Book Review: Pretty Thing by Jennifer Nadel

A stunning coming-of-age debut full of love and danger, secrets and lies: this is a dark, tense, hard-hitting novel about two girls forced to grow up fast… 

When fifteen-year-old Becs meets Bracken, she is convinced she’s found her soul mate. So what if he’s much older? He understands her, she feels free with him and when he holds her she feels safe.


But is she?


Some young women in the local area have recently been sexually assaulted. It’s the talk of the school. And when Bec’s best friend Mary-Jane becomes the latest victim, the true dangers hit home: just as Becs is starting to wonder about her future with Bracken – poor M-J rapidly shrinks away from life. . . 


Set during the sweltering hot summer of 1976, Pretty Thing is a powerful coming-of-age novel, a story of first encounters, dark obsession, broken trust and last chances – perfect for readers of Meg Rosoff, Lauren Oliver and Annabel Pitcher. I pits true love against real life and ask: is love all you really need? (From Goodreads.com)


Published by Corsair (UK) February 2015

Pretty Thing by Jennifer Nadel was one of those books I picked up and became immediately involved in, right from the very first page. Set in 1976, Nadel effortlessly captures the atmosphere of the time and despite being born the year after the book is set, I had the odd memory of the late 70’s/early 80’s vividly evoked. I thought the language and tone of the character’s conversation was particularly convincing, helped along with a pretty cool soundtrack of seventies classics.

I also found main character, 15 year old Becs, convincing. She comes across as both naive and mature in comparison to modern teens. I’m not going to lie, I found the affair between Becs and Bracken sinister and unsettling. Nadel certainly takes a no holes barred approach, delivered with brutal honesty. I admired how in such a short book, she created multiple, complex relationships for Becs and allowed her to grow and develope throughout the book. Over one summer and 250 pages we witness her metamorphosis into a stronger, independent young woman in charge of her own destiny.

I think readers will find some of the attitudes and actions uncomfortable in 2015. It reminds me how the world has changed in the last forty years, particularly for young females and also helps with the sometimes rose-tinted spectacles I occassionally look back with. While it’s marketed at Young Adults, I actually think this may appeal to an adult audience just as much, if not more. I’m not sure I liked the very ambiguous ending, leaving Becs future a mystery to the reader. I know how I hope it went, but I think I’d have liked the author to tie things up a little more.

 Overall, I was surprised by this book, I read it in a couple of sittings and it left me with quite a bit to think about.

My copy was provided by the publisher for review purposes



Book Review: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they’ve been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month’s time, they plan to commit suicide – together. 

Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn’t equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can’t figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all….and why he’s even more determined than she is. 

With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman – a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all – but is Aysel in so deep she can’t turn back? 

Published February 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton  

Depression and mental health in general is something we don’t take seriously enough in our teenagers. It’s easy to brush it off as teen moodiness and sulkiness. In ‘My Heart and Other Black Holes’ Jasmine Warga takes the topic of depression and suicidal thoughts and manages to convey the crippling sadness of main protagonist Aysel very well. As someone who did have a difficult adolescense, I related to those feelings of despair and the metaphor of ‘a black slug’ for Aysel’s depression really struck a chord.

But this books also investigates a darker, more modern topic relevant to teenagers today. The internet, specifically Suicide websites. I’ll be honest, as a parent this scared me. Aysel meets Roman on a site for people looking for suicide partners, and as they set ‘the date’ the slowly begin to get to know each other. I could feel the pressure Aysel started to feel under from Roman and it chilled me. I didn’t like him all that much and didn’t relate to him the way I did Aysel.

 However, the developement of the relationship between the two was sweet and tender. There’s a part of me that sighs at the ‘love solves all problems’ message that could so easily have dominated this story. Thankfully, Aysel’s new found hope in life isn’t confined to her growing fondness for Roman and I hope this isn’t lost on a younger audience.

There is a lot of good in this book. It’s written very, very well and I think anyone who has suffered depression, teens and adults alike, will relate to Aysel and her feelings. The first half of the book was excellent, but then I felt the second half was rushed and it lost me a little. The parent in me says I’d recommend this book to other parents of teenagers happily, as an excellent insight into depression in teenagers. As for it’s target market, I think it would be ideal for mature young adults. I would look out for more from the author in the future, who really does have a beautiful way with words.

Published February 2015 by Hodder (UK)

My copy was an advance reader from the Amazon Vine program


Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

I’ve loved everything Lauren Oliver has written so far, I’d list her as one of my favourite YA authors and anything she publishes is a must read. But I suppose there’s a likelihood that eventually there’s going to be one book from an author you expect so much from which doesn’t quite live up to your expectations and sadly, Panic was that book.

Don’t get me wrong. This is far from a terrible book. The premise is fascinating and took me by surprise a little as I was fully expecting a dystopian/Hunger Games type of story. In fact, Panic is very contemporary in setting. Based in Carp-a run down town in modern day America-where life is tough and prospects low for the young residents. Panic is the name of a game devised as both an alleviation to boredom and the chance of escape to better things. The idea is that all high school students donate to a prize pot throughout the year, then in summer the game opens to those who’ve just completed their final year. Through a series of increasingly dangerous and terrifying challenges, competitors must avoid elimination with the last person taking the entire prize of around $60,000.

It could have been so good. Sadly though, it lacked a lot of atmosphere, which in turn made the whole concept unbelievable. I’m more than willing to believe that everyday teens could be so disillusioned they’d risk their lives for a chance to win, but Lauren Oliver didn’t manage to convince me in this book and I ended up thinking these were just reckless idiots rather than the seriously desperate.

The story is told in alternating chapters by Heather and Dodge and I failed to connect with either of them. I couldn’t really of cared less who won by the end. Of the two, I could understand Dodge’s reasons for playing the game more than Heather’s. I really struggled with why she’d do this, being the only one to watch out for her supposedly beloved younger sister. Very surprisingly, the romance isn’t between the two main characters, so thumbs up to the unpredictability of that! Sadly though, the two romances involved were pretty unromantic and lacked any real chemistry. I think I’d have preferred predictable after all.

I did find it very readable and was invested enough to want to keep going. Lauren Oliver’s writing is as good as ever in that regard. I was just really disappointed by the lack of tension…for this book to really work it should have been crackling off the pages. I’m afraid I was unconvinced and disappointed this time.

2.5

Published by Hodder (UK) March 2014

Six Months Of Reading In Bite Size Reviews…(Part One)

I suppose by now, anyone who follows this blog is quite used to the long breaks and I didn’t want to bore you with yet another ‘where I’ve been post’. Life has been crazy the last few months with work, taking on two Uni modules at once, exams, and organizing Lu’s extremely active social life. I managed to read a few books. Actually, that’s a lie. I read a lot of books for Uni, but I doubt you really want to hear about those. Anyway, here are some bite size (mouse sized bite size at that) reviews of  the BOOKS FOR FUN I read  in the last few months.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom 

‘You must not become too friendly with them,’ she said. “They are not the same as us.’

‘How?’ I asked. ‘How are they not the same?’

1791: When seven-year-old Irish orphan Lavinia is transported to Virginia to work in the kitchen of a wealthy plantation owner, she is absorbed into the life of the kitchen house and becomes part of the family of black slaves whose fates are tied to the plantation.


But Lavinia’s skin will always set her apart, whether she wishes it or not. And as she grows older, she will be torn between the life that awaits her as a white woman and the people she knows as kin. 

I loved this book. Powerful, heart wrenchingly sad and sensitively written. A 5 star read.

The Second Life Of Amy Archer by R.S Pateman 

On 31st December 1999, ten-year-old Amy Archer went missing from her local playground. Her body was never found and the lives of her parents, Beth and Brian, were torn apart.

On the tenth anniversary of the disappearance, Beth is alone, still struggling with the enormity of her grief and the horror of not knowing the fate of her only child. But the fear and confusion have only just begun, and Beth’s world is turned upside down when a stranger knocks on her door, claiming to know what happened to Amy.

Beth is introduced to a little girl who is the uncanny double of her missing daughter, who knows things that only Amy would remember; the name of her favourite toy, the place where she scratched her initials, what Beth likes for breakfast. But this can’t be Amy, she hasn’t aged a day…

Now Beth is forced to question everything she has ever believed in, and push her faith and her sanity to the limits, if she is to find out the truth about what happened to Amy. 

I was expecting a deeply suspenseful, slightly supernatural unputdowner of a book with this one. In truth, I was a little underwhelmed. Hated the main character and in this story, that was NOT a good thing. Good enough to finish, but not particularly memorable. 
Shades Of Earth by Beth Revis 

Shades of Earth is the final novel in the teenage romantic science fiction trilogy, from New York Times bestseller Beth Revis, author of Across the Universe and A Million Suns. Perfect for all fans of The Hunger Games. Across the Universe was longlisted for the prestigous Carnegie Medal.

Amy and Elder have finally left the oppressive walls of the spaceship Godspeed behind. They’re ready to start life afresh–to build a home–on Centauri-Earth, the planet that Amy has traveled 25 trillion miles across the universe to experience. But this new Earth isn’t the paradise that Amy had been hoping for.


Amy and Elder must race to uncover who–or what–else is out there if they are to have any hope of saving their struggling colony and building a future together. But each new discovery brings more danger. And if their colony collapses then everything they have sacrificed–friends, family, life on Earth–will have been meaningless . . . 

No secret I’m a massive fan of this series and the final book in the trilogy was no let down, keeping me on the edge of my seat throughout. Highly recommended (Reviews of Across The Universe and A Million Suns)

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone 

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet. Why would they? Anna is sixteen in 1995, fiercely determined to leave her quiet town and finally travel the world. Bennett’s seventeen in 2012, living in San Francisco and trying to control his ability to travel through time – an incredible gift, but also an unpredictable curse, which constantly threatens to separate him from the people he loves.


When Bennett suddenly finds himself in Anna’s world, they are inescapably drawn to one another – it’s almost as if they have met before. But they both know, deep down, that it can never last. For no matter how desperate Bennett is to stay with Anna, his condition will inevitably knock him right back to where he belongs – and Anna will be left to pick up the pieces 

Billed as reminiscent of The Time Travellers Wife, this was a no brainer for me. I loved the romance and the nineties flashbacks. Beautifully and subtly done.

The Hit by Melvin Burgess  

Take it. Live it. F*** it.

A new drug is out. Everyone is talking about it. The Hit. Take it, and you have one amazing week to live. It’s the ultimate high. At the ultimate price.


Adam is tempted. Life is rubbish, his girlfriend’s over him, his brother’s gone. So what’s he got to lose? Everything, as it turns out. It’s up to his girlfriend, Lizzie, to show him… 

Woah, this was not for the faint hearted at all. Violent, Gritty, disturbing… but strangely compelling. I’m not sure if it was brilliant or awful. Thought provoking nonetheless.

More next week…..

Book Review: Blackwood by Gwenda Bond

On Roanoke Island, the legend of the 114 people who mysteriously vanished from the Lost Colony hundreds of years ago is just an outdoor drama for the tourists, a story people tell. But when the island faces the sudden disappearance of 114 people now, an unlikely pair of 17-year-olds may be the only hope of bringing them back.

Miranda, a misfit girl from the island’s most infamous family, and Phillips, an exiled teen criminal who hears the voices of the dead, must dodge everyone from federal agents to long-dead alchemists as they work to uncover the secrets of the new Lost Colony. The one thing they can’t dodge is each other.

Blackwood is a dark, witty coming of age story that combines America’s oldest mystery with a thoroughly contemporary romance (from Goodreads.com)

With so many books cramming under the YA paranormal/fantasy genre it takes something with a stroke of originality to stand out. Gwenda Bond’s Blackwood certainly has that. Whilst unfamiliar with the centuries old mystery of Roanoke Island, I was intrigued by the synopsis and idea of a creepy island where so many people can just vanish into seemingly thin air.

And Blackwood is very creepy. Right from the beginning Bond creates a tense and sinister atmosphere that has the hairs standing up on the back of your neck. It reminded me a little of the Lois Duncan books I read years ago. As a story it grips you, giving very little information and keeping the reader firmly in the dark which results in the ‘one more page’ syndrome. 

Gwenda Bond’s characterisation is pretty spot on too. I really like Miranda who is genuinely strong, brave and compassionate. I liked how the author wasn’t afraid to give her flaws, for instance her feelings towards her father were believable and human considering the circumstances. It could have seemed cold, but I think we’re given enough background to empathise with Miranda and understand her feelings. It was fascinating to see Miranda come to terms with her ancestors history and thus understand herself. I also quite enjoyed the romance in this book, which seemed to develope rather than just happen. You got the impression that the chemistry between Miranda and Phillips had history without it being spelt out. And as far as villains go, Blackwood has a good one with an authentic motive.

So, mainly I really enjoyed Blackwood. However I have one small quibble. I was left a little confused a couple of times…in particular with Phillips and his ‘gift’. He apparently hears voices of the dead, but in no coherent manner and ends up being pretty useless from what I could tell. I’m not convinced that it was wholly necessary the way it was executed.  I also found the switching narrative a little annoying and jumpy. Usually I love this technique but it didn’t work as well for me this time. Maybe it’s just me who failed to fully concentrate or maybe it was the formatting of the e-book proof I read…in which case is no fault of the book itself.

Overall Blackwood is a great, unputdownable read and the occasional confusion was far outweighed by the good. With a tantalising combination of witchcraft, alchemy, legend and a quest for eternal life, it’s a book to keep you up late into the night. If you’re looking for an original, creepy book then you won’t go wrong with Blackwood.

Published by Strange Chemistry (UK) September 2012
My copy was an e-book arc sourced from Netgalley.

Book Review: Partials by Dan Wells

Humanity is all but extinguished after a war with partials—engineered organic beings identical to humans—has decimated the world’s population. Reduced to only tens of thousands by a weaponized virus to which only a fraction of humanity is immune, the survivors in North America have huddled together on Long Island. The threat of the partials is still imminent, but, worse, no baby has been born immune to the disease in over a decade. Humanity’s time is running out. 


When sixteen-year-old Kira learns of her best friend’s pregnancy, she’s determined to find a solution. Then one rash decision forces Kira to flee her community with the unlikeliest of allies. As she tries desperately to save what is left of her race, she discovers that the survival of both humans and partials rests in her attempts to answer questions of the war’s origin that she never knew to ask. 


Combining the fast-paced action of The Hunger Games with the provocative themes of Battlestar Galactica, Partials is a pulse-pounding journey into a world where the very concept of what it means to be human is in question—one where our sense of humanity is both our greatest liability, and our only hope for survival. (From Goodreads.com)

Partials sounded right up my street and I was really looking forward to it, even the size of it didn’t put me off. At over 450 pages it’s pretty huge, but I was sure the action packed plot would see me fly through the pages. I think maybe I picked it up at the wrong time though, when I had lots of other stuff on my mind, because while I liked it, I wasn’t hooked and it ended up taking me nearly two weeks to read.

I really loved the premise of Partials and thought the small society of humans on the brink of extinction was very realistic, including the leadership/government who force pregnancy on girls in a bid to save the population. Dan Wells made it just the right amount of sinister and chilling. I also really liked the idea of the Partials, created by humans to serve as soldiers in a terrible war who have now turned on us themselves. And there’s lots of rebelling in this book. I like nothing more than a good rebellion against corrupt leaders, of which there’s plenty of here.

Main protagonist Kira is a great heroine. Strong, determined, Kick ass…the type of character I like best.I didn’t really connect with any of the other characters and thought they were a little flat. I would have liked to see more emotional depth to Kira’s relationships with them. Maybe it was just me, but I thought despite having these people around her she was very much alone and isolated. Partials also has plenty of action, if that’s your thing and you love books like The Hunger games and Divergent, then you’re probably going to really like this book too.

I think the main problem I had with this book however was the medical/genetic aspect. It’s not that I hate this kind of stuff, I actually find it quite fascinating and it was one of the things I was looking forward to in this book. I think it was maybe a little too much at times and I did find myself skipping a few pages here and there when my mind started to wander. Partials took quite a bit of concentration from me, which leads me back to my first paragraph. It probably required more than I could offer it at the time. I also thought it was a little predictable and guessed pretty early on the way things would go. Will I carry on with the series? Yes absolutely…despite the problems I had it’s still an intriguing enough book and the possibilities are fascinating. I really do want to know what’s in store for Dan Wells world.

Published March 20th 2012 by HarperCollins (UK)
thanks to the publishers for sending a copy for review.

Book Review: The Catastrophic History Of You And Me by Jess Rothenberg

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning…. Welcome to forever. 


BRIE’S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally. 


But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there’s Patrick, Brie’s mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after. 


With Patrick’s help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she’s ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces? ( From Goodreads.com)

I’m going to find this review very difficult I think, due to a fear of giving too much away. So I apologise in advance for vagueness.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me isn’t exactly what I was expecting and is hard to categorise. The entire story takes place in Brie’s afterlife and is incredibly surreal. Jess Rothenberg has a very readable, witty writing style and with the book split into sections covering the five stages of grief it’s easy to become absorbed. I read it in just a few sittings over a couple of days.

I liked the originality of the book. I’ve never read anything like it before and I had no idea where it was going. I loved the idea of splitting the book into the stages of grief, so each one became a stage or lesson that Brie needs to work through. It did strike me a little odd that the grief was the dead persons, for themselves, at first but then I would probably grieve for myself too in that situation. Being an 80’s child I also really liked the references to eighties music with song titles or lyrics mainly from that era titling every chapter…in a very clever way! Patrick was by far the most interesting character in the book and I admit a little soft spot for him…you really can never go wrong with a cheeky chappie on a motorbike can you? OK maybe that’s just me then.

So there was quite a lot to like about this book, and despite the suggestion from the cover and synopsis it isn’t as light as it appears giving the reader things to think about. However I had an issue with a major aspect of this book, namely the dieing of a broken heart. This appears to be literal, and Brie’s behaviour after her death to the boy she blames for her broken heart is diabolic. Even more shocking is the fact these are 15 year olds. Now I’m not belittling the pain that a break up can cause, at any age, but particularly that age. I’ve been there, I felt my world was ending. But I didn’t like the message that was sent out here, that she actually dies because a boyfriend of eleven months breaks up with her? (this isn’t a spoiler. It happens in the first few pages) It left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. Some effort is made to explain the condition towards the end, but it’s very vague. Oh and talking about age… I found Brie so confusing. At times she (and her friends) seemed older than 15. Then other times, a lot of other times, she was pretty bratty and immature.

I ended up having mixed feelings with this one. Yes, it was beautifully written, quirky, original and compelling enough but I just couldn’t connect with Brie that much and found her a confusing character. I can see a lot of people really loving The Catastrophic History of You and Me, for me it was just ok.

Published February 2012 by Penguin (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review purposes.

Blog Tour: The Roots of Hollow Pike – James Dawson

Today we are extremely happy to be hosting a stop on the Hollow Pike blog tour. We have author James Dawson with us to tell us about the roots of Hollow Pike!!

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When I started writing Hollow Pike in 2009, I’m happy to admit I drew inspiration from various sources. Who doesn’t? I mean, how can you not be inspired? The whole writing saga started when I used to borrow YA books from the Year 6s of Middle Street Primary in Brighton, where I was teaching at the time. I remember reading Noughts and Crosses, Twilight, The Declaration and being blown away by the imagination and scope. Throw in my long-standing love for His Dark Materials and knew that I wanted to write YA.


From that starting point, it was actually film and television that mainly inspired Hollow Pike. I think it wears its roots on its sleeve, but I feel these were the main inspirations behind the novel.

  1. 1. Twin Peaks: I came to this late, long after it had finished its first showing on TV. I urge anyone who hasn’t seen this to track down a DVD boxset. For me, it’s the best TV show ever made. Created by visionary writer/director David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive), no other show mixes terror, suspense and humour in quite the same way. Borrowed from Lynch I suppose were the rural, isolated setting of Hollow Pike and the high-school murder mystery. Moreover, what I love about Twin Peaks is that you never really know if what you see is supernatural or not…
  2. Heathers / Mean Girls: Depending on your generation, one or both of these comedies are probably among your favourites. Heathers is a lot blacker than Mean Girls, but both raise the bar in terms of razor-sharp dialogue, and each are endlessly quotable. Both, I suppose, have the underdogs plotting revenge against the high school bitches, a key theme in Hollow Pike.
  3. Buffy The Vampire Slayer:The TV series, not the film, obviously. What I loved about Buffy was the way it used monsters and demons as metaphors for the perils of adolescence. Episodes like The Pack and Earshot so clearly use teen angst as a starting point – the monsters are by-the-by. Again, I think a lot of people forget how funny the series was too – the dialogue whips along, and much like Hollow Pike, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.
  4. Scooby-Doo: No seriously. The gang in Buffy also referred to themselves as the Scooby Gang, and I used to same character archetypes. Using the Freddie, Velma, Daphne, Shaggy stereotypes allowed me to clearly work out which of the Hollow Pike gang would say which lines, and how they would react in each situation.
  5. A Nightmare on Elm Street: Last year I blogged about why this was my favourite horror film of all time. Lis’s dreams are a big part of Hollow Pike, and this film really examined why nightmares are so terrifying – the loss of control and the blurring of the rules of reality. In a dream, the normal horror tropes of ‘get out of the front door!’ or ‘call the police!’ no longer count for anything.
  6. Scream: Another Wes Craven entry, but I wanted to include some Kevin Williamson too. The Dawson’s Creek/Vampire Diaries showrunner writes such clean, smart, fresh dialogue for his teenage characters and always gives them rare intelligence. Critics of Scream and Dawson’s Creek said they characters spoke older than their years – but when else are you trying to impress people with your vocabulary than as an adolescent? Scream was the first horror film to acknowledge young people watch horror, and Lis and co are fully aware of the conventions of the genre.
  7. The Craft: This 90s cult classic was very similar to the current series The Secret Circle (which I always think sounds like a incontinence product). In fact, I wonder if The Craft wasn’t inspired by the LJ Smith novels. The Craft more than TSC, however, uses witchcraft as a metaphor for the ‘outsiderness’ of the characters, something which I pinched for Hollow Pike.


So there you go. I do hope Hollow Pike is more than just a sum of its parts. Bringing something fresh and new to the crowded YA market is difficult, but I like to think that the characters in Hollow Pike are all mine! I believe their voices are what makes Hollow Pike a little bit special. I like to think it might be also be tricky to pigeon hole Hollow Pike – part dark romance, part teen noir…it’s not about vampires or fallen angels. I leave it up to you to decide if it’s even about witches…

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Thanks so much for that James!! Hollow Pike is a great book and out now so go and get yourself a copy! Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the tour which you can see below!



Book Review: Wonder by R.J Palacio

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse. 

August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? 

R. J. Palacio has written a spare, warm, uplifting story that will have readers laughing one minute and wiping away tears the next. With wonderfully realistic family interactions (flawed, but loving), lively school scenes, and short chapters, Wonder is accessible to readers of all levels. (From Goodreads.com)

Wow. Over the two days I was reading this book I went on an emotional roller coaster, which took me through almost every feeling possible. I laughed, I cried, my heart ached, I detested, I loved, I felt despair, hope and pride all through the pages of a book telling the story of one small boy.
The book begins from Auggie’s viewpoint. He has a very matter of fact insight to his condition and his tone is refreshingly honest and brave.  There isn’t a person alive whose heart he couldn’t creep into and steal and I’m in awe at how completely believable and authentic the author has made him. Quite often books written from a young child’s perspective fail to loose the adultness of the author. Not the case here at all. 
The book shifts view point several times and we also get an insight into the lives of his sister and friends. I really like how RJ Palacio kept the viewpoints to those of kids. I think it gave the book a more honest poignancy that wouldn’t come from an adult. I particularly found his sister Via’s story touching. She struggles with feelings of jealousy at times when it’s difficult for her to get her mum’s attention but with such guilt and love for August, my heart went out to her.

Wonder is a book that truly shows the best and worst in human nature. At one point I was so angry I slammed it shut. Yet another section made me feel so uplifted at the strength of human spirit I actually shed tears. Mostly, this is a book that will strike a chord and make you really think.  Adults and kids alike need to read it. Everyone will be touched and take something away from it. Wonder is exactly that. A wonderful book that comes highly recommended. Go right now and pre-order. You won’t regret it.


Published by Bodley Head (Random House) 1st March 2012 (UK)
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.


Similar books: The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time by Mark Haddon and My Sister Lives On the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher both speak with authentic young voices coping with difficult situations. 

Book review: Hallowed by Cynthia Hand

I’m not going to lie. In the last couple of months I’ve become a little disillusioned with both Paranormal YA and sequels. The books tended to be so samey, the sequels disappointing. However seeing as how I loved Cynthia Hand’s Unearthly last year, I was willing to give second book Hallowed a chance. Am I pleased I did? You bet ya I am.
Warning: Possible spoilers for Unearthly. If you’ve already read that then you’re safe
Hallowed picks up just weeks after Unearthly ended. Clara is coming to terms with the fact she appears to have failed her purpose and struggling to make sense of it. But when she starts getting a new vision, it becomes apparent she’s going to lose someone she loves and her purpose isn’t over yet. Clara realises there’s much she still needs to learn, both about herself, her mother and the black wings whose threatening presence is always in the background.
So yeah, I was a little sceptical going into this one. In my recent experience, sequels rarely live up to the amazingness of the first book but Hallowed so did. Something about Cynthia Hand’s writing is just so addictive. Once in, I can’t get out; I get completely lost in the story and reading her books is an absolute pleasure.

What I love about this particular series though is how the focus isn’t just on the main characters but their whole family and wider circle of friends. Sure Clara is the main player, but her strength comes from those around her. In this book we find out much, much more about her mother Maggie and other angel-bloods. I really like the world Hand has created which is complex, mysterious and exciting. Things quite often turn out to be not quite as they seem, and Clara’s brother Jeremy in particular starts displaying some interesting traits. I’ve a feeling he’s going to really surprise us in the next book, which as yet is unnamed. Angela also intrigues me. There’s definitely more to her and in Hallowed it feels like foundations are being laid for a big reveal yet to come. 
I can’t talk about this series without mentioning Tucker and Christian. I have to hand it to the author, she’s managed to take the predictable and annoying love triangle cliché and keep me interested. Very interested. In Unearthly I was firmly team Tucker. In Hallowed, I’m not so sure. I want to still be team Tucker, but man does Christian come into his own here. Now I know the love triangle thing can be a bone of contention, but you know…if it’s done well I love it. And Cynthia Hand does do it well.
While Hallowed isn’t the most action packed novel you’ll read, it is a book of revelations, revealed secrets and intrigue. It’s left me wanting to know more and eager for book three. It also reduced me to tears at one point. Sad just doesn’t come into it. A heartbreaking situation is written with such delicacy and emotion I could barely see the words through my brimming eyes. 
My one regret about Hallowed is that Wendy is reduced to a sideline character and I missed the normalcy of her relationship with Clara and her wicked sense of humour. I felt of all things, Clara could have done with a bit more Wendy in her life in this book. It’s a shame that the truly human character in this series becomes less important than the angelic ones.

Wendy niggle aside, Hallowed was an amazing, emotional and captivating book and has smashed my run of disappointing sequels. This is without doubt one of the best YA series out there and one I’d recommend without any hesitation. 


Published by Egmont (UK) January 2012
Thanks to the publishers for providing a copy for review.