Young Adult

All posts in the Young Adult category

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda – Becky Albertalli

Published August 6, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

What did I think?:

I was super nervous about reading this book. It was one of my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads’ favourite book last year and although I’m always confident that if she tells me I’ll like a book I will really like it, she hyped this one up good and proper. I’m sure you’ve had it before – that dreaded hype monster, where you feel the pressure to like a particular book that has been praised to the skies? Yep, that was Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda for me. So, you can imagine my relief when by about halfway through this novel, I declared myself in love. With the book, with the story, with the characters…. it’s a wonderfully diverse yet inclusive story and I still find myself thinking about the characters today and wondering what they’re up to.

Our main protagonist of the novel is Simon Spier, recently come to terms with the fact that he’s homosexual but not that willing to shout it from the rooftops just yet, so is remaining firmly in the closet until he can be sure of his family and friends reactions. However, he has been recently emailing this one guy, Blue and their correspondence has turned a little on the flirty side. Blue goes to the same school as him but like Simon, is not comfortable about being out and proud and both boys have no idea whom the other is.  However, their secret could soon be out and their relationship compromised when one of their emails falls into the wrong hands, hands that threaten blackmail and revealing the two boys for whom they really are. This could ruin everything for both Simon and Blue but is Simon brave enough to take a stand against the threats? Or is it just too much to risk when he is unsure of the reactions from his nearest and dearest?

As I mentioned before, I fell head over heels for this story and the characters within it. I loved both Simon and Blue and the emails that flipped between them – believe me, I’m not a fan of sickly sweet and conventional romance but their relationship was just too damn cute not to fall for and also incredibly convincing to read about. Also, it’s so refreshing to see more diverse, different ethnic groups and sexuality in young adult fiction nowadays, the more the better I say and please keep it coming! The humour, authenticity of the characters and all round good feelings I got from this novel was second to none and I applaud Becky Albertalli for writing such a touching piece of fiction that I think a lot of teenagers are going to be able to relate to. There’s no point in saying any more – just go read it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Highly Illogical Behaviour – John Corey Whaley

Published August 3, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sixteen year old Solomon has agoraphobia. He hasn’t left his house in three years, which is fine by him. At home, he is the master of his own kingdom–even if his kingdom doesn’t extend outside of the house.

Ambitious Lisa desperately wants to go to a top tier psychiatry program. She’ll do anything to get in.

When Lisa finds out about Solomon’s solitary existence, she comes up with a plan sure to net her a scholarship: befriend Solomon. Treat his condition. And write a paper on her findings. To earn Solomon’s trust, Lisa begins letting him into her life, introducing him to her boyfriend Clark, and telling him her secrets. Soon, Solomon begins to open up and expand his universe. But all three teens have grown uncomfortably close, and when their facades fall down, their friendships threaten to collapse as well.

What did I think?:

I was given this YA novel a while ago now when I attended a Faber event with my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads. Thank you so much to Faber for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review and apologies I’m only now getting round to reading it. In fact, the only question on my mind when I finished this book was why on earth did it take me so long to read it?! I remember being really excited about it when it was advertised at the event especially when I read the synopsis but then stupid life got in the way and it slipped off my radar. I’m here to tell you now though that John Corey Whaley is an amazing talent in the world of young adult fiction and I’ll certainly be catching up with the previous two books that he has written.

There are a few main characters in Highly Illogical Behaviour but our main focus is on Solomon, sixteen years old and severely agoraphobic, to the extent where he can no longer leave his house after a particularly nasty breakdown at his school a few years back. Lisa went to Solomon’s school and remembers the incident quite vividly but she wasn’t friends with Solomon at the time. She is desperate to get into a good psychology programme at college and is required to write an essay about her experience with mental illness which will give her the chance of a scholarship. She decides to make Solomon her new project and along with her boyfriend Clark, attempts to be-friend Solomon, break down his walls and set him along the road to recovery – or to a point where he can leave the house, at least.

Highly Illogical Behaviour follows Solomon’s struggles as we learn about what life is like for him on a daily basis, particularly when he goes through one of his traumatic panic attacks. We also see the blossoming friendship between the three teenagers and how it changes Solomon for the better, brings him out of his shell and gives him hope for the future. However, we also see the dangers of not telling the full truth and what that can do to a person who is already highly vulnerable.

This has everything you would want from a good young adult novel. It’s diverse, touching on race and LGBT issues not to mention mental health and the importance of friendships and family. I adored Solomon as a character and really sympathised with the trials he had to go through every day just to try and function and have a normal life. Lisa and Clark too were wonderful additions to the plot and even though Lisa had an ulterior motive initially in acquiring Solomon’s friendship, she goes through a huge growth of her own as a character throughout the story which was lovely to read about. It’s quite short as novels go, just 250 pages but I think that was the perfect length for the author to say what he wanted to say, in just the right way and he made an admirable job of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

August 2017 – Real Book Month

Published August 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. This month I want to focus on some of the titles my sister Chrissi Reads and I bought recently on our trip to the wonderful Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights in Bath. This is what I’ll be reading:

The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

What’s it all about?:

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) – Becky Chambers

What’s it all about?:

When Rosemary Harper joins the crew of the Wayfarer, she isn’t expecting much. The Wayfarer, a patched-up ship that’s seen better days, offers her everything she could possibly want: a small, quiet spot to call home for a while, adventure in far-off corners of the galaxy, and distance from her troubled past.

The crew is a mishmash of species and personalities, from Sissix, the friendly reptilian pilot, to Kizzy and Jenks, the constantly sparring engineers who keep the ship running. Life on board is chaotic, but more or less peaceful – exactly what Rosemary wants.

Until the crew are offered the job of a lifetime, tunneling through space to a distant planet. They’ll earn enough money to live comfortably for years… if they survive the trip.

But Rosemary isn’t the only person on board with secrets to hide, and the crew will soon discover that space may be vast, but spaceships are very small indeed.

The Immortals – S.E. Lister

What’s it all about?:

Rosa Hyde is the daughter of a time-traveller, stuck in the year 1945. Forced to live through it again, and again, and again. The same bulletins, the same bombs, the same raucous victory celebrations. All Rosa has ever wanted is to be free from that year — and from the family who keep her there. 
At last she breaks out and falls through time, slipping from one century to another, unable to choose where she goes. And she is not alone. Wandering with her is Tommy Rust, time-gypsy and daredevil, certain in the depths of his being that he will live forever.
Their journeys take them from the ancient shores of forming continents to the bright lights of future cities. They find that there are others like them. They tell themselves that they need no home; that they are anything but lost.
But then comes Harding, the soldier who has fought for a thousand years, and everything changes. Could Harding hold the key to staying in one place, one time? Or will the centuries continue to slip through Rosa’s fingers, as the tides take her further and further away from everything she has grown to love?
The Immortals is at once a captivating adventure story and a profound, beautiful meditation on the need to belong. It is a startlingly original and satisfying work of fiction.

Deathless (Leningrad Diptych #1) – Catherynne M. Valente

What’s it all about?:

A handsome young man arrives in St Petersburg at the house of Marya Morevna. He is Koschei, the Tsar of Life, and he is Marya’s fate. For years she follows him in love and in war, and bears the scars. But eventually Marya returns to her birthplace – only to discover a starveling city, haunted by death. Deathless is a fierce story of life and death, love and power, old memories, deep myth and dark magic, set against the history of Russia in the twentieth century. It is, quite simply, unforgettable.

Dreamwalker (Ballad Of Sir Benfro #1) – James Oswald

What’s it all about?:

The dragons of Glwad are dying. Persecuted for over two millennia, they’re a shrunken echo of the proud creatures they once were. And yet in new life springs hope: Benfro, son of Morgwm the Green, the first male kitling in a thousand years. Long ago dragons wrought a terrible wrong to the land, and now is the time for redemption.

Every young boy in the Twin Kingdoms dreams of being chosen for one of the great orders, and Errol Ramsbottom is no different. He longs to be a Warrior Priest of the High Ffrydd, riding to glorious victory in battle. But you should be careful what you wish for; it might just come to pass.

For almost a century there has been an uneasy truce between the Twin Kingdoms and the godless Llanwennogs to the north, but as King Diseverin descends ever further into drunken madness, his ruthless daughter Beulah takes up the reins of power. A time of war looks set to descend upon Gwlad, and it will surely draw everyone, man and dragon both, into its cruel game.

The booksellers in Mr B’s Emporium are so fantastic that they sold every single book to us, I honestly am looking forward to each and every one of them. I’m probably most excited for The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers as it has been absolutely everywhere and I’ve been meaning to get to it for the longest time but I’m also quite excited to read some Brandon Sanderson after seeing some book tubers raving about him. Also, Deathless is based on a Russian fairy tale…yep, sold sold sold! Have you read any of these? I’d love to know what you think!

 

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2017 – JULY READ – The Reptile Room (A Series Of Unfortunate Events #2) – Lemony Snicket

Published July 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dear Reader,

If you have picked up this book with the hope of finding a simple and cheery tale, I’m afraid you have picked up the wrong book altogether. The story may seem cheery at first, when the Baudelaire children spend time in the company of some interesting reptiles and a giddy uncle, but don’t be fooled. If you know anything at all about the unlucky Baudelaire children, you already know that even pleasant events lead down the same road to misery.

In fact, within the pages you now hold in your hands, the three siblings endure a car accident, a terrible odor, a deadly serpent, a long knife, a large brass reading lamp, and the appearance of a person they’d hoped never to see again.

I am bound to record these tragic events, but you are free to put this book back on the shelf and seek something lighter.

With all due respect,

Lemony Snicket

What did I think?:

Chrissi and I read the first book in the Series Of Unfortunate Events, The Bad Beginning in our Kid Lit challenge last year and with the television series being announced on Netflix that I really fancy watching, we decided to include the second book in the series, The Reptile Room this year. This book has been a really interesting turnaround for me. I enjoyed The Bad Beginning when we read it but sadly not as much as I was hoping to and some things about it irked me slightly, like the continuous explanation of certain words that the author used which I thought got a bit unnecessary at times (although I’m quite aware I’m not the intended audience for this book at all!). However, I was really surprised to find that I actually enjoyed The Reptile Room much more. Surprising, as quite a few people on GoodReads don’t agree with me and think the first book in the series was a lot better but personally, everything that annoyed me in the first book I just found charming in this second outing and I’m definitely more excited to carry on with the series than I was after The Bad Beginning.

Of course, we are back with the poor Baudelaire orphans – Violet, Klaus and Sunny who have been placed with a new guardian after their terrifying experience with Count Olaf in the previous novel. Their new distant relative, Montgomery Montgomery (hilarious!) who insists the children call him Uncle Monty is a respected herpetologist, i.e. someone who is involved in the study of amphibians and reptiles and an all round good egg. He even has a Reptile Room in his house where he looks after his creatures and carries out research. Uncle Monty is preparing for a big research trip to Peru and the children are delighted when they are invited to help him prepare and then told that they will accompany him and his research assistant on the trip. However, when the mysterious research assistant arrives, he has a different, much more wicked agenda in mind and the orphans are placed in a horrific and dangerous situation once more, just when they thought they were going to get their happy ending.

I don’t want to say too much more about the plot for anyone who hasn’t read it but let me assure you, it’s wonderful. I haven’t read a children’s villain for a little while now that is quite so evil and nasty but at the same time, almost a caricature of himself and I think adults will find him hugely entertaining. I felt like I connected a lot more with the children’s characters in this novel as well, much more so than the first novel in the series. I love clever Violet’s inventions that she always manages to come up with in the nick of time, the invaluable information that Klaus provides from his reading and even baby Sunny who really comes into her own in this story and saves the day. There’s one particular incident with one of Uncle Monty’s snakes, The Incredibly Deadly Viper (or is it?!) and Sunny that really made me smile and it was definitely one of the many highlights of the book for me. But when Lemony Snicket, just when are you going to give these poor children a bit of good luck in their lives? I don’t mind really, the stories are just too good! Now I just need to try and persuade my sister that we should put the third book in the series on our Kid Lit list for 2018.

For Chrissi’s fab review, please check out her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

NEXT TIME ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID LIT: Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman.

Queen Of Shadows (Throne Of Glass #4) – Sarah J. Maas

Published July 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

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.

What did I think?:

Have I mentioned that I’m an unashamedly desperate and adoring Throne Of Glass groupie? Because I am and with every book in the series, Sarah J. Maas’ world keeps getting more complex and the plot practically explodes with even more intricate details. Seriously, I’m beginning to wonder whether the author had this whole thing mapped out in her head from day one or if she is making it up as she goes along because this world she has built is so fascinating and incredibly detailed that I just marvel at her imagination and story-telling ability.

Queen Of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne Of Glass series and, as a result, is always tricky to review as I’m super wary of giving away spoilers and ruining everything for anyone who has not started this series yet and is considering it. I’m going to keep things as vague as I possibly can but I highly recommend if you’re at all interested in the epic journey that is Throne Of Glass to go and read the first few books and then come back. In this novel, Celaena Sardothien grows exponentially as an individual after having been under the most horrific suffering in the previous instalments of this story. She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, is ready to wreak revenge on those who have wronged both her and those that she loves, is desperate to save her land and her people and bring down the evil forces in her world that are determined to cause as much havoc, death and destruction as they can.

It’s not going to be an easy ride for Aelin. She comes across both old and new adversaries that are hell-bent on stopping her before she can ruin their mission. With Rowan Whitethorn by her side however and the blossoming of their relationship, she feels that she can face anyone and anything. The addition of new characters and the formation of strong friendships builds her strength and confidence up even further and with their ferocious support, Aelin may finally be able to move mountains, take down her own personal barriers, learn to love again and, of course, save the world from a deadly enemy.

I think I’ve already gushed on enough about how much I love the world building in this series, now I just have to take a few moments to describe to you the wonderful characters that Sarah J. Maas has created. First of all, Aelin herself, the gutsy, independent female lead that I fell in love with the instant she was introduced in the first Throne Of Glass novel. Then we have Manon Blackbeak, who I mentioned in my previous review Heir Of Fire and is just as utterly brilliant and intriguing in this volume – I’m eagerly anticipating great things happening with her character in future novels and can hardly wait. Then we have the new additions, Aelin’s new friend, the enigmatic Lysandra who I adored and Elide whose story at times actually broke my heart. In fact, there are a lot of characters to get to grips with in this series but they are all so beautifully fleshed out that I never found myself overwhelmed by the sheer number of them, I loved them all as individuals – yes, even the villains of the piece. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next book in the series, Empire Of Storms although I have to admit, it’s tinged with a side note of sadness. I can sense the series coming towards the end and although I know it has to happen, I’m dreading it!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Pointe – Brandy Colbert

Published July 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Theo is better now.

She’s eating again, dating guys who are almost appropriate, and well on her way to becoming an elite ballet dancer. But when her oldest friend, Donovan, returns home after spending four long years with his kidnapper, Theo starts reliving memories about his abduction—and his abductor.

Donovan isn’t talking about what happened, and even though Theo knows she didn’t do anything wrong, telling the truth would put everything she’s been living for at risk. But keeping quiet might be worse.

What did I think?:

Pointe by Brandy Colbert was one of my Chrissi Cupboard Month picks a while back now and recommended as a “must-read” book by my sister who is also a blogger over at Chrissi Reads. I remember when she first read it and reported back and she had a very visceral and emotional response to the story so I was intrigued as to whether I would feel the same. On finishing it, I can definitely see why she had that response. This novel is packed full of difficult and dangerous subject matters that could be quite tough to read about for some people. Ultimately, it wasn’t a five star read for me but it was a solid, memorable piece of fiction that I still remember months down the line after reading it.

This is partially due to our main character, a young girl called Theo. She has had a lot of drama and personal struggles in her short life so far including an eating disorder and difficult first relationship and has had to deal with her best friend, Donovan being abducted and secreted away where she cannot reach him. She is starting to get her life back on track, feeling brave enough to date boys again but her real passion in life is dancing and she is in the tough process of training to be a prima ballerina. When Donovan unexpectedly returns however, it dredges up a host of memories that Theo does not welcome and is definitely not prepared for. Has her friendship with Donovan stood the test of time? And can she put old ghosts to rest, start telling the truth, accept help from her close family and friends and finally move on from the past?

As I mentioned earlier, there are some awful subjects tackled in this novel. So, trigger warnings for eating disorders, abuse, drugs, cheating, manipulation….to name a few, the author has covered the entire spectrum of potentially damaging incidents that any person would be terribly unlucky to suffer! Theo may not be a particularly likeable character for some readers but I found her refreshingly real and even though she was flawed and made multiple mistakes and questionable decisions, the whole point of the novel is watching her adapt and grow into an adult who learned from what she had been through. It’s a gritty, dark story that does pull on your heart strings and unsettle you but is entirely worth the murky moments when we see how far our characters have come. Finally, I also loved that our main characters were black (hooray for a bit of diversity!) but their race was never fussed over or exaggerated. As it should be, of course!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Prisoner Of Night And Fog (Prisoner Of Night And Fog #1) – Anne Blankman

Published July 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her “uncle” Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf’s, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can’t stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can’t help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she’s been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she’s always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she’s ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

What did I think?:

I read this amazing debut novel some time ago now as part of my Chrissi Cupboard Month which are books recommended and loaned to me by my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads. As my sister is well aware of my taste in books, I was excited to get to this when she assured me I would love it but I have to say it was the subject matter that I also found intriguing. I adore books set around the World War II period in history, particularly if they are set in countries a bit more foreign to myself i.e. NOT the U.K. The fact that Prisoner of Night And Fog is actually set in early 1930’s Germany prior to the events of the war I found even more interesting as we get to see Adolf Hitler in his very initial years of power as the leader of the National Socialist Party, before he became a force to be reckoned with in Germany and indeed, throughout the world.

The second thing that drew me to this novel is that it is told from the point of view of Gretchen, a young girl who has grown up knowing Hitler as part of her family, affectionately referring to him as Uncle Dolf, whom her father served loyally until a terrible incident one day where her father was killed in an attempt to protect Hitler. After his death, Hitler appeared to pull her family even closer to his inner circle which only gives Gretchen more faith and belief in him in a person and his ideals. So when a young Jewish reporter, Daniel Cohen appears in her life with astonishing information about her father’s death, the real man behind the mask of “Uncle Dolf,” and the dangers of the National Socialist Party, Gretchen does quite literally not know what to think. She must now challenge everything she has been told and what she has believed and attempt to uncover the truth which is not only incredibly shocking but hugely dangerous for both herself and Daniel.

You can quite clearly understand when reading this novel how much research and love has gone into this subject area. Anne Blankman draws on real people and actual events to tell a fascinating story all about the early years of Hitler’s power that was not only entertaining and educational but is a story with so much pace, frightening moments and then periods of such tenderness and heart that it was a true joy to read. I just want to take a moment to talk about the characters also. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t sure what to make of Gretchen at first but it didn’t take too long before I began admiring her guts, bravery and difficult relationship that she had with her mother and especially with her brother, Reinhart who is definitely one of the most psychotic characters I have come across in literature in recent times. This novel is atmospheric, beautifully evoking Germany in uncertain times in the 1930’s, struggling with the past history of World War I and worried about the future of their country. I’m really looking forward to the second book in the duology, Conspiracy Of Blood And Smoke which I hope to get to very soon.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0