Review: Behold the Bones by Natalie C. Parker

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Behold the Bones (Beware the Wild, #2)
Candace “Candy” Pickens has been obsessed with the swamp lore of her tiny Louisiana town for . . . forever. Name any ghostly swamp figure and Candy will recite the entire tale in a way that will curl your toes and send chills up your spine.

That doesn’t mean Candy’s a believer, however. Even though she and her friends entered the swamp at the start of summer and left it changed, Candy’s the only one who can’t see or feel the magical swamp Shine. She’s also the only one who can’t see the ghosts that have been showing up and spooking everyone in town ever since. So Candy concentrates on other things—real things. Like fighting with her mother and plotting her escape from her crazy town.

But ghosts aren’t the only newcomers in Sticks, Louisiana. The King family arrives like a hurricane: in a blur and unwanted—at least by Candy. Mr. King is intent on filming the rumored ghostly activity for his hit TV show, Local Haunts. And while Candy can’t ignore how attracted she is to eighteen-year-old Gage King and how much his sister, Nova, wants to be friends, she’s still suspicious of the King family.

As Candy tries to figure out why the Kings are really in town and why the swamp that had previously cast her aside now seems to be invading every crack in her logical, cynical mind, she stumbles across the one piece of swamp lore she didn’t know. It’s a tale that’s more truth than myth, and may have all the answers . . . and its roots are in Candy’s own family tree.

I never read Beware The Wild and I wasn't aware that Behold the Bones was a sequel to it. I still enjoyed it, but sort of wish I had read Beware the Wild first as it sounds brilliant now I basically know the whole storyline. 

Behold the Bones is a really special book in that it didn't feel like I was reading a YA book - I felt like I was reading something super special and different. Maybe it's the setting - this rich, atmospheric southern swamp setting with it's peculiar characters and lore really made this book stand out. Maybe it was the romance, because it doesn't go a typical direction and despite the fact that we don't get to know the guy Candace ends up with that well, I still loved the way it went.

Candace was such a fantastic character - she's sarcastic and tough and a bit of a cow sometimes, but her voice was such a delight to read. I loved her friends, Sterling and Abigail, and I loved her cousins. I even really liked getting to know Nova and Gage and their father, and all of Candace's family. Parker has a brilliant way of making every single character stand out.

This book was tense and creepy, but not quite as spooky as I had been hoping when I picked it up. The climax was fast paced and I loved getting absorbed in the mystery behind Candace and her family, but at times the pace did slow quite substantially and I found myself losing interest a little.

Overall, Behold the Bones was such an engaging, well written book and I only wish I had read Beware the Wild earlier. Despite some pacing issues, I really enjoyed this book!

Overall Rating: B+

Book released 23rd February by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: Anne & Henry by Dawn Ius

Friday, 12 February 2016

Anne & Henry

Henry Tudor’s life has been mapped out since the day he was born: student body president, valedictorian, Harvard Law School, and a stunning political career just like his father’s. But ever since the death of his brother, the pressure for Henry to be perfect has doubled. And now he’s trapped: forbidden from pursuing a life as an artist or dating any girl who isn’t Tudor-approved.

Then Anne Boleyn crashes into his life.

Wild, brash, and outspoken, Anne is everything Henry isn’t allowed to be—or want. But soon Anne is all he can think about. His mother, his friends, and even his girlfriend warn him away, but his desire for Anne consumes him.

Henry is willing to do anything to be with her, but once they’re together, will their romance destroy them both?

I wasn't aware of this until a short while ago, but in the announcement of this book's signing, the author described Anne as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Authors, please listen to me. Never use stock character descriptions to describe your characters - we want to think that we are going to be reading original characters, not some trope rewritten. Anne is no Zooey Deschanel or Ramona, she's Anne and had I  read that announcement it would have turned me off this book right away. Seriously, imagine if all of the publicity about Twilight described Bella as a special snowflake Mary-Sue!

But thankfully I read this book before I learned about that and so I didn't have preconceived opinions of Anne - she was, in hindsight, a sort of manic pixie dream girl type, coming in and turning Henry's life around. Opening him up to new types of people and allowing him the chance to change his views on the world. Henry was a weak character, fickle and overly attentive of the gossip people threw around. This actually made him the perfect modern day representation of horny, fickle King Henry VIII.

I honestly can't see how Ius could have rewritten one of history's most tragic love stories any better. Every little thing related back to Queen Anne and King Henry's real life relationship and even the ending, whilst less fatal was done perfectly. As much as I wished that the ending could be happy, there clearly was no way for this to be... I think Ius dealt with it all in the best way possible - the injustice, the feelings, the judgement. It was so well done.

I would be so excited to read anything else by Dawn Ius, especially if it was in the same vein of Anne & Henry.. It didn't blow me away, but it did entertain me thoroughly.

Overall Rating: B

Book released 1st September by Simon Pulse
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Word for Yes by Claire Needell

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

The Word for Yes

After their parents’ divorce, Jan, Erika, and Melanie have to get used to the new world order: a father who’s moved to another continent and a mother who throws herself into moving on. Jan, off at her first semester of college, has plenty to worry about, including an outspoken roommate who’s kind of “out there” and an increasingly depressed and troubled long-distance boyfriend. Her younger sisters, left at home in New York City, and dealing with all the pressures of life in high school, aren’t exactly close. Erika is serious and feels awkward and uncomfortable in crowds, though her beauty tends to attract attention. Melanie is socially savvy and just wants to go out—to concerts, to parties, wherever—with her friends. The gap between all three girls widens as each day passes.

Then, at a party full of blurred lines and blurred memories, everything changes. Starting that night, where there should be words, there is only angry, scared silence.

And in the aftermath, Jan, Erika, and Melanie will have to work hard to reconnect and help one another heal.

This was a skimmy book, and even then I didn't finish it...

There seems to be a massive explosion of books focusing sexual abuse/rape/the blurred lines around it all. Whether that's because people have realised it's SUCH AN IMPORTANT ISSUE, or whether authors are just trying to tackle something new, or whether it's just about the fact that many of us YA reader/reviewers can't read enough of them, I don't know. There are good ways of doing it (All The Rage, What We Saw) and less effective ways (Every Last Promise)... then there are some books which completely miss the point (The Word for Yes).

Now, there are many reviewers that enjoyed this a heck lot more than me, and I definitely think they have valid points, but for me this book just didn't put enough development and emotion into the situation: Melanie came across as somebody using what had happened to her as a reason to become this voice, but actually there were blurred lines in the whole thing and I don't think that was focused on enough for me to believe any of it.

I felt that the characters all blurred into one to the point where I couldn't care less what happened in any of their lives, and Melanie was straight up a b*tch, so I just didn't connect with her enough to really be on her side, even in such a difficult time.

As I said though, many reviewers didn't feel this way. I would recommend that you go and read the positive reviews before you make a decision on this book. Goodreads is always a good place to start.

Overall Rating: DNF

Book released 16th February 2015 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Bluescreen by Dan Wells

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Bluescreen (Mirador, #1)
Los Angeles in 2050 is a city of open doors, as long as you have the right connections. That connection is a djinni—a smart device implanted right in a person’s head. In a world where virtually everyone is online twenty-four hours a day, this connection is like oxygen—and a world like that presents plenty of opportunities for someone who knows how to manipulate it.

Marisa Carneseca is one of those people. She might spend her days in Mirador, the small, vibrant LA neighborhood where her family owns a restaurant, but she lives on the net—going to school, playing games, hanging out, or doing things of more questionable legality with her friends Sahara and Anja. And it’s Anja who first gets her hands on Bluescreen—a virtual drug that plugs right into a person’s djinni and delivers a massive, non-chemical, completely safe high. But in this city, when something sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and Mari and her friends soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy that is much bigger than they ever suspected.

Look! A hispanic main character, and double look - the girl on the cover actually looks hispanic and has a mechanical arm. It's almost a dream come true!

I think I am one of the few people who was let down by Partials - I read Partials and pushed myself into Fragments and that was so sluggish that I gave up on the series. When I requested Bluescreen I don't think I realise who the author was otherwise I may well have just not requested it at all. Thankfully, I did. I say thankfully because I really, really enjoyed Bluescreen. I was gripped from the start because of the gaming concept and despite the fact that there is quite a lot of build up before the Bluescreen 'drug' is introduced, I was really enjoying this world that Wells had created. I think part of my issue with Partials was how overly-detailed everything was and it was the same in this book except it added to this book, not detracted. I was absorbed into every aspect of Mari's world and I really enjoyed it.

Pace wise, I can't claim that this book is all go go go. There were some parts which dropped in pace and I had to push on because I knew it was going to get good, I think this book may have been a little longer than was necessary. For the most part though Bluescreen was fast paced, enjoyable and gripping. I actually found the action in the ending really gripping, but I think my favorite part is through the middle, when Mari is investigating the drug.

There are some... suggestions of romance. It isn't a big deal though. The guy who seemed a potential love interest (Saif) is a dealer of Bluescreen who joins Mari on her investigation but spoilery things happen that really throw a curveball in the works and nip that in the bud. Mari herself was a strong character though - she didn't need any man, besides - she has the Cherry Dogs, her gaming party who were like, such a brilliant supporting cast.

Overall, Bluescreen was an enjoyable book. My interest did decrease in parts but for the most part it was engaging and suspenseful and packed with action. I loved the world in this book. 

Overall Rating: B

Book released 16th February 2016 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Unquiet by Mikaela Everett

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Unquiet

For most of her life, Lirael has been training to kill—and replace—a duplicate version of herself on a parallel Earth. She is the perfect sleeper-soldier. But she’s beginning to suspect she is not a good person.

The two Earths are identical in almost every way. Two copies of every city, every building, even every person. But the people from the second Earth know something their duplicates do not—two versions of the same thing cannot exist. They—and their whole planet—are slowly disappearing. Lira has been trained mercilessly since childhood to learn everything she can about her duplicate, to be a ruthless sleeper-assassin who kills that other Lirael and steps seamlessly into her life.

The Unquiet is one of those books that can go two ways. It can either be loved, which a lot of people seem to have done, or it can fall into the category of 'meh' which it did for me.

In fact, this is a DNF review. It was too meh for me to get into.

After spending around a month trying to pick this book up and get into it, I gave up and DNF'ed this book at 40%. This is partly to do with the distinct lack of world building but also probably something to do with the fact that this book had a very floaty, lyrical narrative that some people will probably say was gorgeous prose but for me just seemed disconnected and boring.

Trust me. I wanted to like this book. I wanted to love it and I know a lot of people have loved this book. Just because I didn't doesn't mean that you won't.

However, I just didn't get into it for the above reasons.

Overall Rating: DNF at 40%

Book released 22nd September by Greenwillow Books
Book received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Review: The Distance from A to Z by Natalie Blitt

Thursday, 4 February 2016

The Distance from A to Z
Seventeen-year old Abby has only one goal for her summer: to make sure she is fluent in French—well, that, and to get as far away from baseball and her Cubs-obsessed family as possible. A summer of culture and language, with no sports in sight.

That turns out to be impossible, though, because her French partner is the exact kind of boy she was hoping to avoid. Eight weeks. 120 hours of class. 80 hours of conversation practice with someone who seems to exclusively wear baseball caps and jerseys.

But Zeke in French is a different person than Zeke in English. And Abby can’t help but fall for him, hard. As Abby begins to suspect that Zeke is hiding something, she has to decide if bridging the gap between the distance between who she is and who he is, is worth the risk

Zeke. Zeke. Zeke.
I may have a brand new book boyfriend. Zeke Martin. I mean, despite the fact that I spend the first 40% of this book trying to figure out whether or not I even liked him, I really do think he redeemed himself in the second half of this book.

Okay, let me put this out there - this didn't grab me straight away. I was at first bemused by Abby's dislike for anything baseball - I mean, she has her reasons but it doesn't mean she should be flat-out rude to anybody who even wears a baseball cap. I disliked her at first for this reason. Then she meets Zeke, and gets to know him. Zeke bridges the gap between her hatred for baseball and her love for French and the poor girl doesn't know what to do. Plus it doesn't help that Zeke is super sweet inside the classroom and when they are roaming the campus talking in French but when they aren't together he acts like a player. Poor girl, I couldn't help but feel for her from then on out.

The book definitely redeems itself from there though. Zeke and Abby seemed like a not-as-lovable (but still very likeable) version of St Clair and Anna from Anna and the French Kiss and I loved their dynamics and the way they changed with the relationship. And as I said at the start, Zeke after the first half of the book = love. He is so sweet and caring, putting Abby first. I couldn't even find it in myself to dislike him when he admitted that he had lied to Abby.

Plus, this book isn't just a cutey cutey contemp read, it deals with Abby's room-mate Alice's issues with social anxiety and panic attacks, something that really resonated with me and I think fit perfectly into this book.

And let me just mention Blitt's writing, because this woman is talented. The writing itself is nothing amazing in this genre but the way she managed to create individual characters and write dialogue that fit their personalities was just brilliant. I will be adding her to my 'must read authors' list. It doesn't exist yet, but I'll write it.

Overall, The Distance From A to Z didn't quite hit a grand slam, but I'd say it was close to a home run. It was an enjoyable, engaging book with characters that grew on me! 

Overall Rating: B+

Book released 12th January 2016 by HarperCollins
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Waiting on Wednesday (3rd February 2016)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Anyway, here is my WOW pick, let me know what you think and link me to yours!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer
November 8th 2016 by Feiwel and Friends


Long before she was the terror of Wonderland — the infamous Queen of Hearts — she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love.

Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king's marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Marissa Meyer does Queen of Hearts. I have so many amazing expectations for this. I'm not a massive Marissa Meyer fan.... but this sounds perfect and amazing!