to figure out!

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I didn’t find there to be much character development within the story – however this is potentially due to the fact this book is the eighteenth in the series, so far. I enjoyed Agatha as a character and as a detective; she particularly reminded me of a mash-up of Ida Arnold from Brighton Rock, with her sense of humour and self-confidence, and Miss Marple from Agatha Christie’s works, due to her homeliness and that she was also an older detective compared to many others within the genre. There was a lot of self-reflection with Agatha and this added a lot of humour to the novel. I do think that the humour was the highlight of the book; there were so many little things that managed to make me smile or laugh which I really appreciated. It really worked alongside the cozy mystery.

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This book was not ground-breaking. It didn’t make me think, but it was exceedingly cute and very Christmas-y!  I do think this book is aimed at an older target age but I did enjoy it; it was an easy holiday read and a lot of fun.

Mini Monday Review #10

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The Next Together by Lauren James

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“I think there are no true heroes. Only people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy”

I have to start by saying that I definitely have enough to say about this book to fill a full review but seeing as this was my bookclubs’ second read I thought I’d link to our discussion video here! We covered everything so beware, it’s full of spoilers!

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Onto the review! I really really enjoyed this book; it’s a reincarnation romance which also includes comedy, mystery and historical fiction. Despite all these genres being incredibly different Lauren makes them work together so fabulously! This, along with the seamless transitions between the different time periods, makes this story so effective. There are a lot of incredibly emotional and swoon-worthy scenes so the humour that’s added in for some light relief is really appreciated. It’s nice to have a bit of a laugh after a war is announced in 1746 or the big secret is revealed in 1845! The writing in this book is consistently excellent and relatable.

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There aren’t really a huge number of characters in this book; Katherine and Matthew are the focalisers in this story. Lauren has a really wonderful balance between continuous traits in each character and new ones. If they had been the exact same in each time period it would’ve become very tedious very quickly whereas if they were always totally different it would have been impossible to keep up! However in terms of the plot I would have liked it to differ a bit more. Each time period followed a similar plot line and it was easy to predict what was about to happen which for some isn’t necessarily a bad thing but personally I love to be really shocked. That and the fact that insta-love – which you would expect in a  reincarnation romance – is generally something that I’m not a big fan of are my only criticisms, and honestly both are really just personal preferences!

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 I have to briefly mention the ending: WOW! Such a unexpected twist. Everything changes in the last few pages and there are so many questions raised that I am quite upset that I have to wait until November 2016 for the next book: The Last Beginning.

Mini Monday Review #9

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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“Because they are mean is no reason why I should be. I hate such things, and though I think I’ve a right to be hurt, I don’t intend to show it.”

This book is such an acclaimed classic, since receiving this beautiful Scholastics Classics edition for my birthday I’ve been anticipating reading it! Thankfully it definitely lived up to my expectations with it’s feminist themes  – which are still relevant nowadays – and ideas on social conformity – which is also applicable today as well as having absolutely beautiful writing! This book doesn’t feel stodgy at all as is often the case with classics as the language is very different and it sometimes feels like you can’t connect with the characters due to the time period.

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 With the novel spanning a year in the life of the March family, after Mr.March goes off to war, we follow Jo, Meg, Beth and Amy as they learn to ‘play pilgrims’ whilst dealing with romance, friendships and  poverty. In my opinion the characters are the best parts of this book; with the plot being quite thin it’s true to say that Little Women is really a character driven story. Each sister has very distinct characteristics and skills; Jo being a feisty tomboy who has a passion for writing, Beth a timid musical girl, Amy the youngest sister is a great artist and finally Meg, the more conventional girly girl. It’s so easy to relate to these girls; I personally connected most to Jo as she just adored literature and refused to let society change who she was.

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It is so well written too; the settings are so engaging. You could feel the breeze as Meg and Jo walked to work in Winter and you could see the girls discussing in their ‘Busy Bee society’. If you’re looking for a relatively light classic read involving endearing characters and is jam-packed with emotions, subtle feminist and social themes then Little Women is certainly for you!

Mini Monday Review #7

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Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

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Dangerous Lies follows Stella Gorden, recently put into witness protection. You watch her as she tries to deal with her new shadow of danger and tries to cope with the aspects of her new life, including the handsome cowboy-next-door Chet. Only problem is that in my opinion there’s only so much coping that can be explored in a book before it gets boring. The plot felt quite lacking; particularly around the antagonist Danny Balando and his “vicious thugs”. They were pretty much absent until the very last pages! I went into this book expecting a thriller and got a romance in the end. However the romance was done exceptionally. It was just so cute ! And thankfully there was just enough realism along side the adorableness  for me. This is the same for the characters. To me Stella was a bit annoying, but that made her more real. And don’t get me started on Carmina, Stella’s “foster mom”. She was by far the best character; so caring and independent at the same time, a wonderful mother and a kick-butt detective!

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I overall enjoyed Fitzpatrick’s writing style; it was a great balance between easy reading and gripping ‘WHAT-HAPPENS-NEXT’.  But in my opinion it was a little inconsistent, sometimes I had to keep turning pages because it was either so sweet or so shocking but at some points I really struggled to keep going, but I think that has more to do with personal preference than anything else. The ending is definitely the best bit, there are some incredible twists and really edge-of-your-seat moments. Oh and of course there’s a brilliantly romantic scene thrown in there too! This last section just stood out to me, I wish it had been a little bit longer. 

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And I have to mention some of the themes the book explored, they were really lovely. Fitzpatrick looks at family and more importantly what it means to be a family. Stella goes through so much and is so unhappy at times but from that she found her own family and her own happy ending. Really it’s all about hope I guess, leading you forward.

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Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick is published 10th of November, 2015.

Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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“Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world. Most people just have to live their lives the best they can, doing things that are great for them, having great friends, trying to make their lives better, loving people properly.”

I read More Than This by Patrick Ness last Autumn and instantly fell in love with his writing style; the way he uses words, his choice of words, his  wonderful use of punctuation and structure. I remember finishing it and just sitting there in awe. Since then I’ve been desperate to get my hands on his other work. Somehow it’s taken me up till two weeks ago to do so when I bought  The Rest Of Us Just Live Here. After finishing this book I was reminded of all the reasons I adored (and continue to adore)  Ness’ style.  I seriously need to get my hands on the Chaos Walking Trilogy!

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This book is based on the  concept of not being the chosen one but instead being the people trying to get on with their lives whilst hoping that nobody blows up the school – ‘again’.  This idea is so unique and was executed very well. With the book being based around the more mundane life it could have easily slipped into becoming very dull and slow. But fortunately it didn’t! In fact it was quite the opposite. The plot isn’t action driven, the focus is on the characters and their development. However the reader is still kept in the loop with the plot of the chosen one via the chapter titles. Each one stated the number of the chapter (e.g. Chapter The First) and then a quick summary of what’s happening to the ‘Indie Kids’. The actions of these Indie Kids does affect the characters that we follow and so without these short rundowns  a lot of things going on in the book would have made no sense whatsoever, and so was a very clever and entertaining thing to do.

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As said before this book is highly character driven. Our protagonist Mikey suffers from OCD and has been in love with one of his best friends, Henna, but has never told her how he felt. The story follows the relationships between Mikey and his friends during their final year of school and how they alter due to the mystery provided by the Invasion of the Immortals. Mikey was a brilliant character to read, he was so flawed. He was suspicious, jealous and doubted himself all the time but then he was also fiercely caring and could be hilarious. Similarly all the characters had their own issues making them developed and realistic. Jared – Mikey’s gay best friend –  was probably my favourite character. As quarter-god (of cats) Jared shows the most protective nature towards lives of mountain lions, cats, and mostly his friends. He understands what Mikey is going through and whenever he can will try to help him. But he also provided some mystery to the novel, he’s a bit of an enigma; with secretive Saturday nights out and a general inability to pin-point what exactly it is he wants. Jared was a brilliant addition to their mismatched friend group.

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There was an amusing tone that ran throughout the book caused by the normality of such abnormal things. Vampires? Soul Eating Ghosts? Quarter-god best friends? It’s all commonplace.  This reminded me slightly of Welcome To Night Vale and is something I find really enjoyable. Nevertheless the tone could switch from light-hearted to serious very quickly. But whichever mood Ness was writing in he did incredibly well; funny at some points and sombre in others.

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Overall a really interesting idea carried out brilliantly, with characters who felt more like friends than anything else.

Interview + Book Review: Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler

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‘I wonder how many times in one lifetime you get to start again as someone else’ 

Whilst on my work experience at the incredible Booka Bookshop I spotted Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler sat on the YA shelves. Something drew me to it. Perhaps it was the beautiful cover or the mention of books in the title, whatever it was made me decide to have a look at the blurb.  I instantly knew that I had to have. So on my final day of work I bought it and less than 24 hours later I had finished. I only put this down once, and that was to sleep!

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Something I want to clear up a little before I begin; this is not a romance story between a teacher and a pupil. This is a story about 17 year old Ash discovering her own sexuality  and dealing with all the problems thrown at you at that age: exams, friends, physical relationships, and everything that comes with that. It still contains romance but I would not say that that is the focus. This book is very character driven and that’s what makes this book so fantastic. We’re treated to a holiday inside Ash’s head for a year of her life, and a very stressful one at that. I’ve only ever head a handful of lgbt books and in all of them the protagonist has always known that they’re not straight. What’s intersting about Read Me Like A Book is that Ash does not know or at least not consciously, so we get to watch her finally come to terms with it. It’s good to have books that make people aware that understanding your sexuality and who you are can sometimes take a bit of time.

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I completely clicked with Ash’s character after reading the very first page. Liz has perfectly captured the heart of teenage girl in nowadays society; with mention of snapchat and that feeling of envy when watching a couple totally immersed in one and other it’s hard not to connect with her and the other characters. The relationships between Ash and her friends and family are all ones that are very realistic. I particularly enjoyed her friendship with Cat and Robyn.  There’s just the right amount of teasing, arguments and resolutions between them all. Each character brings out a different side of Ash providing entertaining character development; Cat is always there to bring out the more reckless side of Ash whereas Robyn helps Ash grow her newly found passion for English put in place by  Miss Murray. Speaking of whom, I wish she was my teacher! There was a bit of mystery surrounding Miss Murray which definitely added to the plot.  I’m still not sure of a lot of things but due to some events (I’m staying spoiler free!) you realise you don’t need the answers because you’ve already come to your own conclusion. That probably won’t make sense unless you’ve read the book, I’m sorry!

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THE INTERVIEW

Now for the exciting bit! Liz was lovely enough to answer a few questions of mine about Read Me Like A Book and a couple other things such as her middle grade series:

So you wrote this book 15 years ago, where did the inspiration come from? 

Well, it came partly from some of my own experiences. I’d had an amazing English teacher who really inspired me, and I was thinking about how these brilliant teachers can sometimes have such a profound impact on our lives, and most of the time they don’t even know that they have done. Also, from my own experiences of coming out. My experience (of both the inspiring teacher and of coming out) were completely different from Ashleigh’s, but they led me to thinking about her story.

Something I loved about the book was how relatable it was, especially with the use of quite modern jargon. How was it adapting the book from the original draft to fit in with today?

Actually, it was a major job! I worked very closely with my editor on this. It was amazing to realise how much had changed. In the original, the characters didn’t even have mobile phones. Nowadays, it’s hard to imagine teenagers existing without their phones! I’m glad you found it relatable. Makes all the hard work worth it!

This book is about Ash dealing with school and love whilst discovering her own sexuality. For people going through a similar thing what would you say to them?

Just that you are never as alone as you might think you are. And that telling people is almost always not as bad as you think it will be. Times have really changed and the issues that are raised in the book around sexuality are – thankfully – becoming more and more accepted all the time. Find someone you can talk to, and be kind to yourself.

Read Me Like a Book is one book in the recent boom of the lgbt genre, what are some of your favourites that you would recommend? 

A few of my favourites would be Cat Clarke’s ‘A Kiss in the Dark’, Lisa Williamson’s ‘The Art of Being Normal’, Alyssa Brugman’s ‘Alex As Well’ and David Levithan’s ‘Two Boys Kissing’. Oh, and you really should have James Dawson’s ‘This Book is Gay’ on a shelf somewhere.

And I have to mention The Emily Windsnap books; they were so important to my childhood and will always be very dear to me. What were some of your childhood favourites?

Awww, thank you so much for saying this. Emily Windsnap will always be important to me too, as Emily is who I started my writing journey with, and I’m so glad that she’s still on it with me today! A couple of my own childhood favourites were The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster and Enid Blyton’s The Adventures of the Wishing Chair.

I have to say another huge thank you to Liz, I’m so grateful that you were happy to be my first author interviewee! Find her on Twitter,  Facebook,  Instagram,  or on her website.

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

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“I was loosened, a top whirling around and around, and I didn’t know who I danced with or what they looked like, only that I had become the music and the fire and the night, and there was nothing that could slow me down.”

I had heard a lot about A Court of Thorns and Roses  from many different people; it popped up on Instagram, on YouTube, in bookshops. After learning that this book was a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast,  involved faeries, secret enemies and a new dangerous fantasy world I knew it was my kind of thing.

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Having read some of Maas’ previous works I sort of knew what to expect from the writing side of it. I really enjoyed seeing her build up another entirely new land and I found it really interesting to read. The setting of the Spring Court was wonderful, the descriptions were so vivid that even as I was sat in my bed at home I could almost feel the warm spring sun on my face. It was nice to see a mix of really beautiful parts of the land along side the more treacherous ones as it provided an insight into the state of the realms which is an important factor in the plot. I  really hope to see more of the Courts in the next books as Maas does them so well.

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I found the book quite slow to start; we’re introduced to Feyre and her family. After Feyre is taken away to the Spring Court it takes a while for her to get used to things and her fear and anger -rather than being directed to develop characters or add to the plot – creates quite an awkward and lagging atmosphere.  Thankfully this past fairly quickly, as the characters loosen up a bit towards each other the plot really begins to be set in motion. The story certainly got better as the book went on and overall I really enjoyed it. The antagonist had a very good backstory and was pretty much just what I wanted; their identity remains a mystery until quite late on and that definitely worked in building suspense! And also that finale? So intense!

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The characters in this all had a lot of depth to them and they were all flawed which helped me to connect with them. Without it I definitely would have found doing that a lot harder as obviously the circumstances in the story don’t exactly happen in everyday life. Feyre was similar to Celeana in the way they’re both very independent and relentless yet still enjoyed throwing on a dress and being feminine.  Feyre was so entertaining to read, she knew how to handle herself but was lost as she was thrown into this new daunting world. Her development through the book is brilliant! Tamlin was not exactly beastly but damn was he charming! He had the power to be utterly ruthless at times but was genuinely such a nice guy and was burdened with so much guilt and responsibility which drew him to Feyre. I have to mention Lucien because he is just so sassy and sarcastic! I think out of everybody Lucien was the character that was consistently enjoyable, he never irked me and I really cared for him.

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I’d recommend this book to anybody who: enjoyed Beauty and the Beast as it’s really fun to pick out the references back to the original, likes high-fantasy themes as I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting to know Prythian and the mystical beings that can be found there or anybody who is in need of a forbidden romance story with some…steamy scenes. This book was utterly addictive and I’m highly anticipating the next book – which I really intrigued to see follow on from this shocking ending.