Review: Haunt Me by Liz Kessler

Haunt MeTitle: Haunt Me

Author: Liz Kessler

Series: N/A

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance

Received as an ARC from YALC

Summary (from Goodreads)

Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they’ve gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn’t the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide – life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe’s brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school – but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are – including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin’s decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?

Review

I’m struggling a little to express my thoughts about this one, beyond saying ‘it was super cute, you should read it.’

Which makes it sound like it was candy floss – sweet and nice, but made of air. It wasn’t. It deals with some quite challenging themes – bullying, self harm, drug taking, suicide, loss of a sibling and anxiety. All three of the main characters are in dark places, and through their relationships, come to find new peace.

I guess the reason it’s as fluffy and cute as it was is because the focus is very much on the romance – the giddy, butterflies in the stomach feeling of connecting with someone, to the intense, consuming obsession of young love. The bad stuff is a way for the characters to connect, to understand each other at a deeper, more meaningful level, and though Kessler doesn’t shy away from showing how horrible and difficult their lives can be, there’s something in the tone from the very beginning that reassures you that everything is going to be just fine.

So, a cute, lovely read, perfect for summer holidays. Would go particularly well with candy floss.

Rating: 4/5

Sampler Round Up #2

We begin this week with a double winner.

unbecomingUnbecoming by Jenny Downham (Out now from David Fickling Books)

I’m a fan of Jenny Downham, having enjoyed Before I Die and Me Against You, so I came to this prepared to enjoy. Downham does family disfunction so well, and in a few scant pages, I already have a great sense of the issues the character Katie is facing, the complications that might arise from them, and I have sympathy for Katie as a character as well. I would love to see where this story goes, and because it’s Jenny Downham, I know it will probably break my heart somewhere along the way. Tissues at the ready if I ever get my hands on a copy of this! 4/5

eden summerEden Summer by Liz Flanagan (Out now from David Fickling Books)

This one’s a debut, so no previous history with the author influencing my interest. It was all down to the tense and gripping first few pages from the sampler. Again, the main character Jess is quickly established, and hints are dropped about a past she’d rather forget. But what really hooks the reader is the knowledge that soon follows that Jess’s best friend Eden has gone missing. Tension is raised all throughout the very small 15 page extract, and I’m sure had I been reading the full thing, I wouldn’t have been able to put it down – probably not until the book was finished if the quality of the writing and story-telling kept on in the fashion it started in. 5/5

Black Light Express
Black Light Express by Philip Reeve (Out October 2016 from Oxford University Press)

This one left me a little disoriented as it’s a sampler for book 2 in the Rail Head series, and I haven’t read the first one. It’s clearly a rich and layered world, hugely imaginative and detailed – because I was lost from the get go, pretty much. But, it does sound really interesting, and I like some of the ideas explored – the freezer prisons, trains that take you around the universe and giant worm creatures that lay train tracks. It all sounded like such good fun – adventurous and thrilling. I would definitely pick up Rail Head if I saw it in the library. 3.5/5

all fall downAll Fall Down by Ally Carter (Out Now from Orchard)

I’ve been meaning to read some Ally Carter for a while and this sampler has reinforced that desire. Sassy, imperfect heroine Grace is likeable instantly, even though she has a long way to go in terms of growth and character development before she’s actually a well rounded person – but that’s good, because this is the first book in a series and the character needs somewhere to go. And what an interesting setting – a series of embassies all together, creating a little melting pot of international cultures, affairs and tensions. It’s not something I’ve seen before in a YA novel, and that makes me all the more excited about it. 4/5

this raging lightThis Raging Light by Estelle Laure (Out now from Orchard)

And we’ll end on another winner, because I just loved this sampler. I really, really want to read this. It reminds me in some ways of Everything Everything and I’ll Give You the Sun, with it’s light, poetic narration and exploration of serious issues with equal measures of humour and heartbreak. And that from fifteen pages or so. It’s a story about a girl who’s father has left, followed by her mother going on ‘vacation’ and not coming back, leaving her trying to hold everything together. And you just know that everything is going to fall apart. I will be hunting this one down at some point, because I have to know what happens next. 5/5

Review: Contagion by Teri Terry

contagionTitle: Contagion

Author: Teri Terry

Series: Dark Matter #1

Genre: YA Science Fiction

Received ARC at YALC

Summary (from Blurb)

Young runaway Callie survived the disease but not the so-called treatment.

Her brother Kai is still looking for her.

Ans his new friend Shay may hold the key to uncovering what truly happened.

Review

A book so new, I had to hunt for the cover, and Goodreads doesn’t even have a summary up yet! Of the ARCs I got my hands on at YALC, this is definitely the one that had me most excited, despite my lukewarm feelings towards the other Teri Terry book I’ve read – Slated.

What can I say – mysterious diseases ravaging the country is one of my favourite story tropes since I read The Stand, and it’s nice to see one set in Britain, not America.

The story takes a little while to get going, though the hour countdown in the chapter heads does add a lot of tension to proceedings, but once the disease breaks out, things start moving apace. It’s nothing at first that we haven’t seen before – panic, fear, the mysterious spread of the disease and the mystery of it’s origin. But as things progress it becomes clear that it’s not an ordinary super disease.

For starters, there’s Callie. It’s not a spoiler to say she’s dead – she’s dead from the get go. But she’s a physical presence, able to influence her surroundings, interact with certain people, and so far she’s the only one of her kind. Of all the people dying from the illness, only Callie seems to be stuck in ghost form.

Then there’s the research station where Callie is in the start of the story. They appear to be the source of the illness, but what exactly they were trying to achieve is a mystery, as there’s no one left alive to talk to about it, and Callie’s memory of her time there is patchy. Plus, she was a prisoner, and therefore didn’t know everything anyway. There’s plenty of mystery and intrigue to keep the pages turning.

One thing that did bug me a lot was Shay. I spent the first half of the book convinced she was a boy, for a start. I’m not sure what it was about her characterisation that made me think this way, and it wasn’t a problem – I had no issue with the character as male, and the romance with Kai was just as sweet and touching as a gay romance as it was a straight one. But when I worked out that she was female, it took some mental gymnastics to stop thinking of her as the awkward, nerdy boy I’d been picturing her as in my head. I’d just about got used to it when the book ended.

I don’t know if this was a failing on part of the writing, or if it was my brain. Probably the latter – I did read it on the train home from YALC. I was very tired!

Overall, an exciting, often tense story. It suffers a little for being the first in a (probably) trilogy. There’s no real resolution at the end – a style of storytelling I’m starting to tire of, particularly in YA. I just want to know what happens next, dammit. But then, that’s probably more of a stamp of approval than anything else I’ve said in this review.

Rating: 4/5

Review: Fierce Player by Liza Street

fierce playerTitle: Fierce Player

Author: Liza Street

Series: Sierra Pride #4

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Received for review from the author

Summary (from Goodreads)

Kate Ahrens has a problem—she keeps imagining creepy men following her while she walks to and from her college campus. It’s the result of too much time spent developing games, and not enough time talking to actual people. But when she meets the hot librarian with amazing eyes, she starts to think maybe she just hadn’t found the right person to talk to.

As the fourth brother in the shapeshifting Sierra Pride, Maverick Fournier isn’t intimidated by much. Kate, though, with her hot pink hair and sexy piercings, makes him completely lose his cool. He wants to protect her, smell her, and mate her—maybe not in that order. Unfortunately, there are some other men interested in Kate, and their interest isn’t at all romantic. Even though protecting her means revealing his animal side, Maverick is determined to keep her safe and win her love.

Review

This has been my favourite in the Sierra Pride series so far, and the first time that I felt completely satisfied with the story in it’s short form. It’s a perfect, cute, sexy story in which the romance felt fully developed.

A lot of my enjoyment of this did stem from the idea of a sexy librarian. I can’t help it. It’s the bookworm in me. But I also liked Kate – she was feisty and unconventional with a bit more gumption than the previous heroines. Which is not to say anything against the previous heroines – I liked all of them too – but Kate and Maverick as a combination was just hitting all my favourite romance tropes.

There continues to be a bit of development of the wider world and plot line too, with Gabriel finally allowing Maverick to get in touch with their sisters. I’m really hoping this development means we’ll get a gender switch up in an upcoming book, because I’d love to see the world from the perspective of a female shifter – the woman being the supernatural one is another of my favourite tropes!

So, a brilliant story in and of itself, but with a promise of further shake ups later in the series – I can’t help but thinking that this series is going to reach new heights very soon!

Rating: 5/5

Sampler Round Up #1

As part of the YALC stands, lots of Samplers were being given away. I’m going to read all the ones I picked up (a lot, a good job they are only a fifteen or so pages long for the most part!) and do short round ups of what I think of the stories, whether I would pick the book up etc.

The star ratings in this case are an indication of my excitement towards the book, not of its overall content. Obviously, one should not judge a book by fifteen pages alone.

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (Out 15th September 2016 from Gollancz

A space opera in the style of Star Wars and Firefly – all rustic and worn down, rather than spacey and new. There was a lot of setting up in the first few pages, which didn’t do much for my understanding of the story direction. It was just getting going when it finished. I imagine it’s quite a long book – the sort that becomes more compulsive the further you get in to it. I’m not a big reader of space opera, and that, more than anything, was why this one didn’t do much for me. I might pick it up if I saw it in the library and fancied trying something different, but I won’t be rushing out to buy this one. 2/5

IMG_2581

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough (Out now from Gollancz)

Described as “Mean Girls for the Instagram Age”, 13 Minutes is the story of a girl who almost dies in a river and wants to know what happened. It’s very much immersed in the Social Media world, with a chapter of text messages and plenty of references to social media platforms in the other chapters. I’ve just finished reading The Death House by Pinborough and loved it, so I was ready to love this as well, and did. I was annoyed to turn the page and find the sampler was over. I’d definitely pick this up from the library, and if I hadn’t already bought a ton of books, I’d probably buy it. 5/5

Paper PrincessPaper Princess by Carys Jones (Out October 2016 from Accent YA)

I wasn’t enamoured with this one. It’s not to say there’s anything wrong with the book – I imagine 10 year old me would have loved it. It is, as the cover copy says, very much for the Jacqueline Wilson fan. I loved Jacqueline Wilson when I was younger, but I wouldn’t read her books now. It’s very fresh and modern, with Frozen references – perfect for the 2010s teenager – but covers those age old themes of living with siblings, such as fighting over the telephone.  So I wouldn’t pick this up, personally, but I think my eight year old sister would probably love it. 1/5

girl hearts girlGirl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe (Out Now from Scholastic)

Another sampler that didn’t really do it for me. This is an autobiography about a young woman discovering her sexuality and herself through her travels. The sampler is a few chapters from partway through the book, and describes the first meeting between the narrator and her future girlfriend. While I applaud the honesty and bravery of writing about a personal story, and feel that it could be a book that benefits teenagers, I just didn’t get along with the writing style. It was too bitty, rushing over important moments (like the first meeting with girlfriend, which was brushed over with a single sentence) and didn’t have any weight as a result. Not something I’ll be looking out for, though I imagine some will love it! 1/5

The Goldfish BoyThe Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson (Out January 2017 from Scholastic)

This one has me very excited. In the vein of Curious Incident, Wonder and Butter, it’s a story about an unconventional character with a problem. For Matthew, the titular Goldfish Boy, it’s OCD and germ-phobia. The sampler only gives two chapters, and not the first two chapters either, but I was already rooting for Matthew, sympathising with his issues – particularly with his parents who seem not to understand his hardships at all. So, engaging, with exploration of an interesting illness that I’ve never seen highlighted in this way, particularly in a YA book. I think this could be a real winner – I just hope it lives up to the pedigree of the books it is similar to! 5/5

 

YALC Book Haul

My suitcase arrived home (just a couple of days after I did) containing my book (and swag) haul from YALC. Some of the books were freebies, some I bought. Here’s what I picked up!

Free ARCs

Contagion ARCThe Memory BookThe Call

(Plus Haunt Me by Liz Kessler, which I don’t have a picture of. Carole Heidi and I are sharing the arcs between us, as she was able to get in early enough to get them, and I wasn’t! I’m reading Contagion, she’s reading Haunt Me, neither of which have actual covers yet, they’re so new.)

Books I Bought

Rivers of London A darker shade of magic A monster calls

(I went saying I was going to buy Victoria Schwab’s book. I left with Ben Aaronovitch and Patrick Ness’ too. What can I say, I’ve been looking for an excuse to buy A Monster Calls for forever, and Ben Aaronovitch was such an engaging speaker, plus it’s paranormal police procedural, and that’s what I write!)

Freebie Bonus

Kook

(Given to us because they cancelled the Thursday)

Review: Fierce Protector by Liza Street

Fierce protectorTitle: Fierce Protector

Author: Liza Street

Series: Sierra Pride #3

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Received for review from the author

Summary (from Goodreads)

Miranda Hsin is a grad student with a goal: grab her mountain lion samples and get the hell out of the woods. She doesn’t mind nature and she’s great at tracking her quarry, but there’ve been some strange footprints—barefoot human footprints—in a stretch of forest that should be free of people. She’s used to having all the answers, but suddenly she’s without a clue.

In danger of being banished from his pride, Gabriel Fournier came to the forest to forget his brother’s mate. Now he’s finally got his eye on a woman who can make him forget all about Hera, and Gabriel has a chance at happiness…if only the two of them can put enough faith in their love to shake off Miranda’s advisor, a woman intent on using Gabriel as a science project.

Review

The Sierra Pride series continues pairing off sexy shapeshifters, this time with Alpha of the pride, Gabriel, taking his turn to find a mate.

Gabriel has been a bit of a… well, a bit of a knob so far in the series – trying to use his alpha status to muscle in on Hera. Here we find him in self imposed exile, trying to get his brother’s mate off his mind.

So, it’s a little trickier to warm to him at first, but soon he meets Miranda and sparks start to fly. And then we’re in the familiar territory of sparks flying, sexual chemistry going off the charts, and a spanner being thrown in the works before our heroes can achieve their happily ever after.

The whole point of the series is that they are short, sweet, sexy romances, but I’ve never felt the ‘short’ quite so bad as I did on this one. Miranda’s situation and the antagonist – Miranda’s boss – are so interesting, I just wanted more, more, more. Which left me feeling a little unsatisfied when things were wrapped up as quickly as they were.

Street continues to deliver exciting, page turning chemistry between her leads, with interesting background stuff developing alongside the complete narrative of each starring couple. I’m excited to see where the series takes me next!

Rating: 4/5