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Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of Thunder
A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a proof of this book from My Kinda Book in exchange for an honest review.

Last year, I read a great debut novel that became the biggest selling debut YA novel of 2016. That book didn’t have a romance in it, which was (and still is) unusual for YA. Beautiful Broken Things focused on the friendship between two best friends and how that changed when a new friend entered the mix.

Sara Barnard is back in 2017 with a brand new novel, but this one *is* a romance. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the story of Steffi, a teenage girl with selective mutism embarking on sixth form, and Rhys, a deaf boy who transfers to Steffi’s sixth form.

I’m always wary with books that tackle disability about how realistic and lifelike they are – there’s a really tendency for characters with a disability to be miraculously cured, but AQKOT feels like it has been well-researched and is sensitive. I learnt a lot about mutism and British Sign Language in this book, and it made me more aware and conscious about interacting with deaf people (for example, making sure they can read your lips if they are lip-reading).

This is a really special romance because Barnard gets awkward teenage flirting. The texts between Steffi and Rhys feel so real, and I fell in love with this book so quickly. I can’t really explain how much I loved the romance between these two, but it was cute and adorable and perfect.

I also really enjoyed how this book doesn’t shy away from sex. The sex in this book was realistic and well-done, and felt age-appropriate.

I can’t believe we’re only at the beginning of 2017 and this is already a very strong contender for my favourite book of 2017. An absolute must-read – and the cover is so shiny and beautiful and I think I need it on my shelf (I only have the proof!). Go and buy it now!

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Annalise x

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Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm
Animal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m finally on winter break and reading a tonne – I think (fingers crossed) I’m over my reading slump! I have a load of reviews to catch up on and hopefully will be posting more regularly over the coming weeks.

Animal Farm is a novella by George Orwell which was written during World War Two (in 1943, to be exact). What at first appears to be the story of farm animals rebelling against their farmer and setting up their own farm, is underneath a political statement about communism and Stalinist Russia. Really, this book is an education – if only you can understand the metaphors and relate the actions of the characters in the book to what actually happened in Russian history.

I genuinely loved this book – it’s clever and educational as well as being relatively easy to read and understand. I did have to look up who each character is playing (e.g. Napoleon as Stalin, Snowball as Trotsky) and the significance of the events in the book (e.g. the Battle of the Windmill is an allegory to the Battle of Stalingrad).

Animal Farm is a quick read (it’ s just over 100 pages) that is an interesting observation of society and human nature, as well as a statement on Russia in the early 20th century.

Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re trying to read more classics!

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annalsie

Review: Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

Sunny Side Up
Sunny Side Up by Holly Smale

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Sunny Side Up is my first Geek Girl novel (and it’s technically a special novella) although the first book is waiting for me at home – and I can’t wait to dive in.

Harriet Manners, the ‘Geek Girl’ of the series is a geek turned supermodel, and Sunny Side Up is the story of her debut at Paris Fashion Week. Harriet is intelligent and fascinated by facts – I love how there’s so much interesting information packed into this book and I loved the Paris setting. I believe we see a lot of the characters from the main series in this novella.

I loved this Summer Special, and I can’t wait to get stuck into the main series – this is such a fun summer read, and definitely one to pick up if you are a fan of the main Geek Girl series.

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Annalise x

Review: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

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My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts – she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous . . .

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind.

**Disclaimer: Received from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review**

First off, the cover design is gorgeous – it looks great on my bookshelf and the cover is so summery!

My Favourite Manson Girl is the story of Anna, who, when faced with family breakdown and being forced to move schools, steals her stepmother’s credit card information and flies from Georgia to California, to stay with her sister, Delia, a struggling actress. Soon she is thrust into the Los Angeles scene, researching Charles Manson and his ‘Manson girls’ for her sister’s ex-boyfriend’s indie film, whilst spending time on set with her sister’s current boyfriend as he writes for a cheesy kids show.

Alison Umminger’s writing is funny and fresh, and the whole book feels summery and original. The story turns dark at times, and seems to be a true reflection of Los Angleles (not that I would know, having never been there!). I loved the interesting family dynamic and the flawed characters (in particular, Anna’s mother, her sister Delia, and Anna herself) – each character had good times and bad times, times when they were unlikeable and others when they were perfectly nice. I particularly liked how Anna, the protagonist, was unlikeable at times, making judgments about other people and bullying a girl with her best friend.

The entire book is thought-provoking, with comparisons drawn between the seemingly crazed Manson girls and Anna’s own friends and family, as well as people in general. Anna also questions her own judgments and fascination with celebrity – the rash judgments she makes when first meeting people tend to be wrong, and Umminger perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to be a teenager, making decisions and judgments which feel right, but ultimately tend not to be. The romance especially challenges Anna’s preconceived ideas and was a sweet seam through the story.

Overall, a dark, summery read and a great addition to YA – original, fresh, and true to life. Definitely one for the summer TBR list!

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Have you read My Favourite Manson Girl? Will you be reading it? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks!

Annalise x

Review: Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

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Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.

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.

Disclaimer: Review copy received from netgalley.com in return for an honest review.

This book took me a week to read – and a little longer to get round to reading. It took me a while to get into Passenger – but once I was in, I was in hard. I read during my lunchbreaks, I read at work in the middle of running experiments, I read in the evenings curled up with a duvet by the window. I genuinely loved this book and the world it created.

I felt like this book was set into two parts – the setting, when Etta meets Nicholas and discovers about her abilities, etc. and the quest, where Etta and Nicholas jump from time to time, city to city, looking for the astrolabe, a magical object that Etta’s mother, Rose, has hidden somewhere in time and space. The setting up was a little slow, but enjoyable, but woah, the quest. I loved the places we visited (some of them ones I have visited myself), and the whole book is so interesting.

The concept – time travel, with passages between certain times and places – is so cool – like Doctor Who but with more rules, higher stakes. This book is definitely world-driven, rather than character-driven, but I still liked the characters.

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Nicholas is African-American, and (unfortunately) interracial relationships are still rare in fiction and YA. Etta battles with feminist ideas and the status of African Americans and women in the different time periods and places that they visit. I think this is the future of YA – more diversity, more discussion of prejudices and discrimination. In Passenger, diversity and feminism never feel forced, they are a welcome and interesting addition to the conversation.

Treating this book as the start of a trilogy, I’m going to give it five stars because I really enjoyed it. If I went into Passenger expecting a stand-alone novel, the ending is a cliffhanger, with some unresolved issues, and I may have been disappointed. Now, I’m just excited for Wayfarer (out Jan 2017) – which has an equally beautiful cover as Passenger does.

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This book gave me deep The Mortal Instruments vibes – the start of a beautiful series, with memorable characters and an interesting lore and world.

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Annalise x

Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

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Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review**

Stargirl is a book I initially heard (and intended to buy) years ago, but just never got round to reading. Originally published in 2000, Stargirl will be re-released (with a new, but similar cover) on 7 April 2016 in the UK. The cover (and covers in the past) is so intriguing, especially as there is no writing on the front (original and rule-breaking, like Stargirl herself).

Stargirl is told through the viewpoint of Leo, a student at Mica High. Stargirl (and yes, that is her name) bursts onto the scene, starting high school after years of being home-schooled. She’s fresh, wacky, and doesn’t care what anyone thinks.

She plays the ukelele at lunchtime and sings happy birthday to anyone and everyone.

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She doesn’t wear make-up and wears outlandish outfits.

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She carries around a rat called Cinnamon.

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Stargirl brings a whole new energy to Mica High, entrancing the student body and joining the cheerleading team.

But soon, Stargirl’s inherent niceness (to anyone and everyone) causes her trouble. She’s nice to the wrong people, they say. The students start to shun high school, and, as Leo realises he loves her, Leo gets shunned too. That’s when Leo tries to make Stargirl ‘normal’.

Stargirl is a really great story – a classic Young Adult novel – about what it means to stay true to yourself, even when others say you should change and conform. It’s a story of first love, and the pressure on high school students to be who others say they should be. Stargirl is written in such an infectious way – it really does feel like you’re there, in Mica, with Leo and Stargirl.

I really liked how the story wrapped up at the end – many YA novels today are left on a cliffhanger or in an ambitious way, and Stargirl ended in a way that allowed closure – although this will be a story that stays with me for a while.

Stargirl has already worked her magic on many past readers – this re-release is sure to capture a few more hearts.

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Annalise x

MOST ANTICIPATED: TBR September 2015

There’s tons of exciting new books coming out this September, it’s difficult to choose what to read first! Here’s a selection of my most anticipated.

  1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (1st September)

The adventures of Celaena Sardothien continue in the fourth installment in the Throne of Glass series. I’ve only read the first novel so far (review here), but I can’t wait to get stuck into the second and third books (which are apparently even better!).

Synopsis: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

2. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (3rd September)

This stand-alone novel has some amazing pre-release reviews and is sure to be a great read, after O’Neill’s debut Only Ever Yours (review here).

Synopsis: It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (29 September)

With a pre-release score of 4.34 and some very excited reviewers, this new series from the author of The Grisha series is set to be a sure-fire hit.

Synopsis: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

4. Menagerie by Rachel Vincent (29th September)

As a huge fan of Rachel Vincent’s Werecats series, I always look forward to her new releases, even if I don’t always read them. Menagerie is looking to be a must-read for me.

Synopsis: When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale. 

What are your most anticipated books? Have you read any of these forthcoming books? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x