Y.A. New Releases: Non Spoiler Book Reviews

‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertal

‘The Hidden Memory of Objects’ by Danielle Mages Amato   and

‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’Sullivan

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This month I received three book subscription boxes with Y.A. fiction new releases and I really enjoyed all three.

 

I’ll start with ‘The Upside of Unrequited’ by Becky Albertal and published by Balzer and Bray.

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Here’s the synopsis:

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love- she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness- except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back. There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolken superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

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QUOTE: ” I texted with Mina for four hours last night” she says as soon as we step outside. It tumbles out of her mouth like she’s been bursting to tell me.

“Wow”

“I know”

I feel Cassie looking at me, and I can tell she wants me to say something.Or ask something. Maybe it’s twin telepathy- I can just feel her excitement. It’s like it has a pulse.

Somehow, I don’t think this is about finding me a boy-friend….’

 

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So first of all I have to give this book five stars just for the amount of diversity it includes. It has everything!

I liked just about every character too, which is rare for me. I love that Molly is a crafter and enjoys to make beautiful things. I love that she is so sweet and untainted with her view of the world. I love her sister Cassie who seems more confident and worldly wise to Molly, yet who also has insecurities of her own. I love the guys, each different yet all loveable. Most of all I ADORE the grumpy grandma who has loud opinions of everything and everybody and doesn’t care who knows it; she made me laugh out loud! This is an amazing contemporary coming-of-age read, that has you laughing, crying and everything in-between, but most of all, you GET Molly. You are inside her head. You know how she feels and why. I have to give this book a solid 4 stars. My only critique is the cover design- yes really! It annoys me. It’s a beautiful blue but it the graphics just come across as having had zero effort in design. Sadly, if I had not received the book in a subscription box, I most likely would have walked right past it on the shelf because it doesn’t grab my interest at all. Please pick it up; it’s a super story.

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Next I’m moving on to ‘The Hidden Memory of Objects’ by Danielle Mages Amato and published by Balzer and Bray

The synopsis:

 

‘Megan Brown’s brother Tyler, is dead. But the cops are killing him all over again. They say he died of a drug overdose, potentially suicide- something Megan cannot accept. Determined to figure out what happened in the months before Tyler’s death, Megan turns to the things he left behind. After all, she understands the stories objects can tell- at fifteen; she is a gifted collage artist with a flair for creating found-object pieces. However, Megan now realizes that her artistic talent has developed into something more: she can see memories attached to some of Tyler’s belongings- and those memories reveal a brother she never knew.

Enlisting the help of an artifact detective who shares her ability and specializes in murderabilia- objects tainted by violence or the deaths of their owners- Megan finds herself drawn into a world of painful personal and national memories. Along with a trusted classmate and her brother’s charming friend, she chases down the troubling truth about Tyler across Washington DC, while reclaiming her own stifled identity with a vengeance.

Danielle Mages Amato’s extraordinary debut is a story of how the things we leave behind continue to shape our memories and identities ling after we are gone.’

 

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QUOTE:

‘As I spun the dial on the lock, the overpowering smell of flowers made my stomach turn, and I felt another headache coming on. The lights overhead seemed to get brighter and brighter, and I struggled to see Tyler’s locker combination on the little slip of paper the Vice Principal had  given me. Just as I opened the door, a group of guys pushed past me to get to their lockers.

One of them was Tyler…’

I’m a great crime/ mystery lover so this book was of immediate interest to me. I also love anything with spiritual undertones too, so I knew I’d love this story on both counts and I wasn’t disappointed. We have so many thrilling elements in this book that keep the story moving forward, yet we also have time to see the characters change and grow too.

First and foremost, Megan is grieving. She is shell-shocked and stunned. Her brother may have committed suicide, he may have had a drug problem, and she had no idea that he was going through anything at all. He was the popular kid. He was thoughtful, kind, talented and basically everything that Megan aspired to be. What went wrong?

Her parents are also grieving and each trying to cope in their own way- so this leaves Megan pretty much alone. As she struggles to come to terms with her brothers death, she turns to two friends for help, and between them, they try to unravel Tyler’s last weeks of life.

As Megan picks up her brother’s belongings from his school locker she finds herself jolted into his memories, experiencing them from his point of view. This unnerves her badly but she is so determined to solve the mystery of her brother’s death, she is willing to do whatever it takes to discover exactly why her brother was in a deserted building in the middle of the night, alone.

I felt so sorry for Megan as she tried to absorb so many shocks so soon. Her brother died, she misses him, her parents aren’t coping well, and she has tapped into a psychic talent that she had never experienced before. But this girl is kick-ass! She takes it all on the chin and picks herself up after every punch and tries again- she will not be beaten by this!

I think I enjoyed this book the most. It’s another contemporary, but it also has elements of mystery and mysticism too. It covered so many bases for me. The pacing was good, the characters were very human and understandably flawed, and Megan’s character was admirable and courageous in face of all the elements against her. Another four star read. Possibly a 4.5 if we can split hairs.

 

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Finally, last but not least is ‘Between Two Skies’ by Joanne O’sullivan and published by Candlewick Press.

The synopsis:

‘Bayou Perdu, a tiny fishing town way, way down in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, is home to sixteen-year-old Evangeline Riley. She has her best friends, Kendra and Danielle; wise beloved Mamers; and back-to-back titles in the under-sixteen fishing rodeo. But, dearest to her heart, she has the peace that comes only when she takes her skiff out to where there is nothing but sky and air and water and wings. It’s a small life, but it is Evangeline’s.

And then the storm comes. And everything changes.

Amid the chaos and pain and destruction comes Tru- a fellow refugee, a budding bluesman, a balm for Evangeline’s aching heart.

This novel asked compelling questions about class and politics, exile and belonging, and the pain of being cast out of your home. But perhaps, above all, this is a gently woven love story, difficult to put down, impossible to forget.’

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QUOTE: “You have to quit moping” says Chase one afternoon while he’s driving me home. “Look, when I got kicked out of the best music school in the country, I felt like a huge disappointment to everyone in my life. But it’s temporary. Something else is coming for you. Right now, You’re in what we call a fremata in music. A long pause. You have to hold that note for a while longer. But then you go on to the rest of the composition. Just wait it out.” …

 

Oh gosh, where to start with this one… We have all heard about Hurricane Katarina and the devastation that it incurred in its wake, but have we ever really thought past the news stories and concerned ourselves with the lives and futures of the people who lived through it? This story focuses on one girls life and future and how it is wiped out in seconds.

For many of us, we want to live bigger lives and often try to accomplish this by leaving our hometowns for college and not looking back; but what if you were completely content with your life? Evangeline is smart and has what it takes to lead a big life in a big City but has no interest in leaving her hometown. Her parents are encouraging her to think about college, but she wants to spend her life following in her father’s footsteps, fishing, and living life by the water. Her mother runs a diner in town with a reputation for good food that is second to none, and life is gentle but good.

Hurricane Katarina arrives and suddenly it not only wipes out the whole town, taking with it her family’s home and income; but it also threatens to destroy relationships too.

Evangeline’s family have to leave the state and stay with relatives, trying to build up their lives again in a new place with nothing but the clothes on their back. Missing friends, a new romance and people around her, crumbling under the pressure, have Evangeline knocked from pillar to post as she tries so hard to take control of her life once again.

This was beautifully written and I was drawn into the book at the first page. I was actually annoyed at my household interruptions while reading because I so wanted to read this in one sitting!

I think O’Sullivan handled every aspect of this girl’s story with great empathy and compassion, which made me feel a little guilty for not thinking deeper at the repercussions that this kind of natural disaster brings. Evangeline grows up overnight, and has to plot a new future for herself but she does it admirably, finding anchors in new friends and adapting to the ‘new normal’ around her. Her resilience is amazing, yet when she falters, we are there with her, wanting to hold her hand and reassure her that she will get through this.

This book is bittersweet, no doubt about it. You will be forced to face things you would rather not, but I think you will be a better person for reading it. I’m giving this five stars. It’s a haunting read. It will linger.

 

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I hope you find these reviews helpful and that you pick one of these books up. Even if you are not a big fan of contemporary fiction, or don’t normally read young adult books, please give them a try.

 

What new releases have you read recently? Which do you recommend?

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‘The Eye of the Storm’ (Or My Prayer for Manchester) by Sally Ford

 

 

 

GlitterPoppies_0015_2I’ve always loved to sit outside in the rain.

The torrential torrent or the tickle of a trickle,

It’s all the same to me.

Cleansing, refreshing, soothing;

Like a portable font to baptize the world,

God watches all.

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Last night we had our first storm of the year

Lightening flashing, clouds crashing;

Our house was locked up for the night,

But I was pulled outside.

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I stepped outdoors and lifted my face,

The heavens opened and blessed me

With a steady stream of tears…

Crying for Manchester, England.

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I closed my eyes and my tears mingled with Gods’,

I sent my prayers wrapped around the pieces of my fractured heart,

Thinking of the parents whose child had been lost,

The child whose parent had been lost;

The City whose faith was ricocheting in the wind,

Of the helpers, (‘Always focus on the helpers!’) who opened their doors and their hearts’ to the lost and the lame.

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Crickets sang, and the sky danced in time with them,

Rain bounced off the floor and poured through gutters.

The distant hum of traffic that I tuned in and then out,

But mostly the sound of nature: pure beautiful, raw nature,

I wanted to sit and wash away the sins of the world,

Standing in the peaceful yard, of my comfortable home, four thousand miles from Manchester.

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The downpour eventually ceased and the night sky darkened once more,

I stepped back over my threshold and closed the door – my buffer against the world-

And carried my weary heart upstairs to bed,

There a T.V set blasted news into my room; about casualties, terrorists, and pain.

My wounded heart accepting that there is no escape from the hurt that is life-

only brief interludes of diluted peace;

Just fleeting moments where we can appreciate the beauty of the rain and ignore the clashing of the clouds before wondering once more,

Whose turn will it be next to sit in the eye of the storm.

 

 

 

‘Caraval’ by Stephanie Garber – Spoiler free Book Review.

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Hi Guys, it’s time for another book review, and don’t worry, it’s a spoiler free one, as always!

Today I’m reviewing Stephanie Garber’s ‘Caraval’.

I’ve got to tell you that I was so excited when I finally got my hands on a copy of this book! I mean it has been so hyped on social media that I was a little nervous as to whether it could live up to my expectations.

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Here’s the official synopsis:

 

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval . . . beware of getting swept too far away.

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Sounds exciting, right?

Here’s my take:

 

Scarlett and her sister Donatella live on the Island of Trisda, where nothing exciting ever seems to happen. Their Mother apparently deserted them when they were tiny, and they have been raised by their angry and physically abusive father ever since. The only hope they have of having some fun in life is if the wandering Caraval show would visit there and put on a show. So for seven long years, Scarlett has been steadfastly writing to the Master of Caraval, Legend, begging for tickets for her and her sister, but never hears back from him.circus 7

Scarlett never gives up hope but is desperate to get off the Island and run away from her abusive father, so when he arranges a marriage for her with an important but unnamed Count from overseas, she reluctantly accepts that this may be her only chance of leaving the Island and her Father’s control.

 

Then one day, an invitation finally arrives for the sisters, and if they can only sneak away from their father, they will most certainly find the excitement they have been yearning for, for all of their lives. The normally sensible and diligent Scarlett has to decide whether to throw caution to the wind and embark on this great adventure, or stay home and wait to be wedded to the Count. The Caraval lasts for only five nights. Will it be possible to get there and back in time for the wedding? Nothing bd could happen could it? I mean, It’s just a game, and it’s not like one of them could be kidnapped or anything?… What would YOU do?

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Okay, so I LOVED this story! After a gentle introduction to the characters and their life on the Island, we are suddenly thrown into a rip-roaring ride where truth is fiction and fiction is truth, left is right, and down is up; and everything that you have ever known is shredded into pieces, and you are breathless and longing for more. It really is a roller coaster ride and a total page-turner for me.

The book sets up riddles and we go on a journey to follow the clues and solve the mystery in order to gain the ultimate prize of one wish.

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My first thoughts after finishing this book was that it NEEDS to be made into a movie! All the events that happened in the story would be so cool in a movie. I later learned that it the movie rights have been sold, so I’m estatic to say the least.

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I’ve read a few reviews myself about this book and the biggest critisism seems to be that readers don’t quite feel as attatched to the characters as they would like, and on this point I do feel that I can agree. Sometimes it seems that the action takes over and the book is so fast paced that the characters seem to be  a little one dimentional. There is romance and friendship and sibling rivalry, and sibling love and many more elements in the story, but I never felt truly invested in the people themselves. I cannot pinpoint exactly why but something was lacking here. Maybe it is because the Caraval characters are all playing a part and you never know what is true or false, so therefore I didn’t fully trust the emotions of the other characters in the story?

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However, I loved the journey, the mystery, the riddles and the action. I love that this is just the first book and that the story will continue. Each time I thought I’d guessed an outcome, the story would twist, and I’d be thrown off course again as the explanation was something completely different, and I’d suddenly fine myself pulled in another direction. This book cannot be accused of being predictive!

I also want to discuss the physical book because it’s just so gorgeous. The smart design and marketing people were so on point when they sent this book into the world. The dust jacket design features a stunning starburst design that catches the eye immeadiately. Thanks to social media, I chose to order the U.K copy because it featured five different gold embossed cover designs, and Amazon U.K who offer global delivery. But you can buy the U.S. version HERE.

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Look at the stunning book covers! I mean, I just HAD to collect them all. Tesco U.K stocks the exclusive top hat design.

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Moving on to the inside, where I adore the map that first greets you, and how every chapter has a beautiful wreath design. This truly is a beautifully designed book. So, Yes I would wholehearteldy recommend it and I cannot wait for the next installment as I want to be a part of the game all over again.

 

  

Welcome to my #soaksunday week 7

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Hi Guys, and welcome to my 7th Soak Sunday post.

I’ve just arrived home from an awesome Disney Cruise to the Bahamas and I have to tell you I’ve been dreaming of my soak this week. Showers just don’t cut it after a long day in the sun. But there’s not much room in a ships stateroom for a bath, so I had to be content with quick showers to cool off at the end of the day.

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But now I’m home and I can pull out all my pamper products and just soak myself silly for a couple of hours. Yes really!

So I begin by setting the scene for total relaxation by first lighting one of my favorite bookish candles. These are made by the lovely Amanda at North Ave Candles etsy store I have never met one of her candles that I didn’t like. Every candle has a unique fragrance that you can easily identify, and a scent which lingers deliciously afterwards To me, there is nothing worse than a diluted scent, am I right? Well Amanda’s candles have a price point that is very affordable and I also LOVE the fact that she dispatches FAST! I am so tired of waiting four to six weeks for candle deliveries. It’s my pet peeve. Kindly pop over to her etsy store where you can sigh over all her lovely products. And she’s even given me a discount code to pass on to you: Use code BCC10 at checkout for 10% off your first order!

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For this week’s soak I stuck completely with Lush products. They are my absolute favorites. There is so much choice. There is a bath product for every mood. I wanted something luxurious yet invigorating today, because all that lying around in the sun made me need a zing of something uplifting to wake me up and prepare me for stepping back into my real life.

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The cocktail I decided upon was a combination of Brightside  bubble bar along with some of my lemon macaroon style bubbleroon bar that I had left over. I didn’t go too crazy, but I topped it off with the Honey Bee bath bomb from the Lush Kitchen

 

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You have to take my word for it that this bath smelled intoxicating and my skin felt so wonderfully soft afterwards.

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I must be honest- the bath bomb…well, bombed! It didn’t do much at all. I wanted a show, a performance, and ‘plink, plink, fizzzzz. Never mind. It was a silent soak, and the nutrients and skin softeners still worked magnificently. Maybe I was expecting too much after all the Disney firework shows?

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The book I chose for this weeks’ bath and book, was by Jenny Han. I took her ‘Summer I turned pretty’ trilogy with me, as it was perfect summer beach reading material. I finished the last book on Sunday night. I love Jenny’s writing style. It’s so sweet and sassy in equal measures.

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I hope you have had a lovely relaxing weekend too. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram posts for more #soaksunday pictures and I always post videos on my story.

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Have a wonderful week. I will be popping up another post very soon.

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Lots of love, Sally xxx

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