Review: Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle

Together at Midnight
What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?


Usually I’ve always enjoyed Jennifer Castle’s books, and whilst Together at Midnight was most certainly an okay book, it wasn’t what I have come to expect from such a brilliant contemporary author.

The issues that I really had with this book stem from the multiple points of view that this book offers, which really threw me off from my concentration. It just meant that I never really connected to the characters at all... Kendall, Max? Nah, I came away from this book really not caring about them at all. The only characters I did like were the ones who appear in their own Castle novel from a few years ago.

I also felt that the ending of this book was very... lacking. I don't like endings that are nicely wrapped up, nor do I like endings that are so open and rushed like I felt Together at Midnight was.

The thing is, this book will not put me off any future Jennifer Castle books since she has impressed me before. However, I can't say I really enjoyed this book.


 
Book released 2nd January 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Angel and Bavar by Amy Wilson

Angel and Bavar


After the death of her parents, Angel has a lot to get used to: a new home, a new family, a new school. The last thing she’s interested in is making new friends. Until she meets Bavar, a strange boy who slips through the shadows, a boy who might understand her nightmares.

But Bavar doesn’t want to let anyone in. Everyone—and everything—in his enchanted house is already urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift and the fearsome monsters traveling through it, a responsibility he wishes he could ignore.

Then Bavar discovers that the monsters are the same ones that killed Angel’s parents. Determined to stop the creatures for good, he reluctantly accepts Angel’s help. Together, Angel and Bavar must find the courage to stand up for each other and themselves to repair the rift between worlds…before it’s too late.


Ok. I'll admit something before I write this review.

I failed to realise that this book was middle grade when I downloaded it on Edelweiss, so I started it expecting a slavic inspired Beauty and the Beast. However, whilst the fairytale inspiration is there, the fairytale romance that I wanted was not. Not a bad thing, and completely my own fault, but not what I expected.


When I did get past that, I started to enjoy this book. There is a lot of depth there - something that MG books tend to lack - and Bavar especially was the type of broken character that the genre lacks. The friendship between Bavar and Angel was heartwarming, and that - I think - is the main point of this book. It's very well done.

That being said, there was a somewhat rushed feel about this book that stopped me being so into it. I would have loved Wilson to have taken a step back and used a little more time to flesh out the world and the characters. Kids like to imagine, and they need more description to do that.

Overall, Angel and Bavar was a lovely book about friendship and one of the better Middle Grade titles when it comes to characterisation. That being said, I do feel that the pacing was a little off and the descriptions were lacking which meant this book didn't quite become everything it could have been.


Book released 6th November 2018 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Fireworks
It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

 Ah. Well.

First thing first, I enjoyed Fireworks. I truly did, it was such a throw back to the time of Backstreet Boys and N*Sync and Destiny's Child and that was my time. So that was what sold me on this book.

That being said, I just didn't love this book. It lacked depth that I always find in more 'modern' comtemporary novels. The characters felt so one-dimensional to me, that whilst I enjoyed the story, it was more for the setting and the time as opposed to the characters and the arcs. I feel like this book was carried so well by it's setting and the fact that the target audience for YA books are the people that grew up through bubblegum pop music, that it kind of doesn't aim to be too meaningful or even realistic.

Katie Cotugno is a good writer - no doubt about that - she manages to write in a way that fits the age of the characters, and that in itself is such a big part of writing YA.

Overall, whilst I enjoyed the experience of reading Fireworks, I do not ultimately feel that this book is memorable. It was a good book, I just wouldn't go as far as to call it great.


Book released 18th April 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Before She Ignites by Jodi Meadows

Before She Ignites (Fallen Isles Trilogy #1)

Before

Mira Minkoba is the Hopebearer. Since the day she was born, she’s been told she’s special. Important. Perfect. She’s known across the Fallen Isles not just for her beauty, but for the Mira Treaty named after her, a peace agreement which united the seven islands against their enemies on the mainland.

But Mira has never felt as perfect as everyone says. She counts compulsively. She struggles with crippling anxiety. And she’s far too interested in dragons for a girl of her station.

After

Then Mira discovers an explosive secret that challenges everything she and the Treaty stand for. Betrayed by the very people she spent her life serving, Mira is sentenced to the Pit–the deadliest prison in the Fallen Isles. There, a cruel guard would do anything to discover the secret she would die to protect.

No longer beholden to those who betrayed her, Mira must learn to survive on her own and unearth the dark truths about the Fallen Isles–and herself–before her very world begins to collapse.

Oh no, Jodi Meadows. Why oh why do you insist on doing this to me.

An author as renowned in the YA market as you, and you insist on writing and publishing a book that - in my opinion - is a step back for inclusivity in YA.

I am not a black woman. I have no right to comment on how this book may represent black women in a way either positive or negative. I am, however, someone who has suffered with mental health issues for as long as I can remember and I do not feel that this was well represented in this book.

Mira has panic attacks... then her anxiety is not mentioned again for a while. Then she suddenly has an obsession with 'counting', but then this isn't really elaborated in. What is Mira's 'thing', Meadows, because I am seriously not sure who she even was.

This book is about a character who goes through lots of bad things, and whilst we are meant to see he grow throughout, the only time I saw this growth was right at the end of the book... and as awful as it is for me to say, by this point it was almost too late for redemption.

If there is one pro for this book, it's that the writing is gorgeous. No question that Jodi Meadows is a brilliant author, she just tried too hard with Before She Ignites, I think... I think maybe she just sort of lost direction.
 

Book released 12th September 2017 by Katherine Tegan
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

The Secret of a Heart Note

Sometimes love is right under your nose. As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of weeding, mixing love elixirs, and matchmaking—all while remaining incurably alone. For Mim, the rules are clear: falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mimosa doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of a normal high school experience with friends, sports practices, debate club, and even a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman and has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation, Mim quickly begins to realize that falling in love isn’t always a choice you can make.



Sweet, holy love of cute boys. Someone find me a Court, and fast.

I like to think that I am past the point at which I fall in love with teenage boys in books because - let's be real, at my age it's a little creepy - however Court is the lovely, non-stereotypical YA boy that I needed to read when I was in my teens.

Like don't get me wrong, Mimosa and Dahlia were great characters too, but I just adored Court - and obviously the romance between him and Dahlia.

Let me just put this out there. This book is light, it's cute, it's downright adorably awkward at times... but it also cover topics like racism and alienisation, it takes these topics and writes about them in a way that feels fully integrated into the plot and not at all forced.

Stacey Lee's writing style is so real. When she was describing tastes and scents I felt like I was experiencing them along with Mim. It was so well done and so deep and I can't fault it.

In fact, there is so very little that I can fault in this book. If anything, I might have to say that sometimes when Lee sometimes wrote about the scents, or the history or things like that I was pulled away from the moment we were in, but other than that tiny little issue... I loved this book! 


Book released 27th December 2016 by Katherine Tegan
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Love and Other Train Wrecks by Leah Konen

Love and Other Train Wrecks

A twenty-four-hour romance about two teens who meet—and perhaps change their minds about love—on a train ride to Upstate New York in the middle of a snowstorm

One train ride. Two strangers.

Noah is a hopeless romantic. He’s heading back home for one last chance with his first love, whom he broke up with when he went off to college.

Ammy doesn’t believe in true love—her parents being prime examples. She’s escaping from a mom who can’t take care of her to a dad who may not even want her. That is, until one winter night when Noah and Ammy find themselves in the same Amtrak car heading to Upstate New York.

After a train-wreck first encounter between the two of them, the Amtrak train suddenly breaks down due to a snowstorm. Desperate to make it to their destinations, Noah and Ammy have no other option but to travel together. What starts off as a minor detour turns into the whirlwind journey of a lifetime, and over the course of the night they fall in love. But come morning their adventure takes an unexpected turn for the worst. Can one night can really change how they feel about love...and the course of their lives forever?

One of my all time fave books ever is The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I just adore serendipitous, fateful meet-cutes that lead to two characters feeling connected to one another. That's probably a big contribution to that fact that even though I didn't adore 'Love and Other Train Wrecks', I still enjoyed it on the level of a cutesy love story.

It took me a while to read this book because I knew I needed to be in the mood for it. The mood in this case being a cold october evening, heating on, under my duvet with hot chocolate. I think that all added to my enjoyment of this book.

Look, this isn't the deepest of reads. The writing isn't outstanding - Leah Konen does have an authenticity in her dialogue that is sometimes missing, but as far as writing style goes it doesn't stand out. The characters were neither awful or awesome, they just were...

That being said, I still really enjoyed this book, and I can't really even say why because nothing was outstanding, but I found myself smiling as I read it from start to finish and being happy when the ending was tied up in a nice little bow. It was a quick, fun, cute, shallow read, and it isn't winning any literary awards, but it was super fun while it lasted.



Book released 2nd January 2018 by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review:: Here so Far Away by Hadley Dyer (DNF)

Here So Far Away

Feisty and fearless George Warren (given name: Frances, but no one calls her that) has never let life get too serious. Now that she’s about to be a senior, her plans include partying with her tight-knit group of friends and then getting the heck out of town after graduation.

But instead of owning her last year of high school, a fight with her best friend puts her on the outs of their social circle.  If that weren’t bad enough, George’s family has been facing hard times since her father, a police sergeant, got injured and might not be able to return to work, which puts George’s college plans in jeopardy.

So when George meets Francis, an older guy who shares her name and her affinity for sarcastic banter, she’s thrown. If she lets herself, she’ll fall recklessly, hopelessly in love. But because of Francis’s age, she tells no one—and ends up losing almost everything, including herself.



You know what?

I'm not even bothered that this book is about a seventeen year old girl dating a twenty nine year old man, even though age gaps that big in YA books always make me squirm.

No, the issue that I had with this book was that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't connect with any of their characters, not even enough to second guess the poor life decisions they were making.

I'm sad to say that this book was a DNF at around 35%, however I've seen many complimentary review of this book. It just didn't connect for me.

Overall Rating:DNF

Book released 20th March 2018 by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review