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Ashleigh Allsopp "Ashleigh" (UK)

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The Here and Now
The Here and Now
by Ann Brashares
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Short but sweet read that had me hooked, 1 Feb. 2015
This review is from: The Here and Now (Paperback)
I sped through The Here and Now within a day or two, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, racing to find out what would happen next by sneaking in a bit of reading time whenever I got the chance. That’s not to say that it’s the best book I’ve ever read, but there’s something particularly charming about it that I really liked.

It’s centred around time travel, but I liked that it’s set in our modern day with the time travellers coming from the future rather than the other way around. The novel is dystopian and apocalyptic really, but in The Here and Now, the apocalypse (caused by a plague) hasn’t actually happened yet, and it’s possible that the time travellers can prevent it from ever occurring.

The romance in The Here and Now is cute, and the good news is that Ann Brashares doesn’t tiptoe around intimacy. She understands the fact that teenagers do think about sex, something I’ve often noticed makes YA romances seem unrealistic.

I also loved that this book was unpredictable. Nothing panned out the way I thought it would, and when I figured out a twist in the story it was just before Prenna herself figured it out, so it was perfect timing and, again, realistic. Sometimes, when a twist is a bit obvious and the main character still takes ten chapters to figure it out, it can be really frustrating!

However, I did feel like there were moments when things in The Here and Now got a bit overly complicated, and sometimes I felt that it was unnecessary. At the very end, when everything became super-tense but pretty darn exciting (if you like YA thrillers, you’ll love it), I unfortunately found myself needing to reread a couple of bits to get my head around what had happened. It was still awesome, but that meant my reading experience was a bit interrupted.

I did really enjoy the overall ending, though. It was heartbreaking but right, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted (and I think that’s the whole point). I’ve been reading lots of books with endings that don’t necessarily please the reader but are without doubt do justice to the characters within them, and this is definitely one of them.

You're the One That I Want
You're the One That I Want
by Giovanna Fletcher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly truthful tale of one heart with two great loves, 28 Jan. 2015
Giovanna’s debut, Billy and Me, was really rather good, but You’re The One That I Want is even better. Filled with absolutely realistic romance, this book captivated me and while I wasn’t satisfied with the ending, I think that’s the whole point – it’s pretty clever.

You’re The One That I Want starts at Maddy’s wedding, as Maddy is walking down the aisle to marry someone she loves. But there’s someone else she loves, too, as we find out thanks to the flashbacks that make up the entire book.

I found the early parts of the book when Maddy, Robert and Ben were young quite slow, but I understand why they were necessary. They help the reader discover just how close a bond the three of them have, and without that it would be difficult to support Maddy’s thinking throughout the rest of the novel.

When they hit their teenage years things get going, and I quickly found myself falling in love along with Maddy. What’s interesting about this novel is that it’s a dual narrative, so the reader also gets Ben’s perspective. Giovanna chose to leave Robert’s perspective out of the book, but I enjoyed the segments of his wedding speech that were dotted throughout the novel between chapters.

It’s because of Ben’s perspective that it’s difficult not to be on Team Ben. You get to know his motives, his thoughts, his feelings. But what I love about this book is that Giovanna’s motive was to write a story hat is true to life, even if it doesn’t give the reader exactly what they want. This isn’t an unrealistic account of love in any way. It feels genuine, and I take my hat off to Giovanna for that.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming, fuzzy read then this probably isn’t it. Yes, it has its moments, but it’ll also make you cry and it might even break your heart a little bit. But for anyone interested in reading a story of friendship, with well-rounded characters that you’ll quickly grow to love and sometimes hate, I’d recommend this book in a heartbeat.

Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy)
Red Rising (Red Rising Trilogy)
by Pierce Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Epic dystopian with a high-fantasy twist, 28 Jan. 2015
The first thing I want to address here is that this novel sits in the Adult category, but is often mistaken as a YA book due to the age of the protagonist (I believe he is 16 years old) and the dystopian storyline that is hugely popular in the YA category right now. Personally, I loved that about it. It had many of the elements that appeal to me as a YA fan, but a more mature feel to it that better suits my actual age, which has sadly long passed the target age of YA novels (but I still love them anyway).

What I would say, though, is that for younger readers, it’s worth noting that there is some sex, some swearing and a helluva lot of blood, guts and gore within the pages of Red Rising, so if that’s something you’re not so keen on I’d steer clear of this one!

Onto the actual story now, and it’s quite strange thinking back to the beginning of this novel and how I felt while reading it compared with the way I felt during the final chapters. Red Rising almost feels like three separate books, because there are three defined sections that have completely different environments and people within them. This makes the images that each section creates your mind are so wildly different from one another. It’s quite incredible, and there’s something about Pierce Brown’s writing that makes those images extremely vivid and easy to conjure up. It helped keep me interested the whole way through, even though I dragged through the first third of the book despite enjoying it (because it was Christmas and I was either busy, tipsy or tired).

I would say that this book is so fast paced that it’s easy to miss something important and lose track of what’s happening if you read a paragraph too quickly or if your concentration wavers slightly, something I’ll admit I tend to struggle with from time-to-time. There’s also lots of detail about this world that’s so different from our own despite being set in our distant future, which is when I noticed that Red Rising has the make-up of a high-fantasy novel.

But overall, I enjoyed the various twists and turns in this novel, the incredible characters, each with their own quirky and unique personalities. It’s a world that I think everyone will love to hate.

Also, who doesn’t love a book with a map?

I hear that Red Rising has been picked up by Hollywood, and I am VERY excited. I can see this movie being absolutely awesome – it’s the perfect novel to bring to life on the big screen.

Red Rising is the first in a trilogy, which is also exciting! I cannot wait to read the second book, Golden Son.

The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking)
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking)
by Patrick Ness
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.83

5.0 out of 5 stars Patrick Ness is a genius, 19 Dec. 2014
The Knife of Never Letting Go is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and I’d expect nothing less from the incredible brain inside Patrick Ness’s head. It’s a blend of dystopian and sci-fi, but neither of those genres can really describe such a unique book.

I started off reading this book out loud to my boyfriend (much to his annoyance while he was playing a video game, I should add). It was completely unintentional, but I think it really helped me get to grips with the writing style of this novel, and why Patrick Ness made the decision to write with such a strong and unfamiliar dialect. I immediately knew what Todd sounded like, and how different his world is to mine.

It does take a bit of adjustment, but I soon realised that actually, it’s genius. It’s a stream of consciousness with grammar and spelling that has you reading it in the exact way Todd’s thinking it, and therefore the exact way his Noise sounds to everyone around him. I’m pretty sure there are page-long sentences in this novel at times, but somehow, it works.

I often found myself forgetting the significance of Noise until a character responded to something I’d been reading as internal dialogue rather than speech, because of course, they can hear Todd’s thoughts too. This is a very, very cleverly written book.

That’s not to say I sailed through this book without hitting a rock or two. This book is filled with LOTS of travelling and journeying, and sometimes it can get a little slow.

I also felt like the secrets, which were painstakingly extracted from various characters but not always shared with the reader despite the first person narrative, were not as much as a big deal as I’d hoped they’d be. I couldn’t stop reading, because I wanted to know what on Earth (or whichever bloomin’ planet they’re on) was so bad Todd had to run away from Prentisstown whilst being chased down by an evil army that kills everyone in sight. But when I actually did find out the secrets I was thinking… that’s it? That’s really it?

Plus, I’m not sure I can forgive Patrick Ness for some of the heart-breaking scenes in this book that I won’t talk about because it’ll spoil the whole thing if you haven’t already read it. But I will say this: WHY IS IT SO EASY FOR CHARACTERS WE LOVE TO DIE, BUT SO DAMN HARD TO KILL THE BADDIES?!

Talking of characters, there were a few that I really liked but felt we hardly got to know. With Todd constantly on the move, as soon as we begin to find out details about a character, we leave them behind. Whether they’ll make a reappearance in book two (The Ask and the Answer) or book three (Monsters and Men) I don’t know, but I sure do hope so.

I managed to pick up books two and three of this series at a Walker Books event I went to recently (which you can find out more about in my vlog here), so they’re high on my TBR list after reading The Knife of Never Letting Go.

Have you read The Knife of Never Letting Go? What did you think of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you’ve reviewed it on your blog or on BookTube leave me a link! I’d also love to read your reviews of other Patrick Ness novels (did you know there’s a new one in the works ahead of a 2015 release? YAY!).

Famous in Love
Famous in Love
by Rebecca Serle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Swoon-worthy love triangle between three misunderstood & intriguing characters that are always in the spotlight, 19 Dec. 2014
This review is from: Famous in Love (Paperback)
I’m a bit of a sucker for books about fame, because it’s something that not only fascinates me but also makes for exceptional escapism. When I was younger and first realised that I was a book addict, I would read Meg Cabot’s Teen Idol again and again. Teen Idol is about a girl who basically meets a gorgeous boy who just happens to be famous and, in a nutshell, they fall in love. So that basic idea has held a special place in my bookish heart ever since (which is why I had high hopes for Jennifer E. Smith’s This is What Happy Looks Like and Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher).

What’s refreshing about Famous in Love is that the central character, Paige, becomes famous before she falls in love with the famous boy(s), so it explores the idea of fame and relationships in the public eye. It’s more gritty than other similar books I’ve read. Fame isn’t made out to be all about money, friends and happiness. Instead, Famous in Love explores how much of an adjustment fame can be and how much it can change all of your relationships, including those you have with your family and life-long friends.

I’m not sure how I feel about Paige in this book though. I didn’t quite get her – it’s always hard to relate to someone with a life so different from your own, but I would have like to have felt more connected to her than I did throughout this novel. I also struggled with parts of the romance – sometimes if felt like Paige was just falling into their arms (I say their because this book has one whopping great big love triangle) because she was lonely and confused. And maybe that’s the point? But it’s irritating that there are three eligible male characters in this novel and she seems to have kissed them all. Bit silly really don’t you think? I don’t know. And now I’m waffling, so I’ll move on.

I must say, I raced through this novel in a day or two. Despite being slightly irritating for the reasons I’ve just mentioned, it’s highly addictive and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen at the end.

Here’s where I went a bit wrong: I thought this was a standalone novel, so when I read the ending (which I won’t reveal because that would just be cruel) I was like WHATTTT.

Thankfully, after a quick check of the internet it wasn’t long before I discovered that Paige, Rainer and Jordan’s story doesn’t end in such a horrible, open-ended way. There are two more books planned for the series, and I get the feeling the second one will be better. I’m hoping that Famous in Love is almost a book designed to set the scene for the epic romance I can feel bubbling up in its pages.

Have you read Famous in Love? What did you think of it? I’d love to know. Let me know in the comments section below or on Twitter.

by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Fast-paced, entertaining YA novel with a mixture of supernatural, romance and suspense., 17 Nov. 2014
This review is from: Cursed (Paperback)
This is my first Jennifer L. Armentrout book, so unlike many of the other readers of Cursed I had no idea what to expect from the author. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I sped through it in a day or two, after being quickly sucked in by the fluid and fast-paced storyline and the easy-to-read writing style.

This isn’t a groundbreaking novel. It borrows ideas from a variety of other books I’ve read and movies I’ve seen (X-Men is the first one to spring to mind, and Jennifer L. Armentrout even references X-Men within the novel so it’s no secret), but it’s fun and entertaining nonetheless.

With Cursed, you’ll get a mixture of supernatural, high-school drama, action, thriller and romance. I’m a bit of a sucker for supernatural powers, so finding out about the cool powers that Hayden and his family have was fun for me, though I’ve still got lots of unanswered questions about Hayden’s power, that’s for sure.

When it came to the thriller element, though, I found it to be a bit lacking, mostly because I spotted the baddy from the outset. Pretty darn obvious if you ask me, but none of the characters figure it out until the very end. Silly people.

Romance lovers, however, are in for a treat with Cursed. Hayden is a particularly swoon-worthy character, there’s no serious instalove which was refreshing, and the fact that they can’t touch each other makes things very interesting and frustrating.

One thing I found a bit annoying was the fact that everyone in this novel was apparently beautiful. All the men are handsome and all the women were pretty – that gets a bit boring, to be honest. Also, I feel like EVERY heroine I read about these days is a red head. Oh, I love red hair, but do they ALL have to have red hair? What’s wrong with bog-standard brown?

Then there’s the strange situation with Olivia, Ember’s little sister. At the beginning, Ember is pretty much the sole guardian of Olivia, but when they end up at the Cromwell mansion I couldn’t help but notice that she seemed to just leave Olivia to it and forget about her, which I found to be quite odd.

But those are just little things within an overall very positive feeling I get when I think back to reading this book. I sure hope that there will be a sequel, there’s definitely room for it. I want to find out more about the Facility, about Ember’s father, about what Cromwell’s intentions are when it comes to Olivia and, like I mentioned earlier, what exactly Hayden’s power entails. Plus, will Adam ever return? Will Ember’s mum ever get better? There’s so much more I want to know.

What did you think of Cursed? Link me up in the comments section below, I’d love to read your reviews.

The Jewel
The Jewel
by Amy Ewing
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, 17 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Jewel (Paperback)
Brilliant new YA dystopian perfect for lovers of The Selection

This book is right up my street. It’s dystopian, it involves royalty, balls and beautiful dresses, and it also has an intriguing concept, so I knew right away that I was going to enjoy it.

I raced through The Jewel, determined to find out the many secrets and get answers to the many questions that arise throughout the novel. And when I got to the end and read that enormous cliff hanger, I knew I would look forward to the day when book number two in this trilogy arrives (I love cliffhangers, but I know there are some of you who HATE them, so be warned).

As you’ve probably already guessed, I loved this book. But, the more I think about it now that I’m writing this review, the more I think it’s really going to divide opinion so I’d recommend you read several reviews before buying The Jewel to help you decide whether it’s for you. You really need to have an open mind with this book and take it as it comes rather than over thinking things, which is quite easy for my little, escapism-loving mind to achieve.

Some parts of this novel take a while to get your head around, like why there are surrogates in the first place (I believe it has something to do with incest…), and why the city is laid out the way it is, with rings of various class and purpose surrounding The Jewel, where the royals live – I’m still not sure I understand this yet but I think we’ll learn more in book two.

Some elements verge on silly, too. For example, their names are a bit ridiculous. If they’re born in the Marsh they’re named after plants, birds and other wildlife (Violet, Hazel, Raven), if they’re born in The Smoke they’re named after smoke/factory-inspired things (Ash, Cinder), and if they’re born in The Jewel they’re named after precious gems (Pearl, Garnet, Ebony).

And the thing that I think will divide people the most is the topics that this novel highlights, namely slavery. It’s uncomfortable to read at times, particularly when the royals attach their surrogates to leashes like pets, but I found it to be horrifying in a way that really helped me root for Violet, even though she’s not the most interesting of characters.

I should also warn you that there’s a definite case of insta-love in The Jewel, although I think what followed sort of made up for it and in the end I was really invested in the relationship between Violet and the mystery man that I won’t tell you about in case I spoil it for you.

If you liked The Selection, you’re bound to enjoy The Jewel. The Jewel is a bit more stressful and less fluffy than The Selection, but they’ve definitely got a similar vibe and I loved them both.

I’m looking forward to finding out what’s in store for Violet in the second book in this series, which is currently untitled but I’m hoping will come out next year.

Siege and Storm: 2 (Grisha 2)
Siege and Storm: 2 (Grisha 2)
by Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 17 Nov. 2014
Disappointing sequel to one of my favourite fantasy novels. Let’s hope book three is better!

I absolutely loved the first book in The Grisha series, Shadow and Bone, so I couldn’t wait to read the second instalment. However, I’m a bit disappointed to say that I didn’t enjoy Siege and Storm anywhere near as much. In fact, it took me just a few hours to finish Shadow and Bone, but a few weeks for me to finish Siege and Storm.

I really struggled through the first half of the book, and it wasn’t until around page 200 that things picked up and I remembered why I loved Shadow and Bone. I’ve read many books with slow starts but I think 200 pages of slowness is far too much for me. It was all travelling and not much action.

Plus, I hated Alina’s relationship with Mal throughout the whole of this novel. I thought that Mal’s character was plain, and there was only one moment involving voluntary fighting, alcohol and women (I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it, but if you have I think you’ll know what I mean) that I felt something for him.

The more I think about it, the more I realise that I didn’t care much for Alina in this book either. She’s our protagonist and I loved her in Shadow and Bone but I often found her frustrating in Siege and Storm. I’m wondering whether that’s the way we’re supposed to feel about her at some points, as it’s all about whether or not she can handle the new power she’s got, but when you don’t connect with the main character in a novel it can be tricky to get sucked into it.

That said, I think some of the other characters in Siege and Storm show off the character creation skills that I remember from Leigh Bardugo’s writing in the first book. Nikolai is intriguing and I hope that wasn’t the last we’re going to see of him. The Darkling, who made the first book for me, is still awesome, although I missed him throughout lots of this second novel as his appearances were brief.

Other notable characters that I loved in Shadow and Bone and continued to enjoy reading about in Siege and Storm are Genya, who I hope we get to find out more about in the third book, as well as David and Baghra.

Then there’s incredible world building, which I still think makes this series great and makes me want to read the third and final instalment, Ruin and Rising. The Grisha and their powers are so cool, and I wish we’d seen more from them earlier on in this novel.

It’s a real shame that Siege and Storm didn’t live up to its predecessor, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Ruin and Rising will make up for it.

This Song Will Save Your Life
This Song Will Save Your Life
by Leila Sales
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Honest, true-to-life novel about bullying, self harm, depression, love, friendship and music, 19 Oct. 2014
I just wrote and deleted the first word of this review so many times I can’t even count them, but most of them were ‘wow’ or ‘phew’ or ‘gosh’ or something along those lines. Because it’s hard to put into words exactly how I feel about this book, but those were the words that popped into my head when I finished reading it. It really moved me, even though I’ve never been through anything that comes close to the experiences Elise, our main character in this novel, has had to endure.

I think what I loved about it was how real it felt. It spoke to me in a way that most books don’t. I actually had no idea what this book was about or what to expect from it when I picked it up. I’d seen its name mentioned around the web, I thought the cover was gorgeous, and it was a signed copy that was just begging me to take it home from Hatchards.

So when I began reading it, I actually first thought I might be a little old for it. Elise’s attitude within the first few pages is quite childish, and the seriousness of the situation was absolutely unclear. But that soon changed when Elise hit rock bottom, and contemplated killing herself. Like I said before, I’ve never been in that situation and I hope that I never am, but even still I really felt a connection with Elise, and I think anyone else who reads it will too.

She’s not always the most likeable character, and sometimes you’ll want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her to try and snap her out of it, but that’s what makes This Song Will Save Your Life so great. It’s honest, and doesn’t sugar coat bullying, self harm or depression even in the slightest. I’ve read other books centred around similar subjects that I actually felt gave out the wrong messages, but this author, Leila Sales, really knows what she’s doing.

I loved that, while there is a love interest in this novel, it’s absolutely not the focus of the plot. And even the romance felt completely realistic: not mushy or over-the-top, but genuine, gritty and true to real life.

I didn’t think I’d get into the music and DJing side of this book, both of which are huge passions of Elise’s, but I actually found it fascinating. I’m not a clubbing kind of girl, but even I felt as though I was there with the characters, enjoying myself and dancing with no inhibitions.

Everyone should read this book. It’s eye-opening, thought provoking and could actually really help people, whether they are in a similar state of mind to Elise or they don’t understand what it’s like to feel that way. It’s certainly not a feel-good beachside read, but it’s ideal for anyone looking for something really meaningful to get sucked in to.

Oh Yeah, Audrey!
Oh Yeah, Audrey!
by Tucker Shaw
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.21

3.0 out of 5 stars Light, fun read perfect for fans of Audrey Hepburn and Tumblr addicts, 19 Oct. 2014
This review is from: Oh Yeah, Audrey! (Hardcover)
I managed to read Oh Yeah, Audrey! in one day. It’s light, quick and easy to breeze through and I definitely enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression on me and I won’t be in a rush to recommend it to friends.

One of the issues is that, because this book is set within a time frame of just 24 hours, there’s not much room for character development at all. That said, Tucker Shaw does manage to squeeze in the perfect amount of adventure, from checking in at a swanky hotel and gatecrashing a Sotheby’s auction to meeting a mystery boy and sneaking into an underground club. Self-discovery is a key element to Oh Yeah, Audrey! too.

Oh Yeah, Audrey! is fun, thoughtful, has a gorgeous cover, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. But it won’t blow you away, and there are hundreds of other books out there that I think you’ll enjoy more.

There are two exceptions: first is if you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan and second is if you’re a keen Tumblr user. For both of those types of people, this book is a real treat. You’ll immediately relate to the three brilliant main characters and enjoy the many references throughout the book.

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