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Ashleigh Allsopp "Ashleigh" (UK)

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The Storm (The Rain 2)
The Storm (The Rain 2)
by Virginia Bergin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must-read, 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Storm (The Rain 2) (Paperback)
I’m struggling to put into words how much I love this book and its predecessor. If you’ve not yet read The Rain, head on over to my review to find out more about it. The Storm is the highly anticipated second book in the series, and quite possibly the last.

I’m a sucker for an apocalyptic storyline, so The Rain and The Storm‘s killer rain that wipes out most of the world within minutes certainly fits the bill. But it’s not just the action-packed, horrifying and tension-filled plot that helped propel this series so high up my all-time favourites list; Virginia Bergin’s humorous writing style is absolute genius.

You wouldn’t think that such a charming and funny character would work in such a gruesome and frightening setting, but it really, really does. I fell in love with Ruby and Darius and Princess, despite their flaws and sometimes poor decisions that’ll have you pulling your hair out. But that’s what makes them feel so real, and made it so easy to believe in.

I don’t want to spoil anything for you, but I will say that while the twist is a tiny bit predictable it doesn’t matter at all because of that aforementioned genius writing style. Virginia Bergin has pushed the boundaries and ignored the rules to create a masterpiece. Ruby rambles, she talks ridiculously quickly sometimes with out taking a breath. Grammar simply flies out of the window, and that’s exactly why it works.

She uses symbols, often in the place of swear words to allow the reader to come up with their own (mine tended to particularly strong but I’m sure younger readers would come up with much less vulgar language). There are words in all caps and lots of onomatopoeias and it’s exactly how I imagine I would have written and spoken when I was Ruby’s age, and if I had been left in her awful situation.

The relationships between the various different characters in The Storm were intriguing, too, more so than they were in The Rain. There’s an exploration of family relationships, friendship, teenage love and interactions with people in power, and sometimes I found those relationships refreshingly unexpected.

Then there’s the ending, which I actually found completely satisfying despite how open it is. I like the idea that the story is in no way over, and that, if Virginia ever decides to, she can write more about Ruby’s life after The Storm. But I also like that we can use our own imaginations to come up with our own ideas about what happened next for Ruby. There are so many questions left unanswered and so many possibilities.

I can’t wait to read whatever Virginia Bergin comes up with next!

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

4.0 out of 5 stars An action-packed modern day Romeo and Juliet, Vendetta is an amazing start to the Blood for Blood trilogy, 20 Mar. 2015
endetta is a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet, but it’s also much more than that. Centred around the brilliant, believable character of Sophie Gracewell and her encounters with a family of five particularly attractive brothers, this book is a teenage girl’s dream. It’s full of adventure, mystery, action and romance, and it’ll have you hooked.

If you haven’t guessed already, I really enjoyed this book. It’s action-packed and I totally agree with Chicken House publisher Barry Cunningham’s comment about Vendetta being a lot like reading a movie: every scene is easy to visualise thanks to Catherine Doyle’s brilliant writing style and there isn’t a dull moment. Plus, the romance is pretty perfect.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t hit a few speed bumps along the way. First up, as a thriller you’d expect a lot of mystery from this novel, and yes, you get it. However, there are A LOT of hints that meant I figured out the main twist very early on. The amount of times Sophie felt like there was “something familiar” about someone or something was a bit excessive and therefore made the twist quite obvious (to the reader, but unfortunately not to Sophie).

I’d also say that a major part of the twist was a bit odd. I don’t want to spoil it for those of you who’ve yet to read Vendetta but I’d suggest that, when the twist is very, very closely related to a HUGE part of the main character’s life, it’s unlikely that a quick Google of the matter would be the key to unravelling the secrets, right? I’m pretty sure Sophie would have Googled it a long time ago…

And then there’s the actual twist, which is really difficult to talk about without giving everything away so I’ll move on quickly but I’m not sure it’s morally correct. I mean, doesn’t Sophie realise how wrong it is to be mixed up in all this? It’s BAD Sophie. Really bad. Bad bad bad. So stop all the snogging and run away already, alright?

Also, did anyone else notice how often Sophie bumped into people in Vendetta? I think someone needs to go to Specsavers.

I found myself on team Luca by the end of this novel, which is by no means a bad thing but I’m not entirely sure that’s even supposed to be a team at all. Am I alone in that one? Let me know in the comments.

Overall, I loved Vendetta, although I expect I’d have loved it even more as a teenager. It’s got the perfect mix of drama, suspense, mystery and swoon-worthy boys, and it’s not even over yet – Vendetta is part of a trilogy and I’ll definitely be picking up the next book in the series when it arrives.

by Steve Watkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Authentic and honest novel that gives an insight into life behind bars at Juvie., 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Juvie (Paperback)
I found Juvie to be gripping, insightful and honest, and the character growth was absolutely perfect. It’s clear that Steve Watkins has done his research for this novel, therefore giving the reader a realistic look at what life inside Juvie is like.

It’s not the most fast-paced of books, but I felt that the clever decision to alternate between past and present each chapter meant that I was hooked from the get go, wanting to find out more about the events that led to Sadie ultimately arriving in Juvie, and at the same getting an understanding of what the consequences of Sadie’s actions really meant.

One of my favourite things about this book is the idea that not guilty doesn’t necessarily mean innocent. Maybe Sadie didn’t mean to get herself into the situation she did, but she can’t say she’s completely innocent because she made some terrible decisions, and that’s something that is handled brilliantly in this novel and is part of that perfect character growth I was talking about.

Also brilliant are the other girls in Juvie with Sadie. It’s quite frightening how unpredictable, manipulative and untruthful those girls can be, yet I believed in each and every one of them. The staff in Juvie are fantastically written too, each with different qualities that bring extra elements of depth to the novel.

Finally, Sadie’s relationships with her sister, her niece, her mum and particularly her dad were quite fascinating, and had me tearing up towards the end. There are still so many questions unanswered when the book ends and there’s no sequel planned, but on this occasion I’ve accepted that I’ll just never know and that this time that’s ok.

The word that springs to mind when I think about this novel is authentic – there is no sugar-coating and no real sympathy, and that’s what makes it so good. I think Juvie would be an excellent book to put in schools to help encourage kids to think about their actions, because the consequences can be very real and completely awful, even if you’re under the age of 18.

The Sky Is Everywhere
The Sky Is Everywhere
by Jandy Nelson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heart-breakingly beautiful story of a grief-stricken family’s journey to acceptance, 20 Mar. 2015
This review is from: The Sky Is Everywhere (Paperback)
What a stunning novel. I sped through this book, hooked from the very beginning by Jandy Nelson’s incredible writing style that, alongside Lennie’s poems which I’ll talk a bit more about in a moment, make this book an absolute dream to read, despite its heart-breaking contents.

Lennie’s sister died suddenly during a rehearsal of Romeo and Juliet, in which she was set to play the lead. She had her whole life ahead of her, and even more going on in that life than even Lennie knew, which is what made her death even more shocking to everyone who knew and loved her.

The Sky Is Everywhere takes you on Lennie’s rocky journey to accepting her sister’s death. It sure isn’t easy, and Lennie finds herself in confusing situations that I believed every moment of. When I think back to how I felt at the beginning of this book, it’s completely different to how I was left feeling by the end. To start with, I felt hopeless and desperately sad for Lennie, and in the middle I felt her guilt and her confusion. But by the end, I was sobbing with a strange, peaceful sadness that made me smile because I remembered how precious life is and how lucky I am to have lived such a good one so far.

The relationships in this book are what make it so special. Lennie’s relationship with her Gram, who raised Lennie and her sister Bailey after their mum left them when they were just babies, is beautifully depicted throughout The Sky Is Everywhere, and I love the unusual family dynamic that includes Lennie’s Uncle, Big, as a sort of big brother/father figure. There’s also Toby, who is a character I completely adored. I completely understood his relationship with Lennie – grief makes people do strange things.

And then there’s Joe, who I liked but didn’t love. I found his relationship with Lennie a bit overpowering a bit too quickly. There’s a definite case of instalove, and the whole idea of him turning up at her house every morning got a little creepy. But nonetheless I loved the ending, and the importance of his presence in Lennie’s grieving process.

What makes this book even more special are the poems, which are scattered throughout the book in handwritten letters on what’s been made to look like scraps of paper, tree bark, coffee cups and more. Lennie writes the poems and hides them everywhere she goes. They’re amazing, and add another ingredient to the recipe that makes this book unforgettable.

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 1 (The Red Rising Trilogy)
Red Rising: Red Rising Trilogy 1 (The 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: £5.59

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.

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