Review of People Like Us by Dana Mele

Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Pages: 384
Publisher: G. P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: 27/02/2018
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Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple. 

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened.

Our main character Kat is spending her final school year at Bates Academy, a boarding school for the upper class. She seems to fit in pretty well with the other students, considering she got in on an athletics scholarship, mostly by stealing everyone else's clothes which is certainly a trait to be admired. It's pretty clear from the start of the book that she has a dark past that she's trying hard to put behind her.

 The other characters in this are sort of interesting, particularly Brie, Kat's friend who she's clearly in love with and Nola (all of the characters in this book have weird names idk why), the weird goth girl who writes on her walls and dances instead of walking. The rest of the characters though, did blend together quite a bit for me and I had difficulty even telling Greg and Kat's ex boyfriend apart (I forgot his name, sue me).

"When all is quiet, she begins to hum under her breath, and now I have to shush her once or twice, because if I don't, her voice will gradually rise until she is singing out loud, and eventually we'll be caught traipsing through the woods with a sack full of cat bones, merrily belting out show tunes."

Being hella gay or bisexual is completely normal in this book and it's glorious. Gay characters in books can quickly turn into a plot device but I never felt that that happened, Kat goes through a few relationships throughout the book but none of them felt like they were there to move the story along. Having casually gay characters is a new thing for YA and it is absolutely glorious to see it so normalised.

I did like the idea that Kat and her friends find a body, then Kat is emailed with a website that reveals ugly secrets about her friends is pretty interesting if you enjoy 90s slasher flicks like Scream as much as I do. However every clue was in verse or poem and I have zero clue what they meant, as I wasn't meant to - it was then explained by Kat what it meant. This did really take the fun out of it for me. 

"Todd took Megan away. My Megan. The trivia champ of John Butler Junior High, a cookie connoisseur, and a champion snuggler. We had, between us, seven secret identities, and we could communicate in Sindarin, one of J. R. R. Tolkein's elven languages. And Todd destroyed her. And I still loved him."

The big problem I had with People Like Us is that I was strongly reminded of a book series - Nightmare Hall from the Point Horror collection. If it was shrunk down to half of the amount of pages it would fit in with the series perfectly, it was just TOO much like those books. Except, I did think that those books packed a better punch when the killer was revealed.

 The killer is, unfortunately, blindingly obvious. I did really enjoy the cat and mouse chase of it but I certainly didn't gasp in horror once the killer was revealed. What I did take away from this book though was that this story was more about the relationships you have with different people and how sometimes, you don't know them at all. With that angle this does read more like a contemporary than a thriller.

Review of Lost Boy, Found Boy by Jenn Polish

Genres: Retelling, Sci-Fi
Pages: 80
Publisher: NineStar Press
Release Date: 19/03/2018
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(Received free from NetGalley for review)

In a futuristic world, Neverland is a holomatrix, Hook is a cyborg, and Tinker Bell is an automated computer interface.

 Peter is desperate to save his lover from a military draft that, unbeknownst to him, Mir volunteered for because they are desperate to be able to fly. So, naturally, Peter programs an entire island—Neverland—as a refuge where Mir can fly without having to fight in a war.

 But he doesn’t locate Mir right away; instead, he fights for control of the island with automated interface Tinker Bell, and in his attempts to find Mir, others arrive on the island. But Peter’s single-minded focus on Mir generates repercussions for everyone.

Lost Boy Found Boy is a sci-fi retelling of Peter Pan, where Neverland is nothing but a computer program designed by Tink, a computer interface. When Peter discovers that their friend has signed up for (war? I think?), they'll do anything to get them to stay.

This was a really short book. Too short for the huge concepts that Jenn introduced. There was no introduction to the idea that Peter was transgender and I only kinda guessed it, as descriptions were lacking. Mir is non-binary like myself and that was the only obvious one (although Peter called them he later on which was confusing?). I had no clue that Tink was supposed to be an asexual lesbian or that Hook was bisexual.

 I did feel that these preferences and genders were just thrown in willy nilly and I really hate that. I'm asexual and non-binary and I want a story that represents me well. A lot of readers will read that Tink is asexual and have absolutely no idea what that means. I guess that Jenn was trying to help the community in some way but they really failed on that front.

 I won't deny that this was a really good concept though. It just needed more writing and a better editing team. It was a bit like watching a pilot episode, it was great, introduced characters I was interested in and showed us a world I really wanted to explore. The world building was the biggest loss, it was barely mentioned.

Many Covers Monday: One Of Us Is Lying

On Monday 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 criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, 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 Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, 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 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.

I really love the US cover. It keeps the air of mystery by covering the faces of the main characters, while at the same time leaving what they actually look like open to our own interpretation. The UK cover is a very stereotypical one and I don't like the choice of the black text in between the red.

The Dutch cover is pretty bad. One of my biggest pet peeves is covers made with very little effort and this shows why. The people are clearly stock images, taken by different photographers and the different angles really don't work. A 2x2 grid of four different people staring face on like the bottom left, half in shadow would have been an incredible effect. I love the German cover though, you can clearly see which character is which if you read the book and the text is placed perfectly.

The Indonesian cover is giving me a contemporary romance feel which is really confusing. The line drawn faces in the background are wonderfully creepy, though I would have chosen red, the pink just adds to the romance feel. Italian is nicely done, I can clearly see that that's meant to be Simon, the character that died.

The Romanian cover is pretty cool and definitely eye catching, I just question the use of Orange. I guess Russia wasn't allowed to use the original US cover so simply remade it, and this doesn't work as well. The paper doesn't fit over their faces as well and the girl bottom right has more of her showing that the others, which is pretty distracting.

The Serbian cover is great, I love the yellow on red effect with the lined paper. The Swedish cover is just horrible, I hate obvious photoshop and this looks like a bad soap opera about football, probably die to the use of that font. 

Review of One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Genres: Mystery, Contemporary
Pages: 361
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release Date: 30/05/2017
Find The Author: Website/Twitter
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On Monday 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 criminal, is already on probation for dealing. Cooper, the athlete, 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 Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, 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 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.

I promised myself that I wouldn't get hit by the hype train ever again and unfortunately, after seeing this book mentioned so much when I was reading the reviews of People Like Us, I strapped myself to the train tracks and got smashed with a 185.6 ton British Rail Class 220. It wasn't that this was a bad book, it just wasn't that fantastic either.

The thing that drew me to the story initially was that this is literally The Breakfast Club, with a couple of gender swaps. You have the athlete, the brain, the outcast, the princess and the criminal. The brain is swapped to female, Bronwyn and the outcast is swapped to Male, Simon. We know from the blurb that Simon dies by end of detention, so the question is simply - who did it?

“She's a princess and you're a jock," he says. He thrusts his chin toward Bronwyn, then at Nate. "And you're a brain. And you're a criminal. You're all walking teen-movie stereotypes.”

A big problem I had with this was the pacing, I did find myself frequently checking what my percentage was on my Kindle. The detention scene was over so fast that I never got a moment to connect with Simon, or care about his death. If that had been dragged out two or three chapters to set up the characters that would have really helped.

I liked the exploration of the character stereotypes and how they revealed their secrets. Cooper's surprised me the most, while Bronwyn and Addy's were a little obvious. The character development was lacking somewhat, but I loved how Addy went from being a very weak, passive character to a fully developed character.

"Instead of looking though, I kick it. Which is pretty satisfying, so I do it another five or ten times, harder and harder until the cheap wood splinters and cracks. I'm panting, breathing in lungfuls of puke infested air, and I'm so fucking sick of it all, I could kill somebody. Some people are too toxic to live. They just are."

Nate was easily the strongest character, with the best developed back story. The other 3 came from privileged backgrounds and not much was mentioned about them, whereas we know that Nate lives in a broken down home with his drunken father, selling drugs just to put food on the table. He was obviously written to be John from The Breakfast Club, but with a softer side to him.

I didn't guess what had happened / who did it until the very end. My initial guess was that it was Bronwyn, then Addy, briefly Cooper, the teacher and then I started questioning everyone around them as well. It was a great idea but poorly executed - it was revealed too fast without any sort of big HOORAH, which was what I was expecting.

Weekly Update (17/03/2018)

This week I've been ill all week and it's not getting much better, I'm nearly completely deaf. I've been given ear spray by the nurse but all that's done it make it much worse, I nearly didn't get out of bed this morning, I was in too much pain.

I'm in a bit of a reading slump at the moment due to a lot of bad books but I still read a lot:

Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Review of Flamingo Boy by Michael Morpurgo

Genres: Historical, WWII
Pages: 352
Publisher: HarperCollins
Release Date: 06/03/2018
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(Received free from NetGalley for review)

This is a landmark new novel from the nation's favourite storyteller, set in the unique landscape of the Camargue in the South of France during WW2. There, a young autistic boy lives on his parents' farm among the salt flats, and the flamingos that live there. There are lots of things he doesn't understand: but he does know how to heal animals. He loves routine, and music too: and every week he goes to market with his mother, to ride his special horse on the town carousel. 

But then the Germans come, with their guns, and take the town. A soldier shoots a flamingo from the sky, and it falls to earth terribly injured. And even worse is to come: the carousel is damaged, the horses broken. For this vulnerable boy, everything is falling apart. 

 Only there's a kind sergeant among the Germans – a man with a young boy of his own at home, a man who trained as a carpenter. Between them, perhaps boy and man can mend what has been broken – and maybe even the whole town…

Michael Morpurgo truly is an incredible writer, he can find stories in places in history that have been done a thousand times and make them feel completely new and different. When I saw that he had a book releasing this year I hit request immediately, sure that a story about a young autistic boy who lives on a farm during occupied France would be incredible.

It takes a lot for me to be mad at a book but yeah, I'm pretty mad at this book. Whoever wrote the blurb likely didn't read the book. The story is told by Vincent, when he is older. He tells of when he was young and travelled to France after nearly being smacked on the skull by a painting, where he met Kazia and Lorenzo. Then, Kazia tells him of when she was young and the story we hear in the blurb, about the flamingos and the carousel and what happened when the Germans came to town.

"Lorenzo loved everything to be the same, even goodbyes. Goodbyes, hellos, sausages and songs, he loved what he knew, never wanted anything to be different. The trouble is that things do change, whether we like it or not. And for Lorenzo any change was always difficult. It still is sometimes."

To tell a story with so many layers like that is a truly bizarre choice and honestly, I'd have cut Vincent out entirely. It should have just been told from Kazia's point of view, especially as by having the older versions of her and Lorenzo meant that there was no suspense or fear for them when the Germans came to their town. I spent the majority of the book worried about a carousel at most.

 The idea of the story is fantastic, we need more diverse characters and choosing a gypsy girl and an autistic boy as our central characters was such a great idea, especially as they're in an environment we don't often see in books, with views we almost never read about. Unfortunately this felt like he had an idea but couldn't really be bothered to spend the time to perfect it, so just sent out the first draft.

Many Covers Monday: A Darker Shade Of Magic

Kell is one of the last Antari - magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel
Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. 

 Kell was raised in Arnes - Red London - and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. 

 Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see. It's a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. 

After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. 

 Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they'll first need to stay alive.

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(I'm pretty ill right now so no winner this week or captions, just a gorgeous collection of covers. Let me know your favourites below!)


Literally all I can see when I look at the UK cover:




Weekly Update (10/03/2018)

Books Read This Week

5 books this week. I binge read The Selection series just before I got pretty ill with some sort of chest infection, which is clearing up now. I still love the series as a fluff read but I can't deny that it has it's problems. Thanks to NetGalley I got the opportunity to read two popular books - Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah and To Kill A Kingdom. S&I was honestly for me, terrible. Just a bunch of rich kids throwing a party. To Kill A Kingdom was basically, this:

Basically if you mashed up Little Mermaid with Pirates Of The Caribbean it would be this, BUT IT'S EVEN BETTER. It's a story of sirens and Prince's and it's all kinds of wonderful.

A Vague Sort Of  Cross Stitch Update

If you squint over to the left you can see cat butt, as I'm still stitching Frederick The Literate. I've very nearly finished this section though, so I'm hoping next week I'll have stitched some more books.

Look, A Song

I freaking love John Joseph Brill so I hope this video is available in your country. Also check him out on Spotify as most of his songs are on there.

Review of To Kill A Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 368
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 06/03/2018
Find The Author: Website / Twitter
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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?

Something is starting to tell me that 2018 is going to be one of the best years for books ever, as this is my fifth 5 star read out of the seventeen books I've read this year. I'm pretty picky about handing out 5 star ratings and every single one has been well deserved. This is no exception, plunging us into a fantasy world of Pirates, Princes and Sirens. In short, it's freaking EPIC.

 To sum up the start of the story, our main characters are Lira and Elian. Lira is a Siren, known as The Prince's Bane, as she's brutally ripped out the hearts of many Princes and has 17 collected. The only emotion she seems to know when we meet her is hate. Elian is a Prince, but also a Pirate, hating his obligations to his Kingdom when his heart lies at sea. He travels the ocean in search of Sirens and when he finds them, he kills them.

Legend says my entire family bleeds nothing but treasure. Of course, I've bled a lot in my time. Sirens lose all serenity when they turn from hunter to prey and pieces of their nails become embedded in my arms. My blood has been spilled more often than any prince's, and I can attest to the fact that it has never been gold.

Lira is beautiful, angry and lethal. This is a pretty violent book and a lot of it comes from Lira, you don't have to worry about her spending her entire time waxing poetic about morals, even when she starts to feel more human she could easily have murdered Elian's entire crew without batting an eyelid. She's barely merciful to her own kind, except for her cousin. Her struggles with humanity and what she believes is right really makes her one of the strongest heroines to date in YA.

I basically chucked out every book boyfriend I ever loved when I met Prince Elian. His character of a Prince-Turned-Pirate could have been pretty annoying but he's absolutely perfect in every way. He's truly a pirate, only picking crew that he trusts and sailing the seas in search of Sirens and drinking and gambling when they're on land. He's cocky, sarcastic but loyal to his crew and truly has a sweet side to him that I loved immensely.

In the pits of our souls - if I amuse myself with the notion that I have a soul - Elian and I aren't so different. Two kingdoms that come with responsibilities we each have trouble bearing. Him, the shackles of being pinned to one land and one life. Me, trapped in the confines of my mother's murderous legacy. And the ocean, calling out to us both. A song of freedom and longing.

 Of course there's romance but it actually works here and it really wasn't forced. If anything I wanted to shove them together faster. They're so different and yet so, so similar it's pretty clear early on that they are perfect for each other. One of my favourite ever movies is called It Happened One Night (1934, you should watch it) the same cocky banter and constant jibes that really made me laugh and fall in love with them is exactly what we see here and it's wonderful, it really needs to be used more. 

The world building in this story is incredible, considering this book is basically a standalone (and a debut!). Obviously there's Princes and Pirates and Sirens but there's also different Kingdoms which are described in perfect detail and I never once felt like I was being info-dumped on. Kingdoms of Ice, Kingdoms where the Queen lives in seclusion and a Kingdom so perfect they called it Eidyllio. I just want to dive into the whole world and explore.

Review of The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 336
Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Release Date: 08/03/2018
Find The Author: Website / Twitter
Find The Book: Book Depository / Amazon UK/US
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"Everyone knows Alice slept with two guys at one party.
But did you know Alice was sexting Brandon when he crashed his car?
It's true. Ask ANYBODY."

Rumour has it that Alice Franklin is a slut. It's written all over the 'slut stall' in the girls' bathroom at Healy High for everyone to see. And after star quarterback Brandon Fitzsimmons dies in a car accident, the rumours start to spiral out of control.

In this remarkable novel, four Healy High students - the party girl, the car accident survivor, the ex best friend and the boy next door - tell all they know. 

But exactly what is the truth about Alice? In the end there's only one person to ask: Alice herself.

The clear purpose of this book was to explore stereotypes - the slut, the popular girl, the girl who wants to fit in and the nerd. It's done pretty well but I did find myself wishing that we'd have had the whole book from Alice and Kurt, while the rest just really lived up to their stereotypes. I often found myself getting Elaine and Kelsie mixed up, to be honest.

Alice and Kurt's relationship was lovely and if the author had chosen to stick with these two characters I genuinely think this story could have been Anna And The French Kiss levels of amazing. It was a really simple, high school relationship, starting off with him teaching her math, finding her a rare Christmas present that he knew she would love, getting drunk with her when she was upset. I really needed more of it.

The Truth About Alice was a completely new experience for me because I've never read an entire book only to come away with zero feelings about it, aside from Alice and Kurt's relationship. I should've cared about Brandon's death but I didn't come away feeling like he was a huge loss to the world. I spent most of my time stuck on why Alice had chosen to suddenly start wearing this huge jumper everyone was talking about.

Maybe I'm just too old for this book. I am ten years older than it's audience and maybe American teenagers can really relate to this story. The themes in the story didn't go too over the top like other books like 13 Reasons Why did, which was a welcome change and themes like abortion and death were handled pretty well too.

One reason why I may have had trouble connecting was the choice to tell instead of show. Every character just told us what happened from their perspective, so at no point did I feel like I was there, feeling the same things. I do feel somewhat comforted that I wasn't the only reviewer to experience this problem.

Book received free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.