Archive for October, 2013

Netgalley November 2013

netgalleynovember3When Faye of A Daydreamers Thoughts (visit her awesome blog here) told me of her plan to co host a Netgalley reading challenge, I realised that this would be the perfect opportunity to take charge of my digital TBR pile. Reviewing my Netgalley profile confirmed that my feedback percentage of 44.9% was well below the recommended 80% and it really was time to get my house in order.

To learn more about the reading challenge and to sign up visit here

Other than The Princess Diaries, which I will be reading for the Bookish Brits book club, I intend to only read Netgalley books in November. Because I can easily read one book a week, I have set myself the medium challenge of reading eight Netgalley titles over the course of November.

I have decided that I will start with recently published titles, working back chronologically through my archive. However I have also selected a ninth title which is not due for publication until January 2014. If I succeed in reading this title I will be ahead of schedule and I will have mastered my Netgalley TBR pile.

Caroline’s Netgalley TBR

After Eden by Helen Douglas due for publication on the 7th of November 2013

Time After Time by Tamara Ireland Stone, Published on the 24th Oct 2013

The Truth About You and Me by Amanda Grace and Amanda Hubbard, published on the 15th October 2013

Charming by Elliott James, published n the 24th of September

The Name On Your Wrist by Helen Hiorns published July 2013

Crossing by Stacey Wallace Benefiel, published on the 8th of May 2013

Legacy Of A Dreamer by Allie Jean, published on the 2nd of May 2012

And if there is still time I would like to read:

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, Due for publication on the 23rd of January 2014

To learn more about each book simply click on the title to be taken to the corresponding Goodreads page.

Posted by Caroline

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The Elephants Tale

Lauren St John
the elephants taleWhen Martine and her grandmother discover that they might lose their game reserve, Sawubona, because of a clause in her grandfather’s will, Martine and her best friend, Ben, decide to take matters into their own hands. After Martine hears a prophecy that tells her: “The elephants will lead you to the truth,” Martine and Ben stow away in an airplane, get stuck in the desert, and help a group of elephants escape from a horrible prison. Along the way, Martine learns the truth about Sawubona, as well as the dramatic truth about her gift with animals and where it will take her in her life …

I loved this book, it has given me so much inspiration for my English work. It has inspired me in literacy to one day be as good as Lauren St John. She has really put her outstanding skills to great use to create such an imaginative series.

Martine and Ben hear their home ‘Sawubona’, the game reserve, was going to be taken over by the local baddie Reuben James after Martine’s grandfather Henry Thomas was tricked into signing away their home. They get tangled up in an adventure which leads to them breaking the law, making a new friend and enjoying a luxury hotel in the moon valley whilst figuring out how such a beautiful place could cause so much harm.

Can Martine and Ben save Sawubona before Christmas Eve?

Lauren St John has an amazing way with words and at times I nearly fell off my school chair with anxiety it was SO tense.

Verdict: This book is for kids aged 9+ and I love it.
By the way, I have already started another book in the series of 4. It’s called Dolphin Song and I’m really enjoying that as well even though I’m only up to page 4!

Reviewed by Izzy (9)

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Paperback
Pages: 235
Genre: Animals, Adventure
Age: Middle grade
Reviewer: Izzy (9)
Source: Borrowed
Challenge:None
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When The World Was Flat (And we were in love)

Ingrid Jonach
when the world was flatLooking back, I wonder if I had an inkling that my life was about to go from ordinary to extraordinary.
When sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart meets the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith for the first time, it’s like fireworks — for her, anyway. Tom looks as if he would be more interested in watching paint dry; as if he is bored by her and by her small Nebraskan town in general.
But as Lillie begins to break down the walls of his seemingly impenetrable exterior, she starts to suspect that he holds the answers to her reoccurring nightmares and to the impossible memories which keep bubbling to the surface of her mind — memories of the two of them, together and in love.
When she at last learns the truth about their connection, Lillie discovers that Tom has been hiding an earth-shattering secret; a secret that is bigger — and much more terrifying and beautiful — than the both of them. She also discovers that once you finally understand that the world is round, there is no way to make it flat again.

I can’t quite put my finger on what initially grabbed my attention with Ingrid’s novel but I think it may have been the title. The play on words about the world being flat and there being love whilst now the world is round and bigger and far more complicated seemed to promise a whole dimension of intricacies.

And indeed so it was, but not in the way I’d expected.

To be completely honest with you although Ingrid Jonach’s love story was lovely it was rather simple and straightforward in itself. That said I take nothing away from it. But what truly made me appreciate this book was the symbolism that was woven into it and the concept behind it.

In this story initially Tom and Lillie’s love is like the world Lillie thinks they live in. As the title implies to Lillie the world is (metaphorically speaking) flat. It’s uncomplicated and three dimensional, what you see is what you get and is beautiful in its simplicity. But Tom knows better, and this world is not flat, in fact it’s not even round. To use his words as he teases Lillie “the world is hexagonal” and it is about to challenge Lillie’s beliefs and herself as an individual.

Ingrid chose to narrate this story from Lillie’s point of view but written in retrospect. The Lillie who tells us the story is the one at the end of it and although she attempts to keep in mind the thoughts of the Lillie at the time of the story occasionally she does slip up, and admits that what she thought back then when the world was flat was very mistaken and blissfully naïve. The recounting of her story was done in an almost clinical manner, and although she says how she felt the feelings felt delivered in a distant manner. Although this style of writing felt detached to the present day characters and limited my ability to bond with them, it allowed to underline the symbolisms, themes and bigger meaning of the tale.

For me the true beauty of this book did not lie in the characters themselves or their story but the world around them and how it affected them and their love. The way Lillie always repeats key words three times like a mantra, almost as though she needs the reassurance that everything is true, almost as though she already knows that something in this reality is off kilter. The way in which she turns sounds into words because her reality is speaking to her and warning her. How a love that transcends time and life is beautifully simple, because love in itself as a concept is not complicated. It’s the people and the world around them that taint it and twist it. So when the world is flat everything is smooth and straightforward, like it’s surface. But when you make it round, give it three dimensions….. everything is possible, and love becomes complicated.

Verdict: Reading this novel brought me back to my time at school in English literature where I learnt to appreciate the beauty and the intricacies of themes and subtleties left behind by the author to make us wonder and reflect.
Reviewed by Pruedence

Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 272
Genre: Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Pruedence
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut Author
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Bookish Brits: The A-Z Of Caroline

So my very first post has gone up on the Bookish Brits You Tube channel and it’s all about me!

Posted by Caroline

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Badness For Beginners

Ian Whybrow and Tony Ross

badness“Remember,” said Dad. “You must both be on your worst behaviour.”
In a nice smelly lair far away live the wolf family. Mum and Dad are very proud of being big and bad. They want to teach their cub, Little Wolf and Smellybreff, how to be big and bad like them.
But sometimes, lessons in Badness are not that simple…

My three year old seems to have a bit of a fascination with big, bad wolves at the moment so when I took her to the library she chose three books with wolves on the cover and this was one of them. I could tell from that front cover that this was the story that she would like best and so it has been!

The picture is of a graffiti-ed wall and Little Wolf sitting at the bottom covered in black paint whilst his brother, Smellybreff, sits at the top looking naughty with a couple of plates of food perched ready to drop on his brother. It is a perfect insight into Badness for Beginners as Mum and Dad Wolf strive to teach their little ones how to be truly naughty.

Much of the story is funny for young children as it turns on its head all those well used phrases we say to them, remember your manners, say please, don’t eat too much you’ll be sick! And so on. Smellybreff gets it straight away, but Little sometimes, shockingly, says thank you by mistake.

Mum and Dad take the young wolves out and on the way they scare people, make trip hazards and create a hole in a bridge, among other naughty things. Little is trying to impress his parents, but not quite hitting it! They go to a café and show appalling manners culminating in Smellybreff being sick and all of them getting thrown out. On the way home Mum trips on a trip hazard and knocks into Dad a hole in a bridge!!! The Little Wolves are excited about what their badness has brought about, Mum and Dad are rather quiet about it all! Need I say more!!

I had a good chuckle reading this and so did both my girls. The older one (nearly 6 years) really got it, the younger appreciated they were being naughty but did miss the point that it was their own badness that caused their downfall (literally!). But there was something in there for all of us to enjoy and the pictures helped tell the story and explain it to my little one.

Verdict: Brilliant naughty humour, a really fun read.
Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Harper Collins
Publication Date: May 2005
Format: Paperback
Pages: 32
Genre: Humour, Manners
Age:Picture book
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: British book
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Cutting back and an exciting new project…

Hello lovely readers,

It may not have escaped your notice that over the last few months (since the beginning of the summer) the team at Big Book Little Book has not been posting as regularly as we once did. Unfortunately, due to increased demands in their personal lives we have had to say goodbye to three of our regular reviewers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Lesley (a founding member of bigbooklittlebook.com), Keith and Alison for all of their hard work and let them know that anytime they want to visit our door, and posting schedule, is always open.

With busy lives of our own, Helen, Pruedence, Sam and myself have found it difficult to maintain the tri weekly review schedule. In fact at times I have felt so overwhelmed by the increased workload that it completely spoilt the experience of blogging for me.

I couldn’t concentrate to write reviews (compounding the situation further) and I contemplated shutting Big Book Little Book down.

After lots of soul searching and chats/emails with the remaining members of the team, we have decided to continue. To remove some of the pressure we will be posting just two reviews a week. Kids reviews, picture books through to Middle grade, will be posted on a Monday. While Young Adult, New Adult and Adult book reviews will be posted on Fridays.

For additional content we will continue to host blog tours, independent and self published authors and our novel nibbles feature. We may also join in with some meme’s and take a more active role in the book blogging community, for example, taking part in more reading challenges and read-a-thons. However these will all be posted on a much more informal basis dependent on inspiration, enthusiasm and opportunity.

Some of that additional content I mentioned will be in the form of vlogs (video blogs).

I am really excited to announce that I have joined together with nine other experienced (not to mention amazing!) book bloggers from all around the UK, to create a brand new collaborative book tuber channel called Bookish Brits (Subscribe here).

Posting on Monday, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, we will be vlogging individually and together on a range of bookish things from news, reviews, tags and reactions to the book related topics close to our hearts.

I hope that you take the time to check out the channel and follow us on Twitter (here).

Lots of love, Caroline x

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Finding It

Cora Cormack

finding itKelsey Summers is looking for love in all the wrong places.
Spending a few months travelling around Europe – with no parents, no responsibilities and a no limit credit card – Kelsey’s having the time of her life.
But when she completely embarrasses herself in front of the hottest guy she’s ever seen, she soon realises there’s more to life than the next party.
What she doesn’t realise is that although she’s on a journey to find herself, she will end up finding The One…

Finding It is the third and final full length book in Cormack’s Losing it series*, set around a group of friends as they complete university and take the next steps in to their adult lives.

While each of these books stand on their own, and can be read in any order without any major spoilers, I really would recommend that you reading the entire series in order. Not only so that you can fully experience each characters development, but also that you don’t deprive yourself of a moment of Cormack’s book-hugging romance, smirk inducing wit, laugh out loud humour, or her ability to induce empathetic cringing.

Losing it focused on Bliss as she approached the end of her education and wrestled with which route she wanted her career to take (oh and she met and fell in love with a gorgeous English bloke, by the name of Garrick). Faking it found Cade adjusting to life off of campus (oh and he met and fell in love with a feisty, tattooed chick by the name of Max). In Finding It, Kelsey has decided to put off the inevitable, predictable life and her parents stifling expectations. Preferring to travel around Europe, to live in the now, to collect life experiences Kelsey is hunting down that elusive something more – and if she can do it at the expense and irritation of her father, so much the better!

When we were introduced to Kelsey back in Faking It (book 1) she was simply Bliss’s vivacious, if slightly abrasive friend. A gorgeous, sexually confident party girl, determined to aid Bliss in the losing of her virginity; fun but shallow.

While my confidence in Cormack’s ability to create likeable, relatable characters was boosted by the experience of reading Faking It (book 2) and falling for Cade, for whom I’d felt nothing but irritation in book one, I began Finding It, unsure if I could gel with Kelsey as the main protagonist.

Kelsey is a firecracker with an entertaining voice, a fun loving nature, and a warts and all honesty, which was immediately entertaining and likeable. Unlike the open books of Bliss and Cade, Kelsey’s is a much harder character to get to know, with a darker back-story than Cormack’s earlier protagonists. My commitment to Kelsey’s story however, was rewarded with a greater depth of character and deeper emotional involvement.

Gorgeous, mysterious, and strong, with an artist eye and a poet’s heart, not to mention a gentlemanly moral code despite the undeniable chemistry – Jackson Hunt is Cormack’s scummiest, most swoon worthy book boyfriend yet.

Like Kelsey, Hunt has secrets and a painful history. Unlike a lot of “damaged” love interests, meeting Kelsey is not the turning point in his recovery from his past. In fact that is one of my favorite elements of the book. Both characters have already taken steps to address their histories, and their dissatisfactions with their current lives prior to meeting. While Kelsey and Hunt’s relationship is one of facilitated healing and mutual support, it is not co-dependent. They are not reliant on each other to be whole.

AND… Finding It is a road trip book. I LOVE road trip books – protagonists discovering themselves while they discover new cities – Kelsey travels around Europe the way I wish I had, with an enviable fearlessness. Although I doubt I would have had the stamina, or liver capacity to keep up with all of Kelsey’s antics! She uninhibitedly meets new and exciting people, visits those out of the way (known only to the locals) places and dives (with only a little persuasion) in to unique experiences and once in a life time opportunities. She personifies a life is short/dance like no one is watching philosophy.

Cora’s Cormack’s books simply get better and better. I feel no hesitation in adding her to my list of authors whose work equates to an automatic pre-order. I cannot wait to read All Lined Up, the first installment in her new Rusk University series. Set in Texas and involving “three swoon-worthy football boys” its May 2014 release cannot come soon enough!

Verdict: Cormack has saved the best for last

* The series also includes two e-novellas; Keeping Her (Bliss and Garrick ) and Seeking Her (Kelsey and Hunt) due for publication early 2014 and available for preorder

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Ebury Press
Publication Date: October 2013
Format: eARC
Pages: 320
Genre: Contemporary romance
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: None
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Roller Girls: Falling Hard

Megan Sparks
roller girlsWhen Annie moves from London to a small town in the midwest, she struggles to fit in. She gets off to a bad start when she makes an enemy of her school’s queen bee, Kelsey. But she discovers a new passion, the exciting sport of roller derby, and makes friends with the cool and quirky girls on her team, the Liberty Belles. She also meets Jesse, the friendly boy who works at the roller rink, and Tyler, a cute, all-American sports star.

I was browsing for titles when the cover for Roller Girls: Falling Hard caught my eye. While it’s bright pink cover and kookie styling, makes it hard to miss, what really grabbed my attention was the subject matter – a female dominated, full contact, team sport, populated by awesome kick arse women on retro quad skates* – like our protagonist, this Brit was ignorant, and fascinated.

Annie has had some experience at making difficult decisions. After the premature end of her gymnastics career (damn you, growth spurt) and her parents separation, she makes the difficult choice to leave her mother behind in England and move to the US, to the house her father grew up in, to support him in his dream of opening an English themed tea shop.

After some settling in time, which includes getting to grips with the local vernacular and everyone infuriatingly calling her accent cute, Anne decides that it is time to leave the shadow of her former sport and find a new passion. Now Annie has a new choice to make; does she utilise her hard earned Gymnastic skills and becoming a cheerleader with its cookie cutter aesthetic, instant popularity and ability to catch the attention of the football star? Or, does she take the harder road, starting from scratch in entirely new sport, with unfamiliar rules, new skills, risking the wrath of Kelsey and the resulting social suicide?

In some ways Falling Hard felt like every cheesy American high school movie I’ve ever seen, there were the mean but popular cheerleaders, the all America high school hottie, the mysterious boy, the kookie friend and the “so alternative they are cool” outsiders. Despite the stereotypes I found the book fresh and interesting. Roller Derby; the rules, the training, the plays and the characters, made up the majority of the story and I found that my interest was so captured by Annie’s exploration of the sport that my mind didn’t need to be complicated with extensive development of the secondary characters.

Annie felt much older than her fourteen years, not in the sense of adult like behavior but rather in her mature approach to the changes and challenges in her life. I loved Annie’s loyalty – to herself and to the positive influences she surrounded herself with.

I adored Annie’s Dad and their mutually supportive relationship. Not only was he very much present in her life (a rarity on YA fiction) in all of his embarrassing -dad glory but he was a fantastic role model for being yourself, following your dreams and making the hard but important choices; it was easy to see where Annie got her awesomeness from!

Falling hard made me wish that I could don some quad skates and join a Roller Derby. I think that this four book series has great potential. Not only am I looking forward to discovering how Annie fares with her new hobby, I am also really interested to witness the character development of the secondary characters, I feel as though some of them have interesting stories to tell. Not to mention Annie’s potential romance with one of two cute guys.

Although the publishers have recommended this read for 12-16 year olds I think that it would also be suitable for mature middle graders. The book is clean, with sweet lessons in friendship and being true to yourself.
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Verdict: Like the sport of Roller derby, Roller Girls: Falling Hard was fun, fast and filled to the brim with girl power.

*I can’t believe I’ve just referred to the skates of my youth as retro. Just to be clear I was very young, and my “retro” quad skates were secondhand and white, with pink wheels and a My Little Pony motif

Ps. Annie makes Earl Grey Cupcakes. I LOVE Early Grey Cup Cakes! (See my recipe here)

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Curious Fox
Publication Date: July 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 208
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age: Middle grade/YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: Debut Author
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The Paradise Guest House

Ellen Sussman
paradise guest houseSent on assignment to Bali, Jamie, an adventure guide, imagines spending weeks exploring the island’s lush jungles and pristine white sand beaches. But it ends as something very different – a year on, she can still feel the heat and noise of the nightclub bombings.
Haunted by memories, Jamie returns to Bali seeking a sense of closure. Checking into a cosy guest house, Jamie meets a kindly owner who is coping with a painful past of his own, and a young boy who becomes crucial to her search.
She hasn’t been able to forget Gabe, the man who saved her from the attacks – or the spark between them as he helped her heal. There’s a chance she might find him where she left him. A small chance. But even if she does, what then?

Jamie is a likable, adventurous girl who works as a tour guide for people who want thrill seeker holidays. She had an opportunity to check out Bali for her company and is there when the tragic Bali bombs strike. Her world is turned upside down, literally and metaphorically and a year later she is back to try and get her head straight about everything that happened. We first meet Jamie making the plane journey back to Bali, a mixture of nerves, fears and memories. As she lands in Bali and makes her way to the paradise Guest House where she is to stay we get to experience the warmth, colour, smells and sounds of beautiful Bali. I was instantly transported to that place where you can walk out the door and forget about the grey skies of England. As Jamie starts trying to cope with being back in a place that has such mixed memories that idyllic setting is in contrast to the turmoil she is dealing with.

As we learn about Jamie’s back story apart from the bombings and also meet other characters who have had a difficult time in this supposed paradise the story takes on more depth. Nyoman who owns the Paradise Guest House turns out to have lost his wife in the bombings. Bambang is an orphaned boy she meets trying to make money on the streets to stay alive. They show Jamie different things about the island and its people that she didn’t have chance to experience before. Nyoman has faced his loss in a completely different way. Nyoman takes Jamie to some of the events to commemorate the bombings.

In the middle of the book Ellen takes us back to show what happened to Jamie that dreadful night as she deals with loss, tries to help others and meets Gabe who looks after her as she recovers from the injuries she sustains. They form a close bond, something a bit scary for both of them as they each have issues with loss and relationships as well as coping with the trauma of the bombings. But this relationship becomes pivotal to both of them and they try to leave the past behind them and move on. As you can tell from the blurb they don’t get it together at this time and Jamie comes back to Bali wanting to try and find Gabe and see if he will forgive for leaving and if they have anything left to rescue. I enjoyed the romantic element to the story but for me the most interesting part was learning about Bali, its customs and people and how they have coped with such a big tragedy.

Verdict:This story was fascinating, there are a great variety of characters and it is gripping subject matter, a good read.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Canvas
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 256
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge:None
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Hurt

Tabitha Suzuma
hurtAt seventeen, Mathéo Walsh appears to have it all. He is a champion diver and a hot prospect for the upcoming Olympics. He is a heartthrob, a straight A student and lives in one of the wealthiest areas of London. He has great friends and is the envy of many 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 . . .

Having read Tabitha’s previous book, Forbidden, I thought that I knew what I was letting myself in for when I picked up Hurt – a beautifully written, compelling and emotive, character driven story, with a thread of taboo- and I was absolutely right.

Like Matheo awaking from the oblivion of sleep and finding himself at the epicenter of violence and destruction, I was immediately thrown in to a disorientating and disturbing scene with no explanation.

The flashbacks to the lightness, playfulness and beauty of pre-amnesia Matheo’s contrast so potently with the angry and bewildered young man struggling to fit in to his own life, that I felt overwhelmed by a sense of wrongness and sadness.

Matheo’s hurt was so clearly palpable, I just wanted to wrap him up in a huge hug and protect him from the world. At one point I had to stop reading as I was unable to see the text through my tears. I even had to take a few days break from the book mid way through, to read something else, because I couldn’t face the emotions that would be unleashed with the return of Matheo’s memory.
In Forbidden the use of first person, dual narrative was very important to my acceptance of the story. Therefore I found myself paying particular notice of the perspective Suzuma employed in Hurt.

For me Hurt, a third person narrative, entirely from Matheo’s perspective, was a doubled edged sword. On the one hand, this book devastated me enough with the description of how Matheo was feeling and what he was thinking, that I know a first person narrative would have been harder to experience, perhaps too hard. On the other, although I loved the secondary characters and felt sad for how Matheo’s experience affected them, I only did so because of Matheo’s love and concern for them in their roles of friend, girlfriend and brother and not because I had gotten to know them in their own right, which a more omnipotent third person perspective would have allowed.

Suzuma has this amazing talent for creating breathtakingly beautiful love in impossible and taboo situations that live with you long after you turn the last page. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be automatically pre-ordering whatever she decides to write next.

Verdict: The title is a warning- Don’t expect to finish a Tabitha Suzuma book the same person you were when you started it.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Random House Children’s
Publication Date: September 2013
Format: Hardback
Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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