Archive for the ‘YA’ Category

The Awakened

Julian Cheek

My name is Sam. I am nothing special but apparently if I don’t wake up, both this world and that other one will be destroyed. Nice One! All I wanted was to disappear into my own world and be left alone. But, No! Even THAT was taken away from me.
Well just wait. You want me to fight? I’ll show you “fight.”
You took the most important thing in my life away from me, and now I am coming for you.
Hidden away in your mountain stronghold, even the rocks around you will not stop me getting to you.
You started this war.
I am going to finish it!
Seventeen year old Sam just wants to be left alone!
He has enough to cope with in his invisible, suburban, existence without having some fantastic and, frankly, unasked-for, alternate reality drop into his life asserting that he has powers beyond his wildest dreams. And that unless he does something, both his world, and that of Muanga-Atua, will come to a horrible end.
A terrifying episode one blustery night may be enough to start to erode the impregnable shell he thought he had built up around himself. A shell, not to keep others out, but to keep the rage in. Could he afford, as was the norm now, just to do nothing?


What is your favourite thing about writing books?
For me, my favourite things is the wrestling, trying to find the right/best way to describe a scene such that the reader is instantly transported into that environment, regardless as to whether they have ever experienced the same for themselves or not. And when there, for them to then associate with the scene, experience or event unfolding, and this, star to associate with the story as a whole

Who is your favourite character in your book and why?
Alice! I loved playing with the fact that she is a total enigma to Sam. He doesn’t know whether to blush, curse, get frustrated or run away, but there is something about Alice that gets under his skin, so he is almost powerless to keep away from her. Without giving too much of the story away, Alice is also key to Muanga-Atua, the alternative world Sam discovers. The reader is slowly introduced to her, and hopefully, is kept guessing till the very end.

What is your favourite drink to consume while writing?
Part of the reason for writing this trilogy, (of which “The Awakened” is book one) is because when my partner and I went to New Zealand on sabbatical, we were so amazed with the place, in terms of the scenery, culture, grandeur… and coffee, that we wrote a blog (http://www.hobbitsandseals.wordpress.com) about our experiences, and interestingly, an awful lot of coffee is consumed. So, coffee, which I find comforting, or a G&T, which is of course, the best cold drink, ever

Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing?
Of course not! Although I am sure my partner, Mitch, would easily be able to rattle off numerous habits, which, whilst not bad in themselves, annoy her! I will leave it for her to come to my rescue. Probably looking out the window and day-dreaming, rather than concentrating on the subject at hand…. And waffling, I am very good at just rambling on and on and…. Hmmm. Enough said.

How do you research your books?
I do a lot of reading and go online frequently during research periods. Another aspect, for example, when describing the scene in Paris (and, no, I will not be writing any spoiler alerts here!) is that we travel a lot and soak up the culture and landscapes as much as possible. We both write, and this comes naturally to us, so we are not describing areas or places which are unrealistic.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I take my writing seriously and so I would describe myself generally as a plotter. The story needs to have some structure from which to build itself. However, once I have refined this “skeleton” I would rather that certain aspects are allowed to wander into the “pantser” home, rip off the curtains and turn up the music till the windows crack. Both feed off each other.

If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why?
In Piers Anthony’s Adept Series, he paints a fantastic world called “Phaze”. If one could combine the world of Phaze with that of Lord of the Rings, that is where I would like to live. I love wide open scenery with huge mountains that break the skyline, and then disappear into the forests where mankind becomes so small in relation to the ageless trees, earth and nature.

If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why?
Thomas Covenant, from the Stephen Donaldson series, would probably be the one fictional character I would love to try to befriend. It would be fascinating to sit with him and learn all about wisdom carved from adversary. But, like most best friends, it would be bloody difficult to stop myself thumping him at times for his sheer bloody-mindedness. Sorry, am I allowed to say, “bloody”? No? Bugger!

About the Author

Living in Petersfield, Hampshire, Julian Cheek has worked for over thirty years as an architect working on several major projects including Mercedes World, a competition for Battersea Power Station, NikeTown and most recently a high rise, Versace branded residential building in London. When not designing he is embracing his other creative interests, writing. His first book, You should not wake a hibernating Puff-Adder (2011) was a series of short stories inspired by his childhood growing up in South Africa.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Publication Date: June 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 306
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

Curse of the Nomed

B. B. Taylor

Ancient Gods, a cursed Librarian and a battle to save their souls. How hard could the first day of school really be? Welcome to Nomed Academy! An epic adventure for three unsuspecting year seven students as they embark on their first day of school. One they will never forget. But can they really defeat an ancient Egyptian God with nothing but revenge on his mind? All net profits from the sale of this book go to Partnership for Children, a mental health charity supporting the positive mental health of children.


After hearing about how this book came to be, I could not wait to read it. A group of year eight students came up with the idea and B. B. Taylor brought it to life. Now all the profit from the book will be going to a mental health charity. Add to that an enticing summary and I simply had to give this book a try. Fortunately, it is a decision I am glad I made. It is a short read and just over 100 pages but it definitely packs a punch. It’s full of adventure, excitement and danger. It is the perfect book to keep you entertained for a few hours and I am sure it will be loved by lots of teenagers.

In this book, the three main characters start of not knowing much about each other nor having much strength. By the end of the book, you can tell that they will be friends for life and are the strongest trio in the school. This occurs as they use their own personal knowledge and strength to surpass the challenges that they have to face in the midst of their adventures. Together they have to work as a team to save the school from deadly sources. But do they have it in them to succeed?

I absolutely loved the way this book uses Ancient Egypt at the centre of the story. I loved the Librarian, and I just thought the trio were really interesting to read about as well. This was a very quick but entertaining read that I would happily recommend to others. It’s a fast-paced, adventure filled book that will have your heart racing as you hope that the trio will triumph instead of fail. Plus, it’s all worth it to get to the very end of the book too. After all, what will happen next?

Verdict: An entertaining, interesting, and heart-racing book that will keep you turning the page until you know that everything works out okay… or does it?

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Weird N Wonderful Tales
Publication Date: May 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 116
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

On Holy Ground

Louise Cole

Saving the world was just the start.
In The Devil’s Poetry, Callie gambled with her life to stop a war. And she won. But now the game has changed. A Reader who understands the Book’s magic is either a savior or a curse – what she can’t be is free. When Callie stranded in the US, hunted and penniless, she desperately needs allies. But whose agenda can she trust? She must re-evaluate everything she knows, and find a way to escape, or die trying. Don’t miss the riveting sequel to The Devil’s Poetry.


After finishing The Devil’s Poetry, I was itching to get my hands on the On Holy Ground. There is something so pulling about Louise Cole’s writing. It sucks you into the story and makes you yearn for more. This was especially true during On Holy Ground. Right from the very first sentence, my heart rate increased and I had to continue reading. There was absolutely no way I could stop reading before I got to the end of the book. Once again, Louise Cole has written a fantastic book that you really do not want to miss out on.

One of the things I find really wonderful about Louise‘s books is the way that the narration flips between different characters throughout the story, which not only gives you a more rounded view of everything going on but really builds up the tension inside the book. The main genre of this book is definitely fantasy, whereby a book can save the world and break it at the same time, but it also has brilliant characteristics of a thriller too. With lots of different things going on at the same time and everyone having different agendas, it is easy to see how she manages to create such an intense and ultimately page-turning novel that is incredibly hard to put down.

Once again, Callie is a strong character who really pulls the story along. I felt for her throughout a lot of the book and was so invested in her story and everything that was going on around her. I had to know what was happening and where everything was headed. Fortunately, Louise Cole did not disappoint. She has written a very strong and entertaining sequel to her first book and I know that I am intrinsically hooked on her writing now. I will definitely be reading every single book that she writes from now on. Moreover, I would also highly recommend this series so if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, make sure you do that soon!

Verdict: A fast-paced, heart-racing, intense sequel that is an absolutely stunning read that you do not want to miss out on.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Valkyrie Books
Publication Date: April 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Review Copy

Two Ticks Tuesday; What’s a Girl Gotta Do?

Holly Bourne
HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…

Really enjoyed the way the author highlighted everyday sexism with humour but, as with the previous books in this series, still managed to address serious elements in a sensitive and informative way.

I really recommend this series.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher:Usbourne Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 331
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
Posted on:

Two Ticks Tuesday; How Hard Can Love Be?

Holly Bourne
Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?
All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber’s hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.
And then there’s prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie’s advice, there’s no escaping the fact: love is hard.

I am absolutely loving this series and I raced through this instalment in a single sitting.
Despite the heavy backstory I didn’t find this as intense as the first. I did however find it even funnier and I could completely relate to Amber’s Britishness
I continued to love Lottie’s feminist insights, they work well within the story and don’t feel like info dumps. a fabulous way to introduce feminist principles and ideas to young people. I plan to gift this series to every tween and teen I know.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: February 2016
Format: ebook
Pages: 480
Genre: Contemporary, Feminism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None

Two Ticks Tuesday; Am I Normal Yet?

Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I love Holly’s writing. She deftly manages to combine the struggle of living with a long term condition, and a heartbreaking crisis with loveable characters and snort out loud humour.

Holly’s book deals with friendships and relationships like the older, wiser sister every woman wishes she had had to guide her through her teen years and young adulthood.

Really informative and thought provoking. A gripping first person insight in to OCD.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: ebook
Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None

Two Ticks Tuesday; It Only Happens in the Movies

Holly Bourne
Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…
The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

I would highly recommend this book! It was so, so good. Full of movie cliche’s, feminism, friendship, first loves, relationships, family life, etc. It was rich, raw and honest and I love how strong and vulnerable Holly made all of the characters. I especially loved Audrey’s support unit. This book is going on my favourites of the year shelf for sure!

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Challenge: None

Two Ticks Tuesday; Witch Born

Nicholas Bowling
It’s 1577. Queen Elizabeth I has imprisoned scheming Mary Queen of Scots, and Alyce’s mother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Alyce kills the witchfinder and flees to London – but the chase isn’t over yet. As she discovers her own dark magic, powerful political forces are on her trail. She can’t help but wonder: why is she so important? Soon she finds herself deep in a secret battle between rival queens, the fate of England resting on her shoulders…

This was a perfect autumnal read, sitting warm and cosy under a blanket while our protagonist, Alyce found herself in ever more uncomfortable (usually cold and wet) and dangerous situations.

I really enjoyed how Bowling played with history, taking a very real and very tense political situation and very recognizable historical figures and deftly overlaying the fantasy elements of his story.

While I did studying the period way back when I was in school, it is a time I have spent very little time exploring in literature. I came away with a better sense of the period, of its struggles and general unpleasantness. Though I enjoyed my time visiting Bowling’s Elizabethan England I am very glad I don’t live there!

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: September 2017
Format: ARC
Pages: 368
Genre: Historical, Fantasy
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: Debut author

Two Ticks Tuesday; Turtles All The Way Down

John Green
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

A lot of people are praising this book and I can definitely see why. I really did like this book but it was probably a 3.5/4 star book for me as opposed to a big 5 star read.

I liked a lot of the things that happened but I also really disliked a few things too. A bit swings and roundabouts!

What was good about the book is that it made me THINK and you can find more of my thoughts here.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Hardback
Pages: 304
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source:
Challenge: None

Turtles All the Way Down

John Green
Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.
Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

*This is not a review so much as a reflection on the book*

I’ve been waiting for this book to be released for months, ever since I saw this video on youtube where John Green explains so well what having OCD is actually like. I knew that this book was going to be reflecting on his own experiences and would therefore be a good portrayal of this mental health illness – which I do also suffer with.

And it really, really was. I found myself taking photos of a lot of quotes in the book and just well and truly identifying with the main character. In this respect, this book was exactly what I had hoped it would be.

But it also really made me think. (The irony of this statement will not be lost on those who have read it.)

Everyone who suffers with OCD, suffers and deals with it in their own unique way. They have their own experiences, their own triggers, anxieties, routines, etc so it would be impossible for any one book on OCD to be the perfect OCD book for everyone who suffers with it. But what I found helpful with this book, and other books with OCD protagonists (listed below) is that I saw myself in some of the quotes, routines and actions of Aza, thus I was able to feel just a little less alone.

But on the flip side, it also made me question my own OCD. Yes, I did some of the things that Aza did but I also didn’t do other things or didn’t do things to such a bad extent and thus I felt like maybe I am just making a big deal of nothing. Maybe my OCD isn’t OCD at all, but just quirks. (I have been diagnosed by a health professional and even this line of thinking is part of my OCD at play) As you can see, I am aware that for me this is an irrational thought and not true. But I can’t help but wonder if, as a teenager, I would have felt the same way.

I have suffered with OCD – from my knowledge – ever since I was 14 years old. However at the time, I had no idea I had OCD. I barely even understood that I had anxieties. I just figured I was a teenager going through being a teenager – you know? So if I had read this and not felt that my actions were as bad then I may not have gone to a doctor. And I worry that this is also how some teenagers of today may feel about this book.

Obviously this is a difficult issue and I do not think Turtles All the Way Down is at fault here as it does show how serious and difficult OCD can be. But I feel that what I’m getting to is that we need more books which show OCD as manageable, hidden issues perhaps. Most of the OCD books I’ve read, the protagonists are aware of their health issue so I think I just want a book where someone is diagnosed as OCD.

SPOILER ADDITION
(Highlight to read)

On a similar note, while reading this book, I kept feeling like something wasn’t quite right. I could not figure out where this feeling was coming from but it was a niggling thought at the back of my mind. It was only upon reading a review of the book that I realised what my issue was; Aza does not seem to have any other personality trait. She has OCD and that is all she is. There is never mention to any films or books she loves, or any other activity that she really does except think. I do know that this may have been to show how all encompassing OCD can be but I also just feel that it made her character feel a little flat to me.

END OF SPOILER

What do you think? Have you read Turtles? Did you like it?

Other Books with OCD I highly recommend
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b by Teresa Toten
Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
It’s All In Your Head by Rae Earl
(Non-Fiction)
Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon (Non-Fiction, Adult)

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: October 2017
Format: Hardback
Pages: 286
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Gifted
Challenge: None