Review: The Word for Yes by Claire Needell

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Word for Yes

After their parents’ divorce, Jan, Erika, and Melanie have to get used to the new world order: a father who’s moved to another continent and a mother who throws herself into moving on. Jan, off at her first semester of college, has plenty to worry about, including an outspoken roommate who’s kind of “out there” and an increasingly depressed and troubled long-distance boyfriend. Her younger sisters, left at home in New York City, and dealing with all the pressures of life in high school, aren’t exactly close. Erika is serious and feels awkward and uncomfortable in crowds, though her beauty tends to attract attention. Melanie is socially savvy and just wants to go out—to concerts, to parties, wherever—with her friends. The gap between all three girls widens as each day passes.

Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.

And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.

This was a skimmy book, and even then I didn't finish it...

There seems to be a massive explosion of books focusing sexual abuse/rape/the blurred lines around it all. Whether that's because people have realised it's SUCH AN IMPORTANT ISSUE, or whether authors are just trying to tackle something new, or whether it's just about the fact that many of us YA reader/reviewers can't read enough of them, I don't know. There are good ways of doing it (All The Rage, What We Saw) and less effective ways (Every Last Promise)... then there are some books which completely miss the point (The Word for Yes).

Now, there are many reviewers that enjoyed this a heck lot more than me, and I definitely think they have valid points, but for me this book just didn't put enough development and emotion into the situation: Melanie came across as somebody using what had happened to her as a reason to become this voice, but actually there were blurred lines in the whole thing and I don't think that was focused on enough for me to believe any of it.

I felt that the characters all blurred into one to the point where I couldn't care less what happened in any of their lives, and Melanie was straight up a b*tch, so I just didn't connect with her enough to really be on her side, even in such a difficult time.

As I said though, many reviewers didn't feel this way. I would recommend that you go and read the positive reviews before you make a decision on this book. Goodreads is always a good place to start.

Overall Rating: DNF

Book released 16th February 2015 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Bluescreen by Dan Wells

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bluescreen (Mirador, #1)
Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. That connection is a djinni—a smart device implanted right in a person’s head. In a world where virtually everyone is online twenty-four hours a day, this connection is like oxygen—and a world like that presents plenty of opportunities for someone who knows how to manipulate it.

Marisa Carneseca is one of those people. She might spend her days in Mirador, the small, vibrant LA neighborhood where her family owns a restaurant, but she lives on the net—going to school, playing games, hanging out, or doing things of more questionable legality with her friends Sahara and Anja. And it’s Anja who first gets her hands on Bluescreen—a virtual drug that plugs right into a person’s djinni and delivers a massive, non-chemical, completely safe high. But in this city, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and Mari and her friends soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that is much bigger than they ever suspected.

Look! A hispanic main character, and double look - the girl on the cover actually looks hispanic and has a mechanical arm. It's almost a dream come true!

I think I am one of the few people who was let down by Partials - I read Partials and pushed myself into Fragments and that was so sluggish that I gave up on the series. When I requested Bluescreen I don't think I realise who the author was otherwise I may well have just not requested it at all. Thankfully, I did. I say thankfully because I really, really enjoyed Bluescreen. I was gripped from the start because of the gaming concept and despite the fact that there is quite a lot of build up before the Bluescreen 'drug' is introduced, I was really enjoying this world that Wells had created. I think part of my issue with Partials was how overly-detailed everything was and it was the same in this book except it added to this book, not detracted. I was absorbed into every aspect of Mari's world and I really enjoyed it.

Pace wise, I can't claim that this book is all go go go. There were some parts which dropped in pace and I had to push on because I knew it was going to get good, I think this book may have been a little longer than was necessary. For the most part though Bluescreen was fast paced, enjoyable and gripping. I actually found the action in the ending really gripping, but I think my favorite part is through the middle, when Mari is investigating the drug.

There are some... suggestions of romance. It isn't a big deal though. The guy who seemed a potential love interest (Saif) is a dealer of Bluescreen who joins Mari on her investigation but spoilery things happen that really throw a curveball in the works and nip that in the bud. Mari herself was a strong character though - she didn't need any man, besides - she has the Cherry Dogs, her gaming party who were like, such a brilliant supporting cast.

Overall, Bluescreen was an enjoyable book. My interest did decrease in parts but for the most part it was engaging and suspenseful and packed with action. I loved the world in this book. 

Overall Rating: B

Book released 16th February 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Unquiet

For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.

The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.

The Unquiet is one of those books that can go two ways. It can either be loved, which a lot of people seem to have done, or it can fall into the category of 'meh' which it did for me.

In fact, this is a DNF review. It was too meh for me to get into.

After spending around a month trying to pick this book up and get into it, I gave up and DNF'ed this book at 40%. This is partly to do with the distinct lack of world building but also probably something to do with the fact that this book had a very floaty, lyrical narrative that some people will probably say was gorgeous prose but for me just seemed disconnected and boring.

Trust me. I wanted to like this book. I wanted to love it and I know a lot of people have loved this book. Just because I didn't doesn't mean that you won't.

However, I just didn't get into it for the above reasons.

Overall Rating: DNF at 40%

Book released 22nd September by Greenwillow Books
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Distance from A to Z
Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk

Zeke. Zeke. Zeke.
I may have a brand new book boyfriend. Zeke Martin. I mean, despite the fact that I spend the first 40% of this book trying to figure out whether or not I even liked him, I really do think he redeemed himself in the second half of this book.

Okay, let me put this out there - this didn't grab me straight away. I was at first bemused by Abby's dislike for anything baseball - I mean, she has her reasons but it doesn't mean she should be flat-out rude to anybody who even wears a baseball cap. I disliked her at first for this reason. Then she meets Zeke, and gets to know him. Zeke bridges the gap between her hatred for baseball and her love for French and the poor girl doesn't know what to do. Plus it doesn't help that Zeke is super sweet inside the classroom and when they are roaming the campus talking in French but when they aren't together he acts like a player. Poor girl, I couldn't help but feel for her from then on out.

The book definitely redeems itself from there though. Zeke and Abby seemed like a not-as-lovable (but still very likeable) version of St Clair and Anna from Anna and the French Kiss and I loved their dynamics and the way they changed with the relationship. And as I said at the start, Zeke after the first half of the book = love. He is so sweet and caring, putting Abby first. I couldn't even find it in myself to dislike him when he admitted that he had lied to Abby.

Plus, this book isn't just a cutey cutey contemp read, it deals with Abby's room-mate Alice's issues with social anxiety and panic attacks, something that really resonated with me and I think fit perfectly into this book.

And let me just mention Blitt's writing, because this woman is talented. The writing itself is nothing amazing in this genre but the way she managed to create individual characters and write dialogue that fit their personalities was just brilliant. I will be adding her to my 'must read authors' list. It doesn't exist yet, but I'll write it.

Overall, The Distance From A to Z didn't quite hit a grand slam, but I'd say it was close to a home run. It was an enjoyable, engaging book with characters that grew on me! 

Overall Rating: B+

Book released 12th January 2016 by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Waiting on Wednesday (3rd February 2016)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Anyway, here is my WOW pick, let me know what you think and link me to yours!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
November 8th 2016 by Feiwel and Friends


Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Marissa Meyer does Queen of Hearts. I have so many amazing expectations for this. I'm not a massive Marissa Meyer fan.... but this sounds perfect and amazing!

Review: Are You Still There by Sarah Lynn Scheerger

Monday, 1 February 2016

Are You Still There
After her high school is rocked by an anonymous bomb threat, "perfect student" Gabriella Mallory is recruited to work on a secret crisis helpline that may help uncover the would-be bomber's identity.

Gabriella Mallory, AP student and perfect-daughter-in-training, stands barefoot on a public toilet for three hours while her school is on lockdown. Someone has planted a bomb and she is hiding. The bomb is defused but the would-be-bomber is still at large. And everyone at Central High School is a suspect. The school starts a top-secret crisis help line and Gabi is invited to join. When she does, she is drawn into a suspenseful game of cat and mouse with the bomber, who has unfinished business. He leaves threatening notes on campus. He makes threatening calls to the help line. And then he begins targeting Gabi directly. Is it because her father is the lead police detective on the case? Is the bomber one of her new friends. Could it be her new boyfriend with his complicated past? As the story unfolds, Gabi knows she is somehow connected to the bomber. Even worse she is part of his plan. Can Gabi reach out and stop him? Or will she be too late?

When the first chapter of a book focuses on a girl trapped in a toilet whilst the whole school is on lock-down because of a genuine bomb threat, you expect the rest of that book to be just as exhilarating. In fact, if the first few pages hadn't been so darned good I may have taken this book as what it was probably meant to be - a simple attempt at looking at the perpetrators of school massacres, and the other students who are indirectly affected. Instead, I saw this book as shallow, without plot and somewhat underwhelming.

Are You Still There was a book I couldn't wait to get into when I first got it and stupidly I thought I had already posted my review before now. (I hadn't). I read it over a day, and whilst I enjoyed it, I couldn't help but feel very let down. This book wasn't thrilling  - it had mystery which was covered up by the attempted romance - it just fell flat. The characters fell flat. The plot fell flat. The ending though - the big reveal - was the worst let down.

(Stop reading now if you want to avoid spoilers for the ending)

What is the point of building up all of the mystery if the perpetrator in the end is some guy who was mentioned in passing once and never a suspect. The joy of mystery thriller books is having suspects and thiking of their motives and guessing towards the end but still second guessing yourself! I didn't get that with this book.

As much as I enjoyed reading Stranger's little monologues, they got boring rather than creepy after a while and I never felt like this book was putting across the message it intended. Bullying is bad, it results in school bombings? If you want to find out who is at fault, put kids in charge? If you get given tips, don't tell the relevant authorities?

Why do so many YA characters take it on themselves to solve violent crime? Does anyone actually do this?

Overall Rating: D+

Book released 1st September 2015 by Albert Whitman
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: I'm From Nowhere by Suzanne Myers

Friday, 29 January 2016

I’m from Nowhere

A few weeks into her sophomore year at Ventura High School in California, everything is about to change for Wren Verlaine. It's always been just Wren and her mother, Hannah, but when Hannah receives a reporting assignment that sends her to Greenland for six months, Wren is shipped off to Hardwick Hall, an old, prestigious boarding school back East.

For every ice queen like her suitemate Honor, who looks right through Wren like she doesn't exist, there's also a rower with adorably crinkly eyes (that would be Nick) or a friendly and funny fellow musician (like Chazzy). But just as Wren finally starts to settle in at Hardwick, clues begin appearing about the one secret her mother has ever kept from her—the identity of her father—and what Wren ultimately discovers threatens to turn her and her new world upside down.

I'm From Nowhere was a cute little book that didn't go too deep into anything but was quick enough to read that you don't feel like it's reaaally missing much. The book is about Wren, who is sent to Hardwick, a boarding school where her mother went, and between making friends and enemies, she learns the truth about her mother's past. There was nothing particularly special about this book - the book was predictable and it didn't really throw any curveballs - but I managed to read it in a few hours. It's the type of book that you can put down for a tea break, but you still want to pick it back up.

I felt a little bit like the characters weren't given much development, they just were. They all served a purpose in the book but there is no background into how they became who they are. Why is Honor so cold? Why is Nick so flirty? How come Chazzy is so eccentric? Rather than really engaging with any of them you just sort of get pulled along for the ride. At the same time, despite this, the characters didn't feel all that flat (aside from Honor and her father, they fell flat for me), so it isn't like I didn't like them. 

When I was reading I'm From Nowhere I knew that I wasn't reading anything special - it was clear that this book wasn't going to stick with me and that it would just fade into the pile of books I'll read this year, but I also knew that I was enjoying it, and in the end I think that is what this book gives. A little bit of mindless reading in a sea of hard-hitting contemporary books.

Overall Rating: C

Book released 26th January 2016 by Soho Teen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review