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Michelle Cardozo (Wokingham, Berkshire)

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The Last Leaves Falling
The Last Leaves Falling
Price: £5.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emotional, powerful and ultimately hopeful, 29 Jan. 2015
The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell is a beautifully-written debut book. It made me happy and sad and hopeful all at the same time. It's an absolutely incredible story and I definitely do hope that you'll pick it up and fall in love with this story, these characters and their relationships just like I did. I really can't say enough positive things about this gorgeous book!

This is the story of Japanese teenager, Sora. Sora is 17 and has been diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease called ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease). This means that over time, he will begin to lose control of his muscles and limbs which will eventually lead to death. He lives at home with his mother and already there have been major changes to his life and to his mother's because of his condition. And thinking about his life and his mother's and what will happen to them both is something that Sora thinks about quite a lot.

Being sort of isolated from other people his age, Sora turns to the internet and finds two things. First, he meets some friends that he's able to talk and joke with that know nothing about his ALS and they are able to connect with him over normal, teenage things. And second, he receives these anonymous emails about suicide and the growing population of people in Japan who contemplate and/or commit suicide. Which makes Sora start to ponder the idea and how others historically have deal with great challenges. A lot of my favourites aspects in the first half of this book is Sora discovering the poetry of wounded samurai which I found incredibly fascinating.

I think the thing I loved the most about this book though is Sora's relationships with the people in his life. Probably especially the one with his mother. There are some really difficult scenes between them: things difficult to witness in Sora's worsening condition and also some really raw and powerful and emotional scenes between a mother and son who love each other a great deal. Sora and his mom KILLED ME especially in the second half of the book. But I also really loved Sora's friendship with these two people he meets online. I love that he's able to make some great friendships in which ALS is not at the forefront of every conversation and activity.

I think The Last Leaves Falling is an incredible debut book. So very emotional and powerful and ultimately hopeful. I love that it's a book set in Japan and that it focuses so much on friendships and family. This is a beautiful book, one that I hope you'll go out immediately and read. I recommend it.

Love Hurts
Love Hurts
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fab collection of short stories and extracts! Particularly love the diversity included, 29 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Love Hurts (Kindle Edition)
Love Hurts is a collection of extracts and short stories concerning all types of different love and is edited by the marvellous Malorie Blackman. I was very excited to hear about this collection a few months ago and I quickly downloaded my copy of the book from Netgalley.

I originally thought this book would contain all original short stories from this amazing array of teen authors, however, there are only 5 new stories in Love Hurts and the rest of the book is filled with two other short stories that have appeared in other collections and also extracts from other YA books already in print.

Besides the introduction from Malorie Blackman, which I was always going to read, my original plan for reading this book (once I realised about the format of the book and the extracts) was to skip over all the extracts and just read the new material. However, once I started reading this book, it made me feel all fuzzy and happy and hopeful that I couldn't pass up reading the extracts, even if I'd already previously read the books. I won't mention all of the extracts specifically, but it was nice to return to some old favourite stories (like the extracts for Noughts and Crosses, Northern Lights and I Am the Messenger) and new favourites (like the extracts from Trouble, Midwinterblood, Forbidden and Heroic) and to also discover some authors and stories that I haven't yet read but now want to (specifically the extracts from Grasshopper Jungle but I also must get a move on and read More Than This already and also more David Levithan).

There were also two short stories that have appeared previously in other collections: Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat by David Levithan, which appears in How They Met and Other Stories and Endless Love: the Valentine of Daniel and Lucinda by Lauren Kate, which appeared in Fallen In Love. I had already read the Lauren Kate story and really enjoyed it, but I hadn't read the David Levithan before now. I thought Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat was a really fun and interesting story about a girl's consuming relationship with another girl and the realisations that she comes to when things don't quite work out.

But while I found myself utterly surprised by how much I enjoyed the extracts it is really the original short stories that really stood out while I was reading this collection. Because of the diversity. There are characters in these short stories (and extracts) who are gay or bisexual, transgender, there are people of colour and some characters that are differently-abled or have chronic illness. At least one of the extracts mentions the Sikh religion (I believe?) and all I want to do is stand here and applaud this level of diversity within this book.

I'm only going to mention my absolute highlights but know that I really enjoyed The Unicorn by James Dawson about the forbidden relationship between two men in the Navy during the Korean War and also The Liar's Girl by Catherine Johnson about another forbidden relationship from London in 1829 between two people from very different backgrounds.

Humming Through My Fingers by Malorie Blackman is the first story in this collection and it is about two people having a conversation at a sports day and tentatively agreeing to a first date. It's quite cute with some awkward and mortifying moments that I couldn't help but smile at these two. But things aren't quite what they seem and motivations are questioned. I loved that surprise.

Then there's Tumbling by Susie Day which made me smile endlessly. I love that the majority of this short story is about one girl obsessing over her first meeting with her crush. Worrying, second-guessing herself. I can completely relate. And a lot of this story is about two fangirls who come together which just makes me happy. Because while I have not watched one single episode of Sherlock after reading this short story, I really wanted to. This story was so sweet and cute and I nearly cried at the end.

But it was Gentlewoman by Laura Dockrill that made me cry actual tears. Good ones, though. Gentlewoman starts with two old friends not having a serious conversation. Not speaking the words that need to be said because those words are already probably known. I loved this story so much. I found it amazing how much was said in so few words. And it is the ending, in which there was so much acceptance that made me shed tears. It's not perfect because that's the world we live in, but acceptance from those that matter to us is what's important and I love that that was found in this story for these characters.

The thing that sticks out the most from reading Love Hurts is that love it out there for everyone and that love is one of those things that can be both really amazing and also really painful. And this book shows it all to us from awkward first meeting to first kiss to all-consuming relationships to real heart break. And everyone deserves love - soldiers, siblings, girl and robot, friends, strangers, online acquaintances and these romantic pairings can come in all sizes and shapes. I really enjoyed this collection and I hope you pick it up too!

by A.J. Grainger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Addictive and exciting thriller, 29 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Captive (Paperback)
I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Captive by A. J. Grainger. It's a book by a debut author and I hadn't heard very much about it when I first read it. I even requested it on NetGalley on an absolute whim ... and it turned out to be a whim that paid off. I quite liked Captive and some of the events that happened really made me think.

This is the story about Robyn Knollys-Green, a teenage girl who is a bit different from most teenagers. That's because Robyn's father is the Prime Minister of the UK and in Captive, Robyn is taken hostage by a group of environmental activists and used as a pawn in order to make the Prime Minister own up to his involvement in dodgy dealings and to release a prisoner who they believe is being held unfairly.

I think what I most enjoyed about this book is the thriller aspect of the book. The first half is so very addictive and exciting and I was on the edge of my seat about what would happen next and what Robyn and this group of terrorists would do next. It has a great pace to it and I found myself feeling very engaged with Robyn's voice and also emotionally invested in her story and situation.

I quite like how throughout Robyn's captivity she begins to see her father and her father's position of political power in a different light. Especially when faced with the information provided by her captors. I think it's always difficult when somebody first sees their parents as being infallible, as people who make mistakes and aren't perfect. But it was particularly painful to watch Robyn come to these realisations as she really had put him on a sort of pedestal.

I also really loved this theme that runs throughout the book of taking responsibility for one's actions and of asking the difficult questions in order to get to the truth of things. I really enjoyed that this book is about politics and environmental issues and that it made me think and question. I hope that it gets teenagers to take an interest in politics and other social issues that mean something to them as well.

Unfortunately, I felt like the second half of the book wasn't quite as gripping for me as the first. And this is mostly down to the romantic element of the story between Robyn and one of her captors. I didn't quite feel or believe in their connection to each other and a lot of the events in the second half of this story rely on that belief.

But even with that small criticism aside, I did still really enjoy this one. I felt like it was addictive, exciting and thought-provoking! I shall definitely be looking out for more by A. J. Grainger!

There Will Be Lies
There Will Be Lies
Price: £7.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and different..., 2 Jan. 2015
I absolutely loved There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake. I've only read one book by him before this, Hostage Three, and having enjoyed that book I did think I'd probably like this book as well. What came as a surprise was how much I enjoyed it. I loved the diversity included, I loved this element of magical realism, I loved the mystery and I especially loved the inclusion of Native American myth.

This story doesn't have that many characters in it, but those it does are really interesting and intriguing characters and I loved discovering more about each of them, especially Shelby, Shelby's mother and Mark. The main character, herself, Shelby Cooper was a great character. I really enjoyed her mathematical exaggerations and the way in which she tells this story.

She leads a rather unusual and isolated life with her mother. Shelby is home-schooled and her life is very ordered and predictable. Her only 'treats' are on a Friday where she goes to the batting cage and then her and her mother have ice cream for dinner. And we get this sense straight away that Shelby's mother is very over-protective of her, despite Shelby being almost 18. The reasons for this become more apparent as the story continues but I loved all the questions that popped up as I was reading.

When Shelby is almost run over by a car everything changes. A coyote appears to Shelby and tells her that she will be told two lies and then the truth. And that's the beginning of this strange, intriguing story. One that covers truth and reality. It makes Shelby question her life and her identity as she struggles to know who she can trust and who she is. Some of my favourite parts of the story take place in The Dreaming, a sort of alternate reality in which Shelby finds herself in a fairy tale that mirrors some aspects of her own life.

There Will Be Lies was a really great book to read. It was interesting and felt different to anything I'd read recently. It has an engaging voice, great characters and I was reading it I felt like I was taken on a roller coaster ride! I really recommend it!

Rogue Wave (Waterfire Saga Book 2)
Rogue Wave (Waterfire Saga Book 2)
Price: £6.17

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing but love for this series!, 2 Jan. 2015
I have nothing but love for this series! I really enjoyed the first book in the series, Deep Blue, but Rogue Wave by Jennifer Donnelly took this series to another level for me. I had a few concerns while reading the first book but reading Rogue Wave made me forget all about them.

I loved that while this book features many different mermaids who are instrumental in the story's plot line, Rogue Wave is mainly concerned with two particular mermaids. Serafina, the main character in Deep Blue, and also her best friend, Neela. Both Sera and Neela (and, of course, the other mermaids, Ava, Ling, Becca and Astrid) are on the hunt for more answers concerning this evil thing that is infecting their waters and the talismans that are needed in order to defeat the bad guy.

Both Sera and Neela go on really exciting and dangerous adventures in this book that include shipwrecked ghosts and deadly dragons and honestly, my heart was in my throat and I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of this book! And while I think Sera is an amazing main character and I really feel for her, for me, this book was all about Neela's journey. I loved witnessing her go from a slightly ditzy, sweet-obsessed mermaid who was overly priviledged and maybe slightly spoilt into a mer who is strong and capable and pretty fierce. It was difficult at times to see how much her family and friends resented this change in her but I'm glad to see that she doesn't give up.

And at the same time, this book uncovers some very emotional and surprising truths about Sera's love life and about the betrayals she faced in Deep Water. It was the thing I was most looking forward to finding out more about this situation and I definitely came to the conclusion that it was definitely worth the wait! I know that mermaids and underwater stories won't be everyone's thing, but after reading these two books in this series I know for certain that it is definitely MY thing. Will be waiting impatiently for more!

Frozen Charlotte (Red Eye)
Frozen Charlotte (Red Eye)
Price: £0.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling and disturbing in parts..., 29 Dec. 2014
Next, I picked up Frozen by Alex Bell. I did initially slightly put off reading this book because I find the very idea of haunted porcelain dolls to be super terrifying and this cover constantly looks like it's watching and following me as I was reading this book! But I did gather enough courage to read this book and I really liked it. Again, I didn't think it was overly scary but it definitely had some really unsettling and disturbing scenes within it that made me uncomfortable at times! Especially as I was mostly reading it alone and at night in my creaky house.

Frozen Charlotte is mostly set on the Scottish island, Skye, in kind of a remote old Victorian school house. As with Sleepless, I thought the setting of this book really leant itself to a horror novel. I loved the idea of this island cut off from the mainland by bad weather and cancelled ferries and also this school house converted into a family home, especially as it is littered with so much history from its days of being a school - including a large collection of porcelain dolls. Plus, together with a Ouija board, ghostly sightings, unexplained fires and accidents and you have yourself quite the creepy story.

This story revolves around our main character, Sophie, who comes to stay with her cousins over the summer. She's recently suffered a big loss with her best friend dying in an accident and she comes to stay with this family she doesn't really know very well who have also had their fair share of loss. And Sophie's relatives are a family with a complicated family dynamic! I really liked that about this book as people aren't what they seem and everyone's behaviour has changed due to the evil intentions of these supposedly haunted porcelain dolls.

Throughout most of the book Sophie is searching for answers to her best friend's death which she thinks is connected to the death of her cousin, Rebecca, a few years back. While this puts Sophie in dangerous situations at time, I felt like it fit with Sophie's character and I quite liked seeing how this mystery unravelled.

I thought Frozen Charlotte had a very cinematic feel to it. I could quite easily picture the events of this book as a horror film and towards the second half of the book, when Sophie realises the extent of one character's intentions towards her I could feel Sophie's helplessness and frustration in this situation. I thought it was really good!

Sleepless (Red Eye)
Sleepless (Red Eye)
Price: £0.59

4.0 out of 5 stars Certainly gave me the creeps!, 29 Dec. 2014
First up, I read Sleepless by Lou Morgan. This is a story about Izzy and her group of friends. They're all rich and pretty and they all live in or near the Barbican Centre and attend this swank private school, Clerkenwell. At Clerkenwell, exams matter. They're super important and in fact, failure is not an option.

So when Tigs gives everyone a seemingly perfect solution to their problem, Izzy and her friends all jump at the chance. Tigs has found these special pills which enhance memory and really allows for more concentration and focus during revisions and exams. And everything seems to be going so well until after the exams when creepy things start happening and Izzy and her friends start seeing and hearing things and start to question: what actually were in those pills? And the realisation that they all come to? There are worse things to happen to them besides failing an exam.

While I thought that Sleepless was a little slow to get into and I never fully connected to the majority of the central cast of characters, I also found this book to have some really creepy and tense situations and I found myself a little uncomfortable reading this book alone and in the dark. I loved that this book is set in London, specifically at the Barbican Centre where I've been quite a few times. Having a familiar setting made things more real in my head and I loved the addition of other scary places: a hospital, a building site, a meat market. Even the Barbican with its confusing stairwells and passageways was a brilliant setting choice for this story.

In terms of horror, I was pleasantly surprised by where the story went. Some of these teenagers do die and in horrific ways. But the build-up to the gruesome scenes was quite chilling in parts as well as the characters start to question their own grasp on reality and I always love to see a group of characters turn on each other as their trust and camaraderie are shaken by rather shocking events.

I quite liked this story. It did need a tighter edit, particularly in the first quarter of the book, but overall an interesting idea that certainly gave me the creeps!

Vendetta (Blood for Blood)
Vendetta (Blood for Blood)
by Catherine Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exciting and addictive!, 29 Dec. 2014
I really enjoyed Vendetta by Catherine Doyle. I was excited to hear that this is the first book in a planned trilogy which will be a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet. Isn't that fabulous? I really do love these sorts of twists on a familiar story. And while I thought from afar, there are similarities to Romeo and Juliet that I could see, it also felt brand new and I felt like even if this story was following a set chain of events generally speaking, I was always constantly on the edge of my seat and also surprised by where the story went.

So Vendetta is told from the point of view of Sophie, this teenage girl who has had her life changed quite drastically recently when her father is sent to prison. But despite that, Sophie is pretty determined to get on with her life, hang out with her best friend, and work in her family's diner. But her normal life is again shaken up by the arrival of a new family in town and Sophie finds herself irresistibly attracted to one of the five hot brothers.

Getting to know Nicoli and his brothers means being pulled into something much bigger than a teenage crush and it has far reaching repercussions for both her and her family. One of my only real complaints I had when reading this book was the slow start. I felt like things took awhile to get moving for no real good reason. Plus, I knew beforehand (from the book summary) that this book would be about warring families and the mafia and it just needed to get there quicker.

I really loved diving into this book and getting to know these characters though. I loved seeing the different sides to how both families are run and discovering all these massive secrets. There were a few gasp-worthy revelations and it really kept things interesting for me. I felt like maybe 2 of the brothers were unnecessary however and unless major things happened in future books only 3 were needed for the plot of this book. Still.

I think with any Romeo and Juliet retelling the love and romance elements of the book have to be at the forefront of any book. And I found myself feeling quite a lot about pairings that don't happen in this book. Sophie does some really great kissing with a hot boy in this book but I'm really looking forward to these pairings possibly changing throughout the course of the book. I live in hope.

All in all, Vendetta was a brilliant debut book. It was exciting and addictive and I feel really emotionally invested in these characters and their lives and relationships. I can't wait to see what happens next...

Best Kind of Broken (Finding Fate Book 1)
Best Kind of Broken (Finding Fate Book 1)
Price: £3.99

4.0 out of 5 stars This book surprised me!, 29 Dec. 2014
As most of you know, I'm not the biggest fan of books in the new adult genre but I will occasionally give these books a chance to surprise me and change my mind about the necessity of the genre. Such was the case with Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine and, I'm pleased to report, that I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be looking out for more by the same author and for the companion novels to this one!

Best Kind of Broken really did surprise me. I thought initially that this book would be a rather straight forward romance story especially as the two main characters, Pixie and Levi, obviously are incredibly attracted to each other and are right from the beginning. I thought there'd be some minor hurdle they had to overcome and then all would be good in the world. And I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't quite the case between these two. Because of the huge amount of history between them but also this unpoken tragedy which meant that their lives and their relationship was never going to be the same.

I quite liked Pixie (real name Sarah) right from the start. Best Kind of Broken begins with some fun bickering between Pixie and Levi as they've both come to live and work in the same inn and therefore also share the same hallway and bathroom and fight over the hot water. I also loved the setting of the Willow Inn and all of the amazing characters that populate it especially Sarah's aunt, Ellen. I thought there were some great characters introduced who work there but also other people who will have their own companion stories further to Best Kind of Broken.

And I liked the development on this strained relationship between Pixie and Levi and I loved wondering what on earth happened between these two that has turned their relationship from best friends to barely acknowledging each other at work. And the missing puzzle to their history was interesting as well. Both Pixie and Levi have a lot of healing to do on their own and they also had quite a lot to work out between them as well. Both left so much unsaid that it would be hard to move on without tackling some of their strong feelings. I love that the love story is at the heart of this book, there is still quite a lot of personal development for both characters and that they both had and maintained personal lives throughout ... with friends and hobbies and other love interests as well. It's always nice to see well-rounded characters in a new adult novel. Especially one in which there is sexual chemistry and scenes but that isn't overly explicit either.

I really enjoyed Best Kind of Broken. I felt really connected to the characters and was very close to crying at one point at a scene involving a friendship of Pixie's. I'm definitely intrigued enough to pick up the other two companion novels to this when they are both published in a few months' time!

All the Bright Places
All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, heart-breaking and hopeful story, 29 Dec. 2014
This review is from: All the Bright Places (Hardcover)
All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is a book that knocked me on my ass. I wasn't expecting this story and, if I'm honest, I probably wasn't ready for it emotionally. It's a book that I read awhile back and it's still with me. I think it'll stay with me for some time to come. It's such a beautiful, heart-breaking, and hopeful story about friendship and suicide and about life and death and about the stigma that surrounds mental health issues.

I read All the Bright Places in a single day. I finished it late at night, cried myself to sleep afterwards and in the morning when I woke up, I was still thinking about it. That's the type of story this book is.

All the Bright Places is a dual perspective story with two main characters, Theodore Finch and Violet Markey. It starts with both Finch and Violet who have come to the school's bell tower with the intention of jumping. Violet is still grieving the death of her sister in a car accident within the past year and Finch is kind of a strange boy who is fascinated with death and is constantly thinking of ways to commit suicide but never goes through with it because he always finds a way to distract himself in the moment.

At the top of this bell tower, Finch manages to convince Violet not to jump. And this is the start of their tenuous friendship. Finch manages to partner with Violet on a geography project to discover the 'wonders' of their home-state. Together, they find in each other what they most need - someone to whom they can be themselves and talk and find reasons to live each day and to be thankful for all the small wonders around them.

Man, I loved this book. I really loved Theodore Finch. I thought he was a brilliant character, someone very full of life and incredibly interesting. It was quite sad to read of his family and of his background and it's easy to see why he's so consumed with death and committing suicide. But he really comes to life around Violet and together they are utterly adorable. I loved how their relationship transforms from reluctant project partners into friends and then into more. And Violet's story is equally as interesting. Her grief and guilt over her sister's death is palpable within these pages but her relationship amongst her family is entirely different from that of Finch's and you can see that once she asks for it, help and support are at hand.

I thought this book was really sad and beautiful at the same time. It's a wonderful look at loss and grief, about life and death and depression and friendship and love. But it also has a very sad but important message about the dangers that surround the stigma of mental illness. Incredible book. One that I highly recommend.

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