ARC Review | The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

An insight into one teenager’s life with Asperger’s. 4/5.

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Thank you to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book. The State of Grace is published this Thursday, 6th April.

The blurb: Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more.

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own.

Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

My take:

Being a teenager is complicated for most of us. Navigating a world of mean-girl politics, annoying parents, evil teachers and a new interest in boys and/or girls, all while in the middle of a hormone storm, is a tricky business. Add to this a lack of sensory filter and a difficulty picking up the non-verbal cues most of us read without trying, and you have an idea of the world in which Grace is doing her best to get by.

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Review | Making Faces by Amy Harmon

YA Nick Sparks – take that as you will! 3.5/5 stars.

making-faces-by-amy-harmon

Thank you to Spencer Hill Press and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The UK paperback of Making Faces will be published on 21st February. If you can’t wait that long it’s already available to buy as an e-book.

The blurb: Ambrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have…until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast where we discover that there is little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

My take:

Making Faces is a simple story containing a sweet, predictable romance. The strength of the tale is its characters who are pretty-much all likeable. However, I give particular praise to Harmon for making Bailey the stealth star of her book, his personality easily outshining those of the romantic leads. If Making Faces were refocussed so it was all about Bailey with everyone else as supporting cast, this could easily become a 5-star book. His character alone has earned this book an extra half star.

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ARC Review | The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

A wonderful book. I defy you not to fall in love with Flora Banks. 5 stars.

the-one-memory-of-flora-blanks-by-emily-barr

Thank you to Penguin and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book for review.

The One Memory of Flora Banks will be published on 12th January.

The blurb: Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

My take:

Regular readers of my blog will know I’m miserly with my 5-star ratings. In 2016 I read and reviewed 117 books and gave only 3 of them 5 stars. This makes me feel that when I come across a book I want to give 5 stars, I should be able to set off sort of klaxon, write “ALL OF YOU READ THIS NOW!” and that should be enough.

But that would be a bit lazy, wouldn’t it? 😉

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My top 10 books of 2016

I only gave three books 5 stars this year. But, happily, I gave seven books 4.5 stars which means I can do a top 10!

I read and reviewed 117 this year. Only three of them got 5 stars. I think I may be getting pickier with my 5 stars as I get older!

There were also seven books which came very close to those elusive 5 stars, so I’ve included them here too.

Click on the book title for my full review. Click on the book cover to go to Goodreads.

Here we go!

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Review | Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5) by Sarah J. Maas

Overlong and lacking in humanity. 3/5 stars.

empire-of-storms-by-sarah-j-maas

For more background and blurbs, check out my reviews of Throne of Glass (Book 1), Crown of Midnight (Book 2) and Heir of Fire (Book 3), and Queen of Shadows (Book 4).

For those of you who don’t know, the Throne of Glass series is a 6-book saga following the adventures of a bad-ass female assassin in a fantasy realm which features fairies, witches and all sorts of magical shenanigans. While the first two books in the series felt solidly YA, I’m guessing the author feels her readers are growing up as the series goes on and certainly book 5 is more NA territory with some undoubtedly “adult” content.

Now, before I get into what will possibly become a bit of a rant, I want to make it clear that this was fine. Just fine. Not great, not bad. Just OK.

However.

Wait! There’s more. Click for the rest of my review!

Review | Hitman Anders and the Meaning of It All by Jonas Jonasson

A few smiles but not enough laughs. 3/5 stars.

Hitman Anders and the Meaning of it All by Jonas Jonasson book cover

Thank you to HarperCollins and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The blurb: Hitman Anders is fresh out of prison and trying to keep his head down when he meets a female Protestant vicar (who happens to be an atheist), and a receptionist at a 1-star hotel (who happens to be currently homeless). Together they cook up an idea for a very unusual business that’s going to make them all a fortune – but then all of a sudden, and to everyone’s surprise, Anders finds Jesus . . .

Anders’ sudden interest in religion might be good for his soul but it’s not good for business, and the vicar and the receptionist have to find a new plan, quick.

As wildly funny and unexpected as The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared and The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, this is a madcap, feel-good adventure about belief, the media – and the fact that it’s never too late to start again.

My take:

I read The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared a few years ago – in Spanish I might add. It was one of my book club choices back in Spain and I enjoyed it more than everyone else who just thought it was odd. I, on the other hand, liked how it played with twentieth century history, and the present-day section contained some decent laughs. So I was looking forward to reading Hitman Anders.

This book is written in the detached ironic tone which will be familiar to readers of The 100-Yr-Old Man. However, sadly Hitman Anders it not as amusing as Jonasson’s international best-seller.
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Review | Passenger (Passenger, #1) by Alexandra Bracken

A promising adventure crushed by a suffocating romance. 3/5 stars.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken book cover

Thank you to Hachette, Quercus and Netgalley for giving me an e-copy of Passenger in return for an honest review.

The blurb: In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.

Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home… forever.

My take:

This is a story of two parts. One part is a fantastical time-travel adventure motivated by a centuries-old family feud. This layer of the story is wonderful and takes in a range of locations and time periods, each described in evocative detail.

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Review | A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOTAR #2) by Sarah J. Maas

In some ways better than book 1, but overlong. Again. 4/5.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

The blurb: Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

My take:

I’ll try to talk about this book without including spoilers. However, if you’re determined to avoid anything even remotely spoilerly, just know this: if you enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses, you’ll love A Court of Mist and Fury. Go and read it now. You won’t be sorry!

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Review | Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Great once it gets into fifth gear. 4/5 stars.

Wolf by Wolf Ryan Graudin book cover

Thank you to Hachette Children’s Books, Orion Children’s Books and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book in return for an honest review.

The blurb: Germania, 1956. Over ten years since the Nazis won the war. 18-year-old Yael is part of the resistance, and she has just one mission: to kill Hitler.

But first she’s got to get close enough to him to do it.

Experimented on during her time at Auschwitz, Yael has the unique ability to change her appearance at will. The only part of her which always remains are the five tattooed wolves on her arm; one for each of the people she’s lost. Using her abilities, she must transform into Adele Wolfe, Germany’s most famous female rider and winner of the legendary Axis Tour; an epic long distance motorcycle race from Berlin to Tokyo, where only the strongest (and wiliest) riders survive. If she can win this, she will be able to get close enough to kill the Fuhrer and change history forever.

But with other riders sabotaging her chances at every turn, Yael’s mission won’t be easy…

My take:

Wolf by Wolf is set in a twentieth century in which the Nazis won World War II and our heroine is on a mission to kill Hitler. As set-ups go, they don’t get much better than that and I’m delighted to report that once Wolf by Wolf eventually gripped me, it was a terrific read.
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Review | The Rose and the Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (spoiler free)

A satisfying end to an enchanting story. 4/5.

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh book cover

The blurb: In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad has been torn from the love of her husband Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once believed him a monster, but his secrets revealed a man tormented by guilt and a powerful curse—one that might keep them apart forever. Reunited with her family, who have taken refuge with enemies of Khalid, and Tariq, her childhood sweetheart, she should be happy. But Tariq now commands forces set on destroying Khalid’s empire. Shahrzad is almost a prisoner caught between loyalties to people she loves. But she refuses to be a pawn and devises a plan.

While her father, Jahandar, continues to play with magical forces he doesn’t yet understand, Shahrzad tries to uncover powers that may lie dormant within her. With the help of a tattered old carpet and a tempestuous but sage young man, Shahrzad will attempt to break the curse and reunite with her one true love.

My take (no spoilers):

I enjoyed this very much and more than the first installment of the story: The Wrath and the Dawn. This was partly because The Rose and the Dagger delivers entertaining magical shenanigans, and also because my enjoyment of book 1 was hampered by some irritating stylistic quirks which were mercifully absent from book 2.

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