Book Review: Speechless

SpeechlessSpeechless

by Hannah Harrington

Published: September 2012 by Mira Ink

Version: Ebook from publisher and Netgalley (review my own, honest opinion)

Rating: 4.5 sofas

Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret

Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast—and nearly got someone killed.

Now Chelsea has taken a vow of silence—to learn to keep her mouth shut, and to stop hurting anyone else. And if she thinks keeping secrets is hard, not speaking up when she’s ignored, ridiculed and even attacked is worse.

But there’s strength in silence, and in the new friends who are, shockingly, coming her way—people she never noticed before; a boy she might even fall for. If only her new friends can forgive what she’s done. If only she can forgive herself.

I was excited to read this as I have heard nothing but good things about it. The idea seemed pretty simple; a loudmouth girl whose outbursts had serious consequences decides to take a vow of silence.

However, the story runs much deeper than that. It explores as teenagers (and adults) how easy it is to give into peer pressure. And how we convince ourselves that things we say or do aren’t really *that* bad. This book turns that all on a head, and shows that actually the little things can have dire results. And even if we might not remember it, something we say or do can have a profound effect on someone else, and therefore we should really think before we act.

The idea of taking a vow of silence baffles me. Obviously it would be totally impractical in a working day, but it is such a powerful notion in this book. It really highlights how much we rely on our voice, and different ways of expressing it. 

Although this book focusses on silence, ironically, it is also about speaking out. Chelsea is an easy target because she can’t really fight back. But does this allow her to be bullied?

Ultimately Speechless is about Chelsea’s journey of self discovery. Learning that being cool or popular doesn’t always equate with being happy. You should never have to be horrible to someone or hide your true self in order to gain friends. Asha is the personification of this; she doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. And if that means she is ignored or bullied by the ‘popular’ group, then thats okay because she is true to herself.

I fell in love with Speechless. I adore issue books and this one certainly did not disappoint. It hit me a lot deeper than I expected, with the writing both emotional and beautiful. Perfect for any teenagers, it highlights the importance of standing up for yourself and not following the crowd. Highly recommended; 4.5 sofas!  

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Book Review: Acid

AcidAcid

by Emma Pass

Published: April 2013 by Random House 

Version: Ebook from publisher and Netgalley (review my own, honest opinion)

Rating: 4.5 sofas

The year is 2113. In Jenna Strong’s world, ACID—the most brutal controlling police force in history—rule supreme. No throwaway comment or whispered dissent goes unnoticed—or unpunished. And it was ACID agents who locked Jenna away for life, for a horrendous crime she struggles to remember. But Jenna’s violent prison time has taught her how to survive by any means necessary. 

When a mysterious rebel group breaks her out, she must use her strength, speed, and skill to stay one step ahead of ACID, and try to uncover the truth about what really happened on that terrible night two years ago. They have taken her life, her freedom, and her true memories away from her. How can she reclaim anything when she doesn’t know who to trust?

Strong, gritty writing, irresistible psychological suspense, and action consume the novel as Jenna struggles to survive against the all-controlling ACID. Seriously sinister stuff.

From the cover alone, I knew I had to read this book. It looks awesome with a powerful protagonist. I got approved on Netgalley for it around the release, but for one reason or another I never got round to it. BIG MISTAKE. I know other bloggers who absolutely adore it, and now I know why.

We meet Jenna in dystopian-Britain who has been put in jail for the murder of her parents. One of the things I love about dystopian novels is how real they can be, and scary to think that this COULD be our future. Acid does just that. In the future, ACID is the governing body, and they are not afraid to show it.

I think Jenna is one of my favourite female main characters. She has a lot of courage and spunk, especially when we learn about some of the things she has been through. Although she is continuously knocked down she never gives up, and I really admire her for that. There was a little bit of romance, but I liked that it didn’t overpower the story itself. 

The only reason I couldn’t give Acid 5 sofas was because the story was just a little too predictable. Although I think the storyline is great and there are several twists along the way, you just can’t get rid of the stereotypical dystopian storyline. As such, I kind of knew where the book was gonna end up, but its how we got there that really makes the story unique.

If Acid is a book that (like me) you didn’t read on its release, I implore you to do so now. It is original and thrilling, with plenty of twists to keep you on the edge of your seat. One of the most intense debut novels of this year! 4.5 sofas.

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Book Review: Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy

by David Levithan

Published: May 2005 (originally). Reprint 1st August 2013 by Harper Collins

Version: Paperback from publisher (review my own, honest opinion)

Rating: 4.5 sofas

This is the story of Paul, a sophomore at a high school like no other: The cheerleaders ride Harleys, the homecoming queen used to be a guy named Daryl (she now prefers Infinite Darlene and is also the star quarterback), and the gay-straight alliance was formed to help the straight kids learn how to dance. 

When Paul meets Noah, he thinks he’s found the one his heart is made for. Until he blows it. The school bookie says the odds are 12-to-1 against him getting Noah back, but Paul’s not giving up without playing his love really loud. His best friend Joni might be drifting away, his other best friend Tony might be dealing with ultra-religious parents, and his ex-boyfriend Kyle might not be going away anytime soon, but sometimes everything needs to fall apart before it can really fit together right.

This is a happy-meaningful romantic comedy about finding love, losing love, and doing what it takes to get love back in a crazy-wonderful world.

I originally read this book earlier this year for Faye’s LGBT Readathon. I loved the book, but didn’t document my thoughts. However, Harper Collins decided to do a reprint of this and another David Levithan book and I snapped at the chance to reread it!

We follow Paul as a kind of ‘out and proud’ gay boy in a town where there isn’t a lot of discrimination. Many of the LGBT books I have read deals with the hardship of discovering and categorising sexuality, and sharing this decision with friends and family. It was refreshing to see it from the other side; Paul’s parents are very accepting, and in this respect he has an easy life.

Although Paul is the main character, I don’t think the story would be half as amazing without the strong side characters. Paul’s best friends are Joni (who has problem boyfriends) and Tony (who is gay, but has to hide it as he has very religious parents). As well as helping to deal with their issues, he also has to tackle feelings for his ex, Kyle, who has ignored Paul ever since they split up. So when he meets Noah in the bookstore, he has yet more emotions to deal with.

Although the theme in this book is primarily LGBT, it also explores a lot about friendship and high school life. I think this is most prevalent in the bond between Tony and Paul. They’ve never dated but have an ever better connection. I really rooted for Tony throughout and felt his struggle more than anyone else.

———————————————————-

“In other circumstances, this would have been the start of a romance. But I think we both knew, even then, that what we had was even more rare, and even more meaningful. I was going to be his friend and was going to show him possibilities. And he, in turn, would become someone I could trust more than myself.”

—————————————————————–

One of the things I love about David Levithan is the way he describes the world and relationships. It is just so beautiful. I found myself wanting to mark lots of passages because quotes really stood out to me, and I feel like I highlighted the whole book!

I think the only down side if this book was that it felt a bit safe for me; I would say it is aimed at younger YA audiences. The main boys are quite stereotypical; the out and proud, the shy one and the confused one. It is quite ‘safe’, and personally I would say unrealistic. It was good to show homosexuality in a more accepting light, but I just couldn’t believe that this world exists, sadly.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and the romance was very cute. I liked how the side characters were just as important as the main ones, and look forward to reading more by this author! 4.5 sofas.

“If you want to be loved, be lovable.”

Book Review: Time Between Us

Time Between UsTime Between Us

by Tamara Ireland Stone

Published: 4th July 2013 by Random House

Version: Paperback from publisher (review my own, honest opinion)

Rating: 4.5 sofas

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet: she lives in 1995 Chicago and he lives in 2012 San Francisco. But Bennett has the unique ability to travel through time and space, which brings him into Anna’s life, and with him a new world of adventure and possibility.

As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.

Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning, spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.

As soon as I heard the comparison to The Time Traveller’s Wife, I knew I had to read this book. While they are quite different, I loved Time Between Us just as much. Bennett can travel in time, and can take things and people with him. When he stumbles into Anna in 1995 looking for his sister, he decides to stick around.

This book was as beautiful as its cover. It was romantic, cute and sad and I couldn’t put it down. Heartbreak was inevitable as they did not belong together; his timeline was 17 years ahead of hers. Not to mention the risk that he may ‘bounce back’ at any time. 

I like how it tampered with the idea of the butterfly effect, but I think in practice it didn’t all quite come together. Bennett was very willing to change things for his own benefit, but when it came to someone else he kicked up a massive fuss. Even though his entire presence in the book was wrong! But I have to forgive him, because he is adorable 😉

I thought that Anna too was a really strong character. When cute boy Bennett saunters into her life and offers her what shes dreamt about her whole life, she does take her time and think it over. She has her own personal strengths, and especially in the end I really rooted for her. 

The only thing I didn’t particularly like about the book was that it was over too soon! I felt it ended a bit abruptly, just as I was losing myself in the story. I’m hoping that the sequel will answer all my outstanding questions, and give me greater character development. 

One thing’s for sure, and that is I NEED the sequel, asap! It’s due for release at the end of October, and I can’t wait to find out what happens to Anna and Bennett.

This book is about love, connections and consequences. I adore the idea of toying with fate, and the butterfly effect that ripples afterwards. Strong characters and an enticingly romantic storyline makes for an AMAZING book. Roll on October! 4.5 sofas

Book Review: Lockwood & Co; The Screaming Staircase

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co, #1)Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase

by Jonathan Stroud

Published: 29th August by Random House

Version: paperback ARC loan from Faye

Rating: 4.5 sofas

Hauntings are our business . . .

Ghosts crowd the streets and houses of London. Anthony Lockwood, with his slightly grumpy deputy George, and his junior field operative Lucy, make up LOCKWOOD & CO, the small, shabby yet talented ghost-hunting agency.

After a series of calamitous investigations into the supernatural go awry, the team are desperate to prove themselves. Their opportunity comes in the form of a terrifying ghost, the Red Duke. But little do they know what perils lie in store for them at the haunted Bliss Hall . . .

I’m going to be honest and say that if it wasn’t for Faye and Daphne I probably would not have picked up this book. Overall I’m not a huge lover of fantasy, but I think thats more because I haven’t read much of it, and I’m daunted by the level of detail and world building involved. However, when Faye offered me her copy of The Screaming Staircase to borrow, I said yes, because I’d heard such good things from them. 

Even so, I still put off reading it. The ARC does not have the pretty cover, and as such, looked quite scary to me. So if you are thinking that this is not a book for you, then THINK AGAIN. This is exactly the frame of mind I had, and I was wrong. 

The Screaming Staircase follows Lucy as she joins a new ghost-hunting team, and describes the adventures and the spectres they encounter. It backtracks into the past and shows how Lucy got into the world of ghost hunting and how she ended up working with Lockwood & Co. 

Lucy was such a likeable character. She is confident, smart, and most of all COOL. A teenage ghost-hunter is such a good role model, and I found myself wishing I was her quite often throughout the book. That is when I could stop picturing Lucy from Queen of Contemporary in my head! 

It also wasn’t as scary as I thought it might be. It very much reminded me of Doctor Who. In particular that episode where people are seeing ‘ghosts’, old relatives, who actually turn out to be Cybermen. And David Tennant tries to triangulate the signal with some gizmos. And this is exactly how I picture Lockwood; a bit scatty, a guy who obviously knows his stuff but likes to plow straight into it. 

I think this was a great beginning to what I hope will be a fantastic series. Lucy has such great potential, and I am intrigued to find out more about Lockwood and his past, as well as that of his assistant George. I get the feeling that the house may hold secrets of its own too! 

Overall The Screaming Staircase surprised me. It was fun and adventurous, with amazing characters. Even if you doubt this book is for you, I would urge you to give it a try. Definitely a series to look out for! 4.5 sofas! 

Book Review: Hurt

HurtHurt

by Tabitha Suzuma

Published: 5th September by Random House

Version: manuscript from publisher (Review my own, honest opinion)

Rating: 4.5 sofas

Why? is the burning question on everyone’s lips. Why would a guy like Mathéo Walsh want to die? At seventeen, he is Britain’s most promising diving champion. He is a heartthrob, a straight A student and lives in one of the wealthiest areas of London. He has great mates and is the envy of everyone around him. And most importantly of all, he is deeply in love with his girlfriend, Lola. He has always been a stable, well-adjusted guy…

Until one weekend. A weekend he cannot seem to remember. All he knows is that he has come back a changed person. One who no longer knows how to have fun, no longer wants to spend time with his friends, no longer enjoys diving. Something terrible happened that weekend – something violent and bloody and twisted. He no longer knows who he is. He no longer trusts himself around people: he only wants to hurt, wound and destroy. Slowly, he begins to piece back the buried, fragmented memories, and finds himself staring at the reflection of a monster. Tormented, Mathéo suddenly finds himself faced with the most devastating choice of his life. Keep his secret, and put those closest to him in terrible danger. Or confess, and lose Lola forever…

Tabitha’s A Note of Madness was one of my favourite books as a teenager. I’ve lost count of how many times I have read it. So when I heard she was releasing a new novel, I squealed with excitement. But could anything live up to the emotional rollercoaster that was Forbidden? The answer is a resounding YES.

We follow Matheo, future diving Olympian as he juggles training between school and his girlfriend, Lola. Until one day something happens that changes him, and his perfect world shatters. We are taken on a journey with him as he tries to assemble his memories as well as his emotions.

I did get a bit frustrated around the middle of the book, but I think this is just because I was dying to know what had happened to Matheo, and I was racking my brain with all the possibilities. However, Tabitha’s writing is just so pure and the raw emotion had me gripped from the very beginning. Whatever Matheo was going through, I felt it. My heart went out to him and I had to find out what had made him feel this way and whether he was going to be okay.

As for the other characters, I sort of went in swings and roundabouts. I thought Lola, his girlfriend, was quite flaky, especially in the second half. Obviously she was dealing with Matheos emotions, but she was so inconsistent I’m not sure I could see Matheos obsession with her. That being said, as a reader I am getting a much greater insight to Matheos thoughts then Lola is, so her anger and sadness is probably justified against his actions. 

I can’t tell you how much THAT ENDING left my jaw trailing on the floor long after I had turned the last page. I just couldn’t believe it. Once again Tabitha had succeeded in turning everything I knew about humans and their emotions upside down, and I was left in shock.

Overall, Hurt is heartwrenching, emotional and gripping. If you enjoyed Forbidden, then this will knock your socks off. 4.5 sofas!

Book Review: Ketchup Clouds

Ketchup CloudsKetchup Clouds

by Annabel Pitcher

Published: 2012 by Orion

Version: Hardback obtained from library

Rating: 4.5 sofas

Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can’t confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.

Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.

I was quite daunted to read Ketchup Clouds. Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Prize 2013, I’ve heard a lot of praise about it. I had previously picked up Annabel’s previous book (My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece) but it started a bit too depressing for the mood I was in so I only ever read the first couple of pages.

However, Ketchup Clouds is very different. From the first page I was hooked. Written from the perspective of 15-year old Zoe, this brutally honest account of her secret which is so terrible she only feels comfortable sharing it with a man on death row via letters. The whole book is written in letter format, which just adds the uniqueness of the book. It is frustrating at times, as she finishes a letter just as it is getting good! But thats what kept me reading, and I actually devoured the book in a day.

Although Zoe is 15, the writing is quite young. At first I would have pictured her to be about 11 or 12, but things she says later on about boys and life hinted at her being older. Some of the sentences are quite simple, I suppose to make it clear it is written from a child’s perspective. What was confusing was that several scenes were quite graphic. I know kids can be blunt sometimes, but parts of it did shock me. 

What is awe-inspiring about this book is that it is based on the fact that Annabel herself wrote to a inmate on death row when she was a teenager. Its something that I always considered doing, as being in prison can be a really depressing time. This book got me thinking about real life prisoners and what it would be like to receive Zoe’s letters. I love books that leave me thinking about them for days after, and Ketchup Clouds certainly achieved that. 

Ultimately I adored this book. I love the perspective and the letter style gave it such a refreshing feel. I do think the book could benefit from an epilogue or sequel (hint hint!), but it has definitely inspired me to give Annabel’s first novel a go. It is very clear why she won the Waterstones award for this original novel, and I can’t wait to see what she brings in the future. Ketchup Clouds had me gripped from the beginning and I loved experiencing the emotional rollercoaster Zoe’s letters sent me on. 4.5 sofas