Review: Illusionarium by Heather Dixon


Jonathan is perfectly ordinary. But then—as every good adventure begins—the king swoops into port, and Jonathan and his father are enlisted to find the cure to a deadly plague. Jonathan discovers that he's a prodigy at working with a new chemical called fantillium, which creates shared hallucinations—or illusions. And just like that, Jonathan is knocked off his path. Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that calls to mind The Night Circus and Pixar movies, but is wholly its own.

I get the idea that Illusionarium is a Marmite type of book. Is that just a British reference? Errm... the general idea is that you either like it or dislike it. For me, it was the latter, but I can definitely understand why people would love it.

For me, Illusionarium lacked some serious development - things moved much faster than my brain so I spent the majority of this book trying to play catch up. The plot was great and the world building was brilliant, but there was a lot happening in a short period of time and I didn't massively like having to try and catch up and reread to find out what I had missed.

I did like the characters - Jonathan, Hannah, even Divinity, but I felt like Jonathan made silly moves at some times that made me doubt his role as the lead, and his ability to create Illusions comes out of nowhere, he was like a male Mary Sue at times.

For me, Illusionarium wasn't awful, but it wasn't anywhere near memorable for me. 

Book released 19th May by Greenwillow 
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Between the Notes by Sharon Huss Roat

Between the Notes
When Ivy Emerson’s family loses their house—complete with her beloved piano—the fear of what’s to come seizes her like a bad case of stage fright. Only this isn’t one of her single, terrifying performances. It’s her life.

And it isn’t pretty.

Ivy is forced to move with her family out of their affluent neighborhood to Lakeside, also known as “the wrong side of the tracks.” Hiding the truth from her friends—and the cute new guy in school, who may have secrets of his own—seems like a good idea at first. But when a bad boy next door threatens to ruin everything, Ivy’s carefully crafted lies begin to unravel . . . and there is no way to stop them.

As things get to the breaking point, Ivy turns to her music, some unlikely new friends, and the trusting heart of her disabled little brother. She may be surprised that not everyone is who she thought they were . . . including herself.

This was a brilliant book, I was hooked, I adored it. I would say that it's a pretty sound contemporary debut from an author that I am absolutely going to be looking out for from now on.

Enough gushing yet? No? Okay, I'll go on.

To start with I was pretty sceptical about the plot of Between the Notes. The privileged rich girl turns poor storyline is cliche and to start with, Ivy played out like the absolutely typical rich girl. She was a snob, a complete brat, she was spoiled and had no respect for the people for whom Lakeside wasn't a slum, it was a home. I was expecting the whole book to be Ivy being spoilt and people falling all over her. I was wrong.

Ivy redeemed herself. I am definitely one to hold grudges, but Ivy definitely redeemed herself. She mans up and realises that life isn't all puppies and roses and this it's time for her to make a life for herself and help her family. She has to make decisions greater than which boy to date and she becomes a hero for me. I loved that. I also loved how much she adored her younger brother, who was just a ray of sunlight in this book.

Even the love triangle didn't faze me. I loved both boys - James was charming and nice, he may not have been perfect but he would have been fine for Ivy. Lennie though, Lennie is the bad boy - the subject or rumors about drug dealing and someone Ivy should not feel so attracted to, but she does. Their relationship starts with hatred, then turns into a reluctant friendship. The ending, where Ivy's new life culminates in a decision between these boys was well written and went the way it needed to and I can't deny how much I loved that.

I have no bad words to say about Between the Notes. That is all. 

Book released 16th June by Harper Teen 
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Charlie Presumed Dead by Anne Heltzel

Charlie, Presumed Dead
In Paris, family and friends gather to mourn the tragic passing of Charlie Price—young, handsome, charming, a world-traveler—who is presumed dead after an explosion. Authorities find only a bloodied jacket, ID’d as Charlie’s. At the funeral, two teens who are perfect strangers, Lena Whitney and Aubrey Boroughs, make another shocking discovery: they have both been dating Charlie, both think Charlie loved them and them alone, and there is a lot they didn’t know about their boyfriend. Over the next week, a mind-bending trip unfolds: first in London—then in Mumbai, Kerala, and Bangkok, the girls go in search of Charlie. Is he still alive? What did their love for him even mean? The truth is out there, but soon it becomes clear that the girls are harboring secrets of their own.

I was promised fist clenching mystery. I was promised a story of two girls who have been wronged and want to find the truth. I was promised an action packed story that would keep me reading until the very end.

I didn't get the action, I did get the two girls, and the only mystery this book brought was how these two stupid teenage girls are still alive at the end of this book. I mean enough stuff happens in this book that they shouldn't be alive, and half of me wishes that they weren't because then the series wouldn't warrant the inevitable sequel.

Okay, let me backtrack. The reason this book annoys me so is that it is conceived as a contemporary book, yet half the stuff that happens in it is so coincidental and out of it that I can't even begin to fathom the brain which things this can really be sold as reality fiction. I didn't really care about either girl, there are plot points thrown in, like Adam and the diary secret and Charlie's lists that make little to no sense and don't work for me and the ending was just ridiculous. Everything just happened because the two girls were in the right place at the right time yet they keep trodding on despite the awful things happening which should be telling them that maybe it's time to go home now.

You can probably guess, from this awfully scathing review (I'm sorry) that I will not be reading the sequel...

Book released 2nd June by HMH Press for Young Readers
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Supervision by Alison Stine

Something is wrong with Esmé.

Kicked out of school in New York, she's sent to live with her grandmother in a small Appalachian town. But something is wrong with the grandmother Ez hasn't seen for years; she leaves at midnight, carrying a big black bag. Something is wrong with her grandmother's house, a decrepit mansion full of stray cats, stairs that lead to nowhere, beds that unmake themselves. Something is wrong in the town where a kid disappears every year, where a whistle sounds at night but no train arrives.

And something is wrong with the friendly neighbor Ez's age with black curls and blue eyes: He's dead.

Supervision has the privilege of being one of the most beautifully written books that I have ever read.

Unfortunately, it is also the most confusing and somewhat boring books that I have ever read.

From the start of Supervision there are a lot of questions that need to be answered, and the general idea with a book that sets up a lot of mysteries is that these mysteries will be resolved as the plot moves on. Unfortunately, in this book there are just as many questions at the end as there were in the beginning, but not in the way that I'm gagging for a sequel.

Everything about this book is just weird, and things just happened with no explanation. Now, I'm not stupid and I don't expect to be spoon fed things, but I need some pointer in the right direction or I get lost and that's how I felt when reading Supervision. I can't go into detail because I do not want to give spoilers. Mainly because I don't know how to do the hide spoilers thing on Goodreads, So this review is shorter than I wanted it to be.

It's so sad, because Stine is undoubtedly a highly talented writer. It was her haunting, atmospheric writing style that got me to the end of this book and I would without a doubt read anything else that she puts out. However, Supervision was not my cup of tea, and I know a lot of reviewers will agree with me on this one.

Book released 15th April by Harper.
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

The Witch Hunter (The Witch Hunter, #1)
Elizabeth Grey is one of the king's best witch hunters, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and doling out justice. But when she's accused of being a witch herself, Elizabeth is arrested and sentenced to burn at the stake.

Salvation comes from a man she thought was her enemy. Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful and dangerous wizard in the kingdom, offers her a deal: he will save her from execution if she can break the deadly curse that's been laid upon him.

But Nicholas and his followers know nothing of Elizabeth's witch hunting past--if they find out, the stake will be the least of her worries. And as she's thrust into the magical world of witches, ghosts, pirates, and one all-too-handsome healer, Elizabeth is forced to redefine her ideas of right and wrong, of friends and enemies, and of love and hate.
I was expecting the majority of this book to be about Elizabeth's time as a witch hunter, but it wasn't and I liked that bit of a twist. I loved the whole storyline of Elizabeth hiding her witch hunting past from Nicholas and his groups and despite the fact that this story was actually pretty slow moving and didn't have the greatest pacing, the world and the side characters were good enough to keep me interested.

There is, admittedly, a lack of focus on world-building, which makes this word where magic is feared and hunted difficult to understand at times, but I've always been more of a how girl than a why girl, and I appreciate that maybe the world isn't developed brilliantly, but the execution saves it. The plot and the storyline makes this book much more than the world that it is set in.

My main problem with this book was Elizabeth. The main character can either make or break a book, Elizabeth wasn't bad enough for em to hate it but she definitely annoyed me quite a lot. I struggled to believe that she truly was this deadly witch hunter with hidden powers because she was catastrophically stupid at times. She made the stupidest decisions, messed up a lot and yet people still blindly followed her. That, for me, is a fatal flaw in a book. Thankfully, the well-developed romance pulled it back for me and redeemed it, there was a slight triangle but one that I saw right through. The main love story was a slow burn, which matched the rest of the book and had me just as hooked as the main storyline.

So yeah, despite flaws in pacing, characters and world building, I did quite enjoy The Witch Hunter. It's neither awful nor memorable for me, but I will be reading the sequel and that counts for something, I guess.

Book released 2nd June by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Will be released in the UK September 1st by Hodder & Stoughton. 
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Kiss by Lucy Courtenay

The Kiss
Aphrodite kissed a mortal once by the light of this moon, many thousands of years ago. It drove him crazy. The next person that he kissed - boum. The craziness travelled like this from person to person. It travelled through time. Everywhere - boum! Tu comprends?' 'Where did it end up?' I whisper. His lips are on my cheek now. 'It ended with me. And now I am going to pass it to you. You will like that, mermaid?' Imagine the perfect kiss. A legendary kiss that makes people crazy with love. 

Imagine a summer's night, on a moonlit beach in the South of France, as French boy Laurent kisses 16-year-old Delilah after the best chat-up line she's ever heard. BOOM! Delilah is pretty sure the Kiss is fiction, despite her head-spinning holiday fling. But with all the sudden crushes, break-ups and melt-downs happening back at home, the Kiss starts looking a little too real for comfort. If only Delilah could keep track of where it's gone ...Who knew one kiss could cause this much trouble?

Despite the fact that The Kiss spent a lot less time focusing on the actual... kiss, I really, really enjoyed this book. I was expecting something supper kiddy and really escapey and I got that, it had hints of the Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison, as well as it's own individual charm.

Delilah was the best protagonist in the world of teen contemporary romance. Okay, so she called her best friends boyfriend an onion (rude) but she is also sixteen years old. I remember telling a boy I wouldn't date him because he looked like a sweet potato when I was fifteen. That was to his face. Deillah was just absolutely adorable, ditzy and silly and clever and just fun. 

Can we get onto Jem now too? He was like, swoony. I want a Jem. He was like a good bad boy (yes that's an oxymoron) in the fact that he hung around the stoner crowd, he was best friends with a drug dealer, but he himself was honest and cute and reliable and I just loved him and Delilah together. Yay!

The plot itself was great - it didn't stand out but it was great fun, with romances and plays and jobs. The only slight problem I have to admit that I had was that I didn't particularly enjoy the pace. I never really got sucked in and I kept putting the book down to make tea or watch things. It was easy to pick up and easy to put down.

Overall, The Kiss was fun and silly and had some dramatic moments and I definitely enjoyed it. The only reason it isn't getting an A grade is the fact that it lacked in pace at times.

Book released 2nd July by Hachette Children's Books
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Truth About Jack by Jody Gehrman

The Truth About Jack
Dakota McCloud has just been accepted into a prestigious art school. Soon she'll leave behind the artists' colony where she grew up―hippie dad, tofu since birth, yurt―and join her boyfriend and best friend on the East Coast. It was the plan…until Dakota finds out her boyfriend and best friend hooked up behind her back.

Hurt and viciously betrayed, Dakota pours out her heart on a piece of paper, places it in a bottle, and hurls it into the ocean. But it doesn't quite go where she expects…

Jack Sauvage finds the bottle washed up on the shore and responds to Dakota's letter. Except what if his straight-laced life doesn’t jive with the free-spirited girl he’s only seen from afar? As Jack creates a persona he believes she’ll love, they slowly fall for each other with each new letter. Now Jack is trying to find a way to make this delicate, on-paper romance happen in real life…without revealing his deception.

The concept is absolutely brilliant, even if the execution lacked commitment.

A lot of people have complained at the concept of the relationship - Jack pretends to be somebody else to woo Dakota, and I have to admit it doesn't sit perfectly well with me, but it all worked out well enough and Dakota was understandably upset at the deceit so I think the storyline developed and followed through well. I liked how well Gehrman made it clear that despite the fact he was pretending to be Alejandro, Jack was generally getting closer to Dakota and she would have liked him without the deceit.

I loved Dakota as a characters, she was flawed and vulnerable, proven by how upset she was that her ex had been with her best friend, but she was also headstrong and knew what she wanted in life. She dealt with Jack's big secret well and I really liked the two of them as characters. The whole thing played out like a Disney Original Movie. If it happened in real life it would be manipulative, but in this it was just super cheesy, super cute fun.

Book released 15th April 2015 
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry

Nowhere But Here (Thunder Road, #1)
Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both.

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down.

As soon as I heard that Katie McGarry was releasing a new book - and one on motorcycle gangs at that - I thought 'this will be amazing, what could go wrong?'. The answer, apparently, is a little.

Now I'm not at all going to slate McGarry as an author, I have always loved her writing and forever will. That wasn't my problem with this book. My problem was just that I don't think the focus in this book was where it was meant to be. I wanted more on the gangs, I wanted more violence and fear and shouting and that was there but instead I got Oz and Em making goo--goo eyes at each other, trying to decide whether they should or shouldn't. Emily being all romantic and Oz talking about how irresistible she is. It's thee typical new adult romcom fare but I thought this book deserved more.

At the end of the book, the action does amp up a little bit, but I do just think that it was too much to say it hadn't been built up throughout the book as much as I had liked. I also felt that the whole storyline about Em's past and her mum and dad needed to be brought forward a little more, because these were the plot points that would have really made Nowhere But hHre stand out.

As it stands, it was just the better side of meh for me.

Sorry Katie McGarry, I will forever continue to read your books, but Nowhere But here isn't one of the best.

Book released 26th May 2015 by Harlequin Teen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review