A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Rating: 4/5 stars

A Skinful of ShadowsBlurb:

When a creature dies, its spirit can go looking for somewhere to hide.

Some people have space inside them, perfect for hiding.

Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the ghosts which try to possess her. Then a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment.

And now there’s a ghost inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Review:

‘She felt the queasy tickle of their nearness, like spider-feet against her mind.’

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mostly due to the beautiful writing style, but partly because I love ghost stories. This ghost story felt fresh and original with the family history and Makepeace’s possession by Bear. I loved the relationship between Makepeace and Bear and how they had a lot in common despite being different species; both being lost and used by the people around them. Makepeace herself was a likeable character, strong and resilient. However, I think my favourite character was Mother, her cold-heartedness and the mystery surrounding Makepeace’s beginnings make her interesting. The opening conversation between the two is striking;

‘Conversations became riddles with traps in them, and your answers had consequences.’

It is quite a long book but this gives us plenty of time to get to know the characters. Although, I did feel like more time could have been spent getting to know James, as Makepeace’s motivation is to save him but their relationship seemed to be lacking something and I wasn’t rooting for him the way I perhaps should have been.

The story is told against the backdrop of a civil war which Makepeace finds herself involved in but doesn’t really care about it, she cares about the safety of all ordinary people, but it does serve to move the plot forward and gives us some great action.

I would give the story 3 stars but the beautiful prose bumps it up to 4.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Mass

Rating: 3/5 stars

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Blurb:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price … 

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

The start of a sensational romantic fantasy trilogy by the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series.

Review:

I have really mixed feelings about this book. OK, so it took me a long time to get through it. I devoured three other books while I kept putting this down and picking it up again.

I think I found Fayre, the main character, a little hard to relate to or feel anything for. I didn’t particularly like her, but there were other characters that I did like, such as Lucien, Rhysand and Nesta. Feyre likes to paint and I think this is where the empathy is supposed to come through – oh, look, she paints, so she has got a heart, but it didn’t quite hit the mark.

This is at the older end of young adult with some very raunchy scenes. I didn’t mind them but it’s something to keep in mind.

The writing style was stilted at times and her overuse of repetition can become distracting, pulling you out of the story rather than enhancing it. Some descriptions were just strange but then others were beautiful.

It was a bit of a slow start. Towards the end I was thinking oh god, there’s still 20% left, but as it turned out that was the section I enjoyed most. This pulled it from being 2.5 stars to 3.

I can see why this is such a huge hit. I have the second and third book on my kindle but I’m not sure when the mood will take me to pick them up. I’m certainly not rushing for them, but maybe they’ll keep calling out to me to be read, just like this one did.   

 

You can buy A Court of Thorns and Roses here.

Read more about Sarah J Mass here.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 5/5 stars

Blurb:

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus, Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor…never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

Review:

This book had me gripped from beginning to end. As soon as you are introduced to these two teenagers you instantly fall for them. It opens with Park’s point of view; ‘XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.’ This instantly took me back my school days and my love of calling everyone ‘morons’. Music features throughout and is a tool that helps bring Eleanor and Park together, as well as comic books. Eleanor is introduced as ‘big and awkward. With crazy hair, bright red’ Also, instantly relatable for me. It is definitely not love at first sight.

You may think that this is just another boy meets girl story and you’d be right but it is the ultimate boy meets girl story! Every emotion, every touch, every awkward conversation, is written so beautifully that you will feel everything they do and never want to leave them.

There are also issues of bullying, domestic violence and emotional abuse, taking us into what is a dark world for Eleanor. Park is her sunshine and we are rooting for them to have a happy ending. I won’t reveal here whether they do or not!

Go and buy this book!

You will not be disappointed!

Find out more about Rainbow Rowel here.

Buy Eleanor and Park here.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon (Book Review)

Everything, everything

Rating: 4/5

Blurb:

Maddy is allergic to the world; stepping outside the sterile sanctuary of her home could kill her. But then Olly moves in next door. And just like that, Maddy realizes there’s more to life than just being alive. You only get one chance at first love. And Maddy is ready to risk everything, everything to see where it leads.

Review:

This is a joint review by me and one of my pupils, Jasmine, who is 16 and has been unable to go outside for the last five years. I teach her at home. As you can imagine Jasmine has a unique perspective when it comes to relating to this story.

First off, Jasmine thought it was a great book, if a little cheesy. I loved the book and steamed through it.

The premise of the book is an interesting one and something that people should probably talk about more. There are many young people out there suffering in similar situations, and they go unnoticed. But this is a story about hope, about taking chances, about a life that is worth living.

We agreed that the characters are all well fleshed out and interesting. Madeline’s (Maddy’s) mum is a strong woman who will do anything for her daughter. Carla the nurse is Maddy’s shoulder to cry on, she’s like a second mum, but a bit of a soft touch which Maddy uses to her advantage. When Olly comes into Maddy’s life her world is turned upside-down as she experiences love for the first time. Olly has his own issues with his family to deal with and him and Maddy almost cling to each other from the off. He is vibrant and fun and most importantly, he makes Maddy want more. She realises that a life trapped is not a life that she wants to live.

The pace is fast, the chapters are short, and you can wiz through it in a couple of hours. It picks up even more speed as the book draws to it’s shocking climax.

Jasmine and I both loved the layout. The notes, the IM’s, emails, letters and drawings all add to the world of Maddy and make it interesting. Jasmine particularly enjoyed the way Maddy observed the neighbours and made logs. She said you learn how to read people better when you’re restricted to observing people.

The only real criticism Jasmine had was that the hardships of being stuck inside the house could have been portrayed more. There is reference in the book to Maddy having an incident when she was eight, but we could probably expect more than one major incident or period of depression if you had lived your life inside for the last eighteen years, and in turn this made Maddy come across as slightly bland. Jasmine related to the birthday scene with a cake and a game and that’s it, but there was not enough reference to how hard this would be emotionally on Maddy, it only showed that her mum felt emotional on birthdays.

Overall, this is a great read and I would recommend it to anyone. It gives a valuable insight into the different lives that people are living and highlights the fact that these type of people need extra support, care and attention from the societies we live in.

by J. E. Kennedy and Jasmine Kelly

Find out more about Nicola Yoon here.

Buy Everything, Everything here.

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J. M. Sullivan (Book Review)

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Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles by J. M. Sullivan

Rating: 4/5

Blurb:

Ever since the outbreak of the Plague life hasn’t been easy, and for seventeen-year-old Alice Carroll it just got worse. Her sister, Dinah, has contracted the ‘un-deadly’ Momerath Virus and without a cure will soon be worse than dead. She’ll be momerath.

Alice must leave the safety of the Sector and venture into Momerath Territory to find the antidote – if it exists. Chasing a rumour about a mysterious doctor with the cure, Alice falls down the rabbit hole into Wanderland, where ravenous momerath aren’t the only danger lurking.

Review:

Mix your favourite children’s story with zombies and what do you get? A rip-roaring adventure from start to finish! This story of Alice is a bit darker than the original but it makes for fantastic reading.

Alice is a young girl living in the Sector with her sister who contracts the momerath virus. Alice is devastated and it’s now her turn to protect her family. She goes off on a hunt through the mostly abandoned city of Pheonix (Wanderland) in search of a cure. Alice discovers her strength and her ability as a kick-ass fighter along the way. You fall in love with her and root for her. She battles the momerath and stands up to the Queen, not to mention overcoming dangerous situations with her quick-thinking and intelligence.

She meets many characters that resemble their counterparts enough to be recognised but bring a new and interesting element to the story. Dr. Whaite R. Abbott, Hatta, Bug, Nate, are all well-fleshed out characters who add to the depth to the tale. But my favourite character has to be Chess. I think I’m a little bit in love with Chess. They meet by chance and Alice doesn’t know what to think when he leaves her in an abandoned, but well reinforced, van for the night. Things get even more confusing for Alice where Chess is concerned but… I don’t want to give anything away! Go and read it…

Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles is a helluva ride and you won’t want to put it down.

To buy from Amazon click here.

To find out more about J. M. Sullivan click here.

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