Archive for the ‘YA’ Category

Review: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Title: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Author: Matthew Quick
Publication date: 16 January 2014
Publisher: Headline
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781472208200
Length: 273 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

Leonard Peacock is turning 18. And he wants to say goodbye.

Not to his former best friend, whose torments have driven him to consider committing something tragic and horrific. Nor to his mum who’s moved out and left him to fend for himself. But to his four friends.

A Humprey Bogart-obsessed neighbour
A teenage violin virtuoso
A pastor’s daughter
A teacher

Most of the time Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not.

He wants to thank them and, and bid them farewell.

My thoughts

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has been recommended to me by an increasing number of people in the past few months and after hearing so many great things about it, my expectations were very high. Since it left such a lasting impression on the book blogger community and all those people whose taste I absolutely trust, and since I generally like books dealing with suicide or mental illness, I decided to give it a go. Now, after reading the book, I can’t thank all these people enough for their constant nagging – because it was simply amazing.

I loved this book for so many different reasons, I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps the best place to start is the narration and our main character, Leonard. On the surface, Leonard is your average eighteen-year-old secondary school student with an average life. Okay, maybe the fact that his mother abandoned him and, as it turns out later on, doesn’t have the faintest idea about what he’s going through and how tough his childhood has been isn’t so average. On the contrary. But other than that, he seems like any other guy his age. Until he starts talking. Through Leonard’s story we learn that, in fact, he couldn’t be any more different from everyone else. I loved his unique voice and his way of storytelling. And while he’s just a young guy trying to get through his school years, his attitude and his way of thinking, his thoughts about adulthood couldn’t be more mature. His anger and his thoughts about not wanting to grow up – because adults just don’t seem to remember how to be happy – reminded me of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye (one of my favourite classics of all time) and I loved Leonard just as much as I loved him.

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Review: The Dark Inside – Rupert Wallis

The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis

Title: The Dark Inside
Author: Rupert Wallis
Publication date: 30 January 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781471118913
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Paranormal
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

The House on the Hill has been abandoned for as long as James can remember. So when he discovers Webster, a drifter, hiding there, he’s instantly curious about the story behind the homeless man. What is he running from?

Afflicted by a dark curse, Webster is no longer who he used to be. But there is said to be a cure and it might just be that by helping Webster, James will find some solace of his own. Together they embark on a journey, not knowing that what they discover will impact them both in ways they never imagined…

My thoughts

Although the synopsis doesn’t reveal too much about the story, I was intrigued by the mysterious premise of the book. What is Webster running from? What is this dark curse? Will they find a cure before it’s too late? It sounded like an action-packed story full of twists and turns but in the end, it turned out to be quite different from what I expected. It’s not a bad book. Far from it. It just didn’t really work for me.

The first thing that took me a while to get used to is the fact that The Dark Inside is a mixture of fantasy and reality. It’s a very fairytale-like novel. There’s a bad witch and her loyal son, potions, curses, magic, you name it. Yet, the novel is set in an everyday place, somewhere in a small English village. Magical elements are mixed with real problems, real characters throughout the book. I kept wondering what to think: is this a magical tale? Is this real? What’s going on? This clash of two different worlds shouldn’t be a bad thing. But, again, it didn’t work for me.

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Review: Cruel Summer – James Dawson

Cruel Summer by James Dawson

Title: Cruel Summer
Author: James Dawson
Publication date: 1 August 2013
Publisher: Indigo
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9781780621081
Length: 324 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Won
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

A group of friends enjoy a long, hot summer in a Mediterranean villa – until someone starts killing them one by one…

A year after the suicide of one of their friends, the rest of the group decide to spend the summer together in a holiday villa in the Mediterranean. They’re hoping to get over the terrible events of the previous year, but then a new guest arrives – claiming to have evidence that the suicide was actually murder. When she is found dead, it becomes clear that the killer must be one of them – but who is it? And will they strike again?

My thoughts

I’ve heard a million wonderful things about this book even before I picked it up so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat, but I would have never predicted how much of a nail-shredder it actually is and how much I fell in love with it by the end. If I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I would say Cruel Summer is like a modern, young adult version of Agatha Christie’s timeless classic (and one of my favourite books of all time), And Then There Were None . It’s just as twisted, just as gripping as Christie’s book and is a definite must-read for adults and younger readers alike.

When I started reading the book it seemed a little slow paced compared to what I was expecting but once you get through the first couple of chapters it all makes sense. Every little detail from the characters’ past is relevant to the plot and what they’re going through at the moment and – as much as I dreaded it – it never gets dull. Not for one moment. In fact, once you realize that all of these characters all had a lot to lose  and could have easily killed Janey you just won’t be able to put the book down. I raced through the second half of the story in no time and couldn’t get it out of my head ever since.

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Review: Ostrich – Matt Greene

Ostrich by Matt Greene

Title: Ostrich
Author: Matt Greene
Publication date: 27 August 2013
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780345545213
Length: 336 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: NetGalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

This is Alex’s story. But he doesn’t know exactly what it’s about yet, so you probably shouldn’t either. Instead, here are some things that it’s sort of about (but not really):

It’s sort of (but not really) about brain surgery. It’s sort of (but not really) about a hamster named Jaws 2 (after the original Jaws (who died), not the movie Jaws 2). It’s sort of (but actually quite a lot) about Alex’s parents. It’s sort of (but not really) about feeling ostrichized (which is a better word for excluded (because ostriches can’t fly so they often feel left out)). It’s sort of (but not really (but actually, the more you think about it, kind of a lot)) about empathy (which is like sympathy only better), and also love and trust and fate and time and quantum mechanics and friendship and exams and growing up.

And it’s also sort of about courage. Because sometimes it actually takes quite a lot of it to bury your head in the sand.

My thoughts

Writing about people suffering from serious illnesses is a difficult thing to tackle but Matt Greene does a brilliant job in his debut novel. Ostrich tells the story of Alex, a young boy who has brain tumour and suffers from epilepsy which, despite the fact that he’s smart and seems to be among the best pupils at school, inevitably makes him feel like an outsider. Through the course of the book Alex undergoes brain surgery, falls in love (even if he doesn’t know this at the time), gets behind the wheels of his dad’s car for the first time, albeit illegally, analyses internet porn, tries to get to the bottom of his hamster’s odd behaviour and, with the help of his friend Chloe, devises a plan to find out what happened to his parents’ marriage. At first glance, it may seem like a simple story, a bitter-sweet saga of a young boy and everything he goes through in his early teens. It’s only when you read the last lines that you realize Ostrich is in fact a lot more complex than you have imagined.

I’ve always loved coming-of-age novels and this book was no exception. Although it took me a short while to get used to the language (Alex is very fond of science, grammar, and using lots of brackets, you see) and Alex’s narration, it was impossible not to be charmed by his personality and his witty remarks. And this is one of the reasons why I loved this book. With hindsight, it’s quite a sad story but without being sloppy or making you reach for your tissues every two seconds. In fact, Alex’s jokes (“I can swear in sixty-seven different languages. But I can apologize in only three, which means I could get beaten up in sixty-four countries.” is one of my favourites) and all the hilarious things he and his friend Chloe are up to make for quite an entertaining read. I do love a tear-jerker, don’t get me wrong. But books which can address difficult subjects while bringing a bit of humour into the plot always feel a bit more special – and that’s how I felt about Ostrich as well. It’s not simply a story of a boy with a serious illness. It’s so, so much more than that.

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Review: Life As We Knew It – Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title: Life As We Knew It
Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer
Publication date: 1 May 2008
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-15-206154-8
Length: 337 pages
Genre: Post-apocalyptic fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | AwesomeBooks | The Book Depository

Synopsis

High school sophomore Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to Earth, the way “one marble hits another.” The result is catastrophic. How can her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis are wiping out the coasts, earthquakes are rocking the continents, and volcanic ash is blocking out the sun? As August turns dark and wintry in north-eastern Pennsylvania, Miranda, her two brothers, and their mother retreat to the unexpected safe haven of their sunroom, where they subsist on stockpiled food and limited water in the warmth of a wood-burning stove.

Told in a year’s worth of journal entries, this heart-pounding story chronicles Miranda’s struggle to hold on to the most important resource of all—hope—in an increasingly desperate and unfamiliar world.

My thoughts

Have you ever read a book which was so annoying at times that you knew you were not supposed to like it, but for some weird reason you still did? That pretty much sums up how I felt about Life As We Knew It. While the first half of the book really vexed me, I ended up falling in love with the second half and not being able to put the book down.

What put me off and annoyed me the most in the first half was characterization. My God, it’s bad. The main character, a girl called Miranda, is supposed to be sixteen years old. She has two siblings: a younger brother called Jonny, aged 13, and an older brother called Matt, who is 18 (19 by the time the story ends). It’s been quite a while since I was sixteen years old myself but I’m pretty sure neither me, nor any of my classmates behaved or talked the way Miranda does throughout the story. To say that she’s immature and childish would be the understatement of the year. So much so that I found Jonny (just a reminder: he’s only thirteen) a lot more mature than her and that’s never a good sign. And if that wasn’t frustrating enough, their older brother was, unlike Mirandaa, too mature for his age. There was even a scene where, after listening to their mother’s suggestion, he  actually says something like “that’s not what we’re going to do”. And that’s where I got beyond irritated. You’re only eighteen, for the love of God! You’re not supposed to be the one to your mother what to do, not even in a situation like this. I don’t know if the author has any children or not but real teenagers aren’t like this, that’s for sure.

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Review: Vortex – Julie Cross

Cover of Vortex by Julie Cross

Title: Vortex (Tempest #2)
Author: Julie Cross
Publication date: January 3, 2013
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780230757165
Length: 434 pages
Genre: Science Fiction
Age group: Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Jackson Meyer has thrown himself into his role as an agent for Tempest, the shadowy division of the CIA that handles all time-travel-related threats. Despite his heartbreak at losing the love of his life, Jackson has proved himself to be an excellent agent. However, all that changes when Holly— the girl he altered history to save — re-enters his life. And when Eyewall, an opposing division of the CIA, emerges, Jackson and his fellow agents find themselves under attack and on the run. Jackson must decide between saving the love of his life and the entire world…

My thoughts

Having read Tempest, the first book in the series, last year, I was really looking forward to reading the second installment and I’m glad to say Julie Cross didn’t disappoint. While I had some issues with the characters at the beginning of the first book, Vortex just grabbed me at the first chapter and made me keep on reading right until the end.

The story pretty much picks up where Tempest ended and since it’s been about a year since I’ve read that book, I spent the first 50 pages trying to figure out what the heck is going on. I didn’t have time to re-read the previous book but in a hindsight, I should have. So here’s tip number one for you: if you haven’t read the first book yet, do so. It’s not one of those series that can be read in any order. I did read Tempest but I was still confused at first. Which leads us to tip number two: if you’ve read the first book but you don’t remember everything (names of the EOTs and minor characters, or how this whole half-jump/complete jump theory works) then make sure to take the time to read it again because you’ll have no idea what’s going on in Vortex. I did manage to get into the story and loved everything about it but still, once I have a bit more time I’ll need to sit down and read both books again.

In terms of the plot, I think there’s less time travelling in this book than what we had in Tempest. The main focus is rather on the fight between the EOTs, Eyewall, and Tempest and the characters themselves, which I didn’t mind at all. While I wasn’t a big fan of Jackson in book #1, I absolutely loved him in Vortex. Also, there are quite a few new characters – like Lily Kendrick, Jackson’s CIA partner – as well as some people we’ve already met, like Stewart (who must be one of my favourite YA characters ever) and Jackson’s dad. Although I really missed Adam, who only plays a minor role in this book, and his conversations with Jackson but the intricate and fast-paced plot and the new characters definitely make up for it. The only character I still don’t get or managed to get used to is Holly – I still think she acts like a spoilt brat and I don’t know what Jackson saw in her.

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Review: All the Little Animals – Walker Hamilton

Cover of All the Little Animals by Walker Hamilton

Title: All the Little Animals
Author: Walker Hamilton
Publication date: September 17, 2012
Publisher: Freight Books
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9566135-6-1
Length: 144 pages
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age group: Adult / Young Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon US | Amazon UK | The Book Depository

Synopsis

A beguiling, unsettling and ultimately moving modern fable set on the byways of rural Cornwall; a story about running away, the search for acceptance and burying road-kill.

Bobby is a 31 year old man with the mind of a small, frightened boy. He has run away from his privileged but abusive London home to rural Cornwall. Through an accident of fate he meets Mr Summers, a man with a terrible secret who, in atonement, has dedicated his life to burying all the little animals. Together they embark on a bizarre mission, and a savage act of revenge.

My thoughts

With only 144 pages All the Little Animals is a relatively short read which can easily be read in just a few hours, and one which I, once I picked it up, didn’t want to put down. The book doesn’t have a complicated plot and is most definitely not a white-knuckle ride that will keep you guessing till the end but it doesn’t have to be one in order to be memorable. The appeal of this novel lies not with its complexity but with all those emotions that are packed into such a tiny book.

Bobby is a 31-year-old man who, as a result of being involved in a car accident in his childhood, is trapped in the body and mind of a young boy. Bobby lives with his mother, the owner of a local department store, until she marries a man Bobby calls ‘The Fat’ and her health begins to deteriorate due to an abusive marriage and eventually dies. He, then, is forced to live with ‘The Fat’ and put up with verbal and physical abuse on a daily basis. When ‘The Fat’ kills his last remaining friend – a mouse called Peter – he decides to leave. Somewhere along the way he meets Mr Summers, a mysterious  – and as it turns out rather peculiar – little man. According to Mr Summers, who detests everything about the world we live in today, his job is to find and bury all the little animals that were run over by cars or lorries. He says “people can bury each other but the animals have to be helped. Not just rabbits and rats, but all the little animals. Other men kill them and I bury them”. Soon this eccentric man becomes Bobby’s teacher, his guardian and only friend and the one who eventually helps him overcome his traumas, let go of his fears and become free.

As I said, the plot might not be a complicated one but Bobby’s personality and his friendship with Mr Summers definitely makes up for it. The simplicity and childlike innocence that characterises Bobby’s narrative is both charming and heart-warming. His relationship with the old man and the way he talks about him and their adventures brought tears to my eyes quite a few times and is something I’m not going to forget anytime soon.

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