Month: January 2016

Review: Trouble by Non Pratt

Trouble
Trouble by Non Pratt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First, I have the UK (Teal) edition, and whereas I do really like it now, I know teenage me would have cringed to have a book with sperm so prominently featured on it! The US version is a little more subtle, and the German version (Fuck you Leben!) is quite… to the point? Despite the sperm, this book actually really fits in colour-wise with the rest of my bookshelf (teal is REALLY popular at the moment) so I’m happy.

Trouble is written in dual-narrative between Hannah and Aaron. Hannah is a troublesome 15 year old who has just discovered sex and booze, and Aaron is a student who’s just transferred from another school. Hannah finds herself pregnant unexpectedly, and the book follows her pregnancy (it’s split into three trimesters) as she battles the bump, family issues, and her ex-best friend. She finds a friend in Aaron, who, despite never having slept with Hannah, suggests that he pretend to be her baby’s father.

Trouble is a thought-provoking, and at time, shocking book (in a good way). It’s rare to find teenagers written about honestly and realistically, living in the UK and not off at boarding school/fantasyland. I love unconventional families, and Trouble also features elderly people and parents as real people and not just plot devices to control our main characters. The juxtaposition of Hannah and Aaron is interesting, and there’s a really good cast of supporting characters, from the friendly Gideon and Anj, to angsty older stepbrother Jay.

This is no idealistic teenage fantasy – these teenagers drink and sleep together and fail exams. They lie and keep secrets and make mistakes.

The writing is really good (I read the first page on Kindle then knew I had to get the book), and the story has twists and turns. Overall, a really engaging novel that I read in a few days.

My only issue (and what stops the book getting the hallowed 5 stars) is that it ends quite abruptly (something I’ve found quite common with my reading choices lately). There’s no real resolution of a few plot lines – an epilogue would have been really nice here!

If you’re looking for something realistic from UK YA fiction, you can’t go much wrong with Trouble by Non Pratt.
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Review: The It Girl by Katy Birchall

The It-Girl
The It-Girl by Katy Birchall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First I’d like to thank @Chelleytoy and @EMTeenFiction for the book – I received this book during a talk at YALC on Book Blogging. Thank you so much!

The It Girl is probably not a book I would have bought myself, simply because it’s been a while since I was an awkward 14 year old (I am now an awkward 21 year old, thank you very much). However, once I got into it, this book was really enjoyable, and I related a lot to Anna. The characters are likeable, with flaws (and yes, this is a good thing – they became more real) and very relatable.

Anna is a great character, and the perfect teenager who is trying to find her way, making mistakes along the way – which makes for great reading. I think everyone can probably see some part of themselves in Anna. Her relationships with the other characters are one of the highlights of the book, and I particularly enjoyed the family dynamic – dealing with divorced parents and a new stepfamily. I felt that Anna reacted how I would react, and as such, she is a realistic character with believable actions.

The format of the book is mainly regular chapters, with emails dotted throughout the book to and from various characters. This book was easy to read, and the format broke up the book and made it a little more fun

Overall, a really enjoyable read, whether you’re looking for something aimed at the younger YA market because you’re a younger reader, or you want a fun, light read that’ll make you feel nostalgic and cringe a little at your younger self.
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Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I saw this book at WHSmith at Luton Airport in Departures, and thought about it all weekend before I rushed to get it at Arrivals the next today, so I’d say the cover and blurb (and feature on BuzzFeed) all drew me in pretty successfully.

‘Sofia Khan is Not Obliged’ has been described as the ‘Muslim Bridget Jones’ and I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

Sofia Khan is a book publicist, newly single after dumping her fiance for refusing to move out of his parents home. Fresh on the Muslim dating scene, her boss convinces her to write a ‘dating guide for Muslims’. Through weddings and babies, Sofia battles being the ‘single’ friend and the expectations placed on her by her family.

I really enjoyed Sofia’s character, and an insight into her life as both a Muslim and a single woman. It’s really important that minority characters and authors have a voice, and Sofia is a unique and welcome addition to the romance market. The book is told through a diary format and so naturally feels very Bridget Jones-esque, but rest assured that the characters and world are very well developed, and the book feels thoroughly modern.

Overall, a really enjoyable read and a much-needed addition to the market. I very much look forward to Ayisha Malik’s future books.
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Shadowhunters Episode 2 Review

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In true Netflix fashion, the UK got the latest episode of Shadowhunters the day after the US, and in true me fashion, I watched it this evening (whilst cooking dinner).

The episode picks up where the premiere left off, and then introduces us to the Institute (which is very high-tech) and Hodge Starkweather (who is much younger than I imagined him).  The episode revolves around finding the Mortal Cup, and reclaiming Clary’s lost memories seems like the obvious thing to do, with Alec, Isabelle, Simon and Jace along for the ride. Cue lots of sexual tension (Sizzy, anyone?), joking about Simon’s inevitable death by runes, and Alec being as uptight as ever.

I think I missed this part, but essentially the Mortal Cup is the most powerful object in the Shadowhunter universe, which can be used to create more Shadowhunters, and Jocelyn (Clary’s mother) probably has it, hence why Clary is trying to get her memories back.

Luke’s storyline this week involved beating people up, and turning into something. More on that in later episodes, I’m guessing.

Dot (Lady Dorothea from the film) is on the hunt for Magnus, but gets jumped by the Circle and tortured for information by Valentine, but she can’t undo the magic on Jocelyn (who is still comatose) as she wasn’t the Warlock who performed the spell.

Clary, having a vision of Dot’s attack as it goes down, becomes more frantic about getting her memories back and so Jace suggests the Silent Brothers. Cue creepy underground lair, a ‘Soul Sword’ and Clary remembering that her dad is in fact… Valentine.

As Clary leaves the Silent Brothers and heads back to the others, Simon gets kidnapped by a group of vampires, holding him ransom for the Mortal Cup. Oh boy…

Thoughts

  • Clary REALLY rocks leather. Potential cosplay?
  • Clary is a bit stupid.
  • Isabelle’s lipstick is a gorgeous colour.
  • Hodge is younger than I expected.
  • The Institute is much busier than expected.
  • There’s a lot more technology in the TV series than the books, and the lack of tech was charming in the book (and set the mood).
  • I got a little confused over who everyone was.
  • Sizzy was introduced fast.
  • Where are all the parents?!

An interesting episode developmentally, but one which I did get a little confused during (probably because I was cooking dinner). I’ll tune in next week 🙂

What did you think of this episode? Comment below or tweet me at @AnnaliseBooks 🙂

Annalise x

 

 

Shadowhunters: Episode 1 – the Mortal Cup

Shadowhunters, the TV adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s best-selling Mortal Instruments series, premiered today on Netflix outside of the US.

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Synopsis

Shadowhunters begins with Clary Fray, a red-haired 18-year-old who has just been accepted onto a programme at the Brooklyn School of Art. It’s also her birthday. Her mother, Jocelyn, and her mother’s boyfriend, Luke, discuss whether to tell Clary that she is a shadowhunter, a race who protect the human world from the demon world. Before Jocelyn has the chance to tell Clary the truth, Clary flounces out the door to a gig with her best friend, Simon, and Jocelyn resigns to let Clary have one more day without knowing the truth.

After the gig, Clary and Simon hang out outside the club, Pandemonium. Suddenly, a boy bumps into Clary, who Simon can’t see. Clary follows him into the club, where she witnesses him, and his two companions, murder several people with glowing blades.

Heading home in a cab, and leaving Simon at the club, two Circle agents follow behind, leading them to the home of Jocelyn Fray. Realising what has happened, Jocelyn has her friend Dot open a portal, and Clary is transported to the police station. Jocelyn stays behind to fight off the agents, but succumbs and drinks a potion that knocks her out cold. Dot is thrown out of a window, landing, apparently dead on the ground outside.

Clary overhears Luke at the police station, stating that Jocelyn and Clary mean nothing to him. Distraught, Clary returns to her apartment, finding it trashed and her mother gone. She finds Dot, alive, asking questions about the mortal cup. When Clary claims she knows nothing, Dot gets angry, and her face bursts open, revealing that she is in fact, a demon. Backed into a corner, Clary is saved when the boy from the club stabs the creature, but Clary has been bitten by the demon, and the venom causes her to pass out.

Clary wakes up to find Isabelle, the girl from the club, sat at the end of the bed. She introduces Clary to Alec and Jace (the boy who saved her), and Alec is seen to be jealous of the attention and interest Jace is giving to Clary. Simon calls Clary, tracking her down to an abandoned church. Wearing Isabelle’s leather clothes, Clary rushes down to meet Simon, not realising a Circle agent lurks outside the church. Jace kills the agent, to Clary’s horror and Simon’s confusion (as he does not have ‘The Sight’).

In Chernobyl, a man is now in possession of the body of Jocelyn Fray. He learns from his agents that Jocelyn has a daughter, and demands that she be brought to him.

Thoughts

  • Simon is pretty hot. Should he be? I don’t know.
  • Isabelle dresses like a baby prostitute. And talks like one. And dances like one. Huh.
  • Jace is cocky, which I like, for some reason.
  • I’m enjoying the amount of Magnus Bane, who has been introduced earlier in the TV series than in the books.
  • Some of the acting is really really awkward.
  • Why is part of this set in Chernobyl?!
  • Clary is a little too ditzy to be truly likeable, but hopefully this is a chance for some great character development.
  • This show has a lot of PoCs, which is good. The casting is good.
  • Dorothea from the movie has become the young, hip ‘Dot’.
  • It’s a little cheesy at times.

All in all, an alright, if a little cringey start to the show. I’m actually looking forward to the next episode and seeing where the show goes and how that relates to both the books and the movie.

Have you seen Shadowhunters? What did you think?

Comment below or tweet me at @AnnaliseBooks 🙂

Annalise x

 

 

 

Review: The Next Together

The Next Together
The Next Together by Lauren James

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to warn you now: I have a lot of feelings about The Next Together. I’ve spent the entire weekend talking about it (and for half of that I was abroad, alone).

First off, the cover. I’m not a huge, huge fan, but I think it works. It’s a really good advertisement for the book – it’s original, interesting and not-your-typical-romance novel.

The Next Together follows the story of Katherine and Matthew, a couple who are destined to be together but haven’t quite made it there yet. They have been reincarnated through the ages, first as an aristocrat and a servant in 1745 who fall in love whilst preparing for a siege on Carlisle by the Scottish, then as a war correspondent for The Times (Matthew) and his assistant (Katherine, this time in drag). We then follow them in 2019 as research scientists through a series of emails, letters and notes on the fridge, and in 2039, as chemistry students at the University of Nottingham.

I really liked the way this book is set out – it flits between the time-streams every couple of pages, resulting in short chapters and even shorter sub-chapters. This made the book really easy to read, and I zoomed through it in a couple of days.

The Next Together is a really original book for the YA market both in plot and format – the emails and newspaper entries reminded me a lot of Illuminae, but I felt that this way of conveying information was much more successful here (because there was a lot less of it, and the information was a lot more interesting). I also really appreciated that science was featured in the book – because I’m a scientist – and it was really clever to combine both a historical novel and a futuristic sci-fi novel into one.

So why isn’t this book getting 5 stars?

  1. I didn’t really click with the characters. This may just be me. I think an issue with combining four novels into one, is that each character doesn’t get enough screen-time. Some of the romances felt rushed, very sudden and unexpected, and I didn’t quite feel a slow build-up of feelings over time that would have been more believable. Would it really be feasible to devote enough screen-time to each character? No, not really, unless you want a 1600-page book.
  2. The ending. Near the end, the plot gets very confusing (there’s time travel involved) and – this is the crucial bit for me – there’s no real resolution. There’s a hint at a resolution. I was hoping for something really clever, maybe even a bit scientific – I really, really wanted a satisfying ending. The ending feels very rushed, but I will say this – I didn’t see the plot twist coming, and although it feels a little out of place, it does make sense.

I would have rated this book a lot higher if it had been a stand-alone novel – it felt like a stand-alone, and then it was left on a cliff-hanger. I want more stand-alone novels in YA – I don’t want to commit to reading an entire 13-book series every time I pick up a new book.

So would I recommend The Next Together? Yes, because I’m sure other people have clicked with this novel a lot better than I did. It’s original, funny and an easy-read – just expect to have to need to read the next book once you’ve finished.

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Annalise x

Review: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crown of Midnight is the second book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, following the adventures of the assassin Celaena Sardothien and her friends, the prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol, and Princess of the Ellywe Nehemia.

Whereas I did enjoy the first book, Throne of Glass (review here), I found it difficult to read (I read it whilst travelling), and I found the plot and characters a little clichéd. This book, however, was a breeze to read. I love Maas’ prose, and her use of foreshadowing is divine. There’s more action, more romance, more assassin…ations? More everything… and it works really, really, well.

What I particularly enjoyed is the fact that these characters really develop during the novel, becoming multi-dimensional and interesting. They make mistakes, they say the wrong thing… and it makes the whole book so much more enjoyable. There’s twists and turns, unexpected surprises, right up till the last page.

Chaol, for me, became much more fleshed out in this book, and became a character in his own right. Dorian got his own scenes and secrets and, as a consequence, became a character rather than a plot device. Celaena turned darker, and actually killed some people, for once. Novel, for an assassin. Are these characters clichéd any longer? Not at all. They’re interesting, fleshed-out and explosive when put together.

Is the plot clichéd? No. It’s dramatic, full of cliffhangers and mystery and ultimately satisfying – sub-plots are set up and explored, and I feel that the focus isn’t exclusively on Celaena – we spend time focusing on Chaol, Dorian and Nehemia, both separately and when they interact. Theres a really nice balance between the character’s perspectives.

The world-building here is also great, delving further into the history of the world and setting up an intricate world and conflict that will (presumably) play out in later books.

If you were on the fence after Throne of Glass, this book is really, genuinely, worth the read. It’s good. Like five stars good. Reading it, I kept on comparing it to the Harry Potter books. Yeah, THAT GOOD.

So, I have a problem. How are any other books of 2016 going to compare to this first read? And how am I gonna cope until I can get my hands on Heir of Fire?!

Annalise x

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