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Review: Falling by Design by Valia Lind

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Falling by Design
Author: Valia Lind
Publisher: Self Published
Publication Date: 12 March 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Brooklynn Summers has a plan for her life: graduate from high school, get into a top fashion school, prove to her family that she’s not a failure. She wishes someone in her life understood her need to create because her parents sure don’t support her dreams, her sister hates her, and the deadlines are soon approaching.

Enter Grayson Banks.

There are a few things in life Brooklynn can’t stand: mismatched patterns, cheap polyester, and Grayson. No boy has ever publicly humiliated Brooklynn like Grayson has. When he suddenly moved away in eighth grade, Brooklynn happily wished him good riddance. But on the first day of senior year, Grayson comes back, with his piercing blue eyes and a smile that melts icebergs, he is not exactly the boy Brooklynn remembers. She quickly realizes that Grayson’s intentions have completely shifted, but she’s not sure if she can put their past behind her.

Grayson understands Brooklynn’s creative ambitions and he devises a plan to showcase her work to the world. When the two agree to work together, suddenly, there is more than just fabric paint that’s having a chemical reaction to its environment. Brooklynn cannot help but feel pulled into Grayson’s arms, but memories and misunderstandings surface, putting in danger whatever small comradeship these two childhood enemies have constructed.

Can Brooklynn overcome her own insecurities, finally making her dreams come true? Even a dream she didn’t know she had.

This is a story about a girl with big dreams and a boy who helps her achieve them.

REVIEW 

The synopsis gives the plot in detail so there is no need to recap any of it :) The characterizations were well developed piecing together not only Brooklynn and Grayson’s interactions in the present alongside their shared history, but also their individual home lives and the how specific incidents have shaped them into the person they are today.

Both characters are very endearing allowing a deep connection to them. It is obvious from the very beginning that they belong together, they have chemistry as well as a deep connection if only Brooklynn could acknowledge it. I understood Brooklynn’s reluctance to let Grayson past her barriers but to the outside observer it was pretty obvious how he felt about her both in the present and the past.

Brooklynn’s emotional issues are exasperated by the lack of support she receives from her parents. This was a truly heartbreaking aspect of the plot, I hated seeing how Brooklynn’s father treated her, making her feel like a disappointment. I must say that Brooklynn is an incredibly strong character to stand up for herself in the face of such opposition, lesser spirits would have been crushed. Both Brooklynn and Grayson’s creative passion and talent pour through the pages adding to the plot as a whole. It was like the technicolor rainbow on top of the black and white plot (if you get my meaning – icing on the cake situation).

The minefield of high school and bullying is touched upon as well as the unique friendship providing encouragement, support and love. Although I did find some of the angst a little repetitive when it came to Brooklynn it did add to the emotional connection I felt with her. I would have liked to have seen the story progress at a faster pace with more insight into the background of both her father and her aunt with respect of their past influencing their actions to Brooklynn.

On the whole, Falling by Design is a cute romance that encourages you to follow your dreams.

Review: Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L Armentrout

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Don’t Look Back
Author: Jennifer L Armentrout
Publisher: Hodder
Publication Date: 10 April 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

What if you had the chance to start again…but only if you promised never to look back? Samantha is popular, rich, and seemed to have it all…until the night she and her best ‘frenemy’ Cassie disappeared and only Sammy resurfaced, with no recollection of who she is or what happened. Sammy’s a stranger in her own life – a life she no longer wants any part of. Losing her memory is a chance to start again. Then Sammy begins receiving mysterious notes warning her about that night, urging her to not look back. But she can’t let it go. As she starts poking around in her past she begins to remember…and something sinister begins to surface

REVIEW 

It’s official Jennifer can write anything, her writing style is so addictive, full of quips and sass, her female main characters are realistic have issues yet are ultimately strong when it comes to the crunch. While the male main characters are hotness personified coupled with a sarcastic banter guaranteed to melt the coldest heart *swoon*

Told in first person narrative from Samantha’s point of view, suffering from amnesia found four days after going missing, injured and traumatized. Setting the incredible tension that Jennifer manages to maintain throughout the story. Sam’s amnesia is like a gift for her, it is a second chance to be who she wants to be rather than the person she was. Layer upon layer of secrets unfold as the story progresses, the clues are all there to be pieced together, until it all comes tumbling down. I did feel as if I could have benefited from more background details especially regarding how Sam and Cassie became friends in the first place. Glimpses of their shared history didn’t provide enough clarity for me to fully explain Sam’s behavior during this time.

Being a teen is partly about discovery who you are; yet society/popularity place barriers into fully accepting yourself as the multi-faceted being you are by stereotyping and pigeon holing people. Labeling them into nice little boxes which in essence of being a box limits their potential and social circle. Cliques by their very nature are the price of popularity; conforming in order to fit in at the expense of denying who and what you really are. I felt as if Sam’s life lacked the luxury of free-will, in an effort to gain her parents approval she allowed other people to plan her future for her.

As always the romance within the story is the deciding factor for me, Carson provides he perfect romantic back-drop for all the atmospheric tension within the narrative, adding sizzling tension in another area ;) Carson and Sam’s childhood memories add enlightenment to the depth of emotion portrayed.

Don’t Look Back is now on my recommendations list for rom-illers, combining all the tension of thrillers with a swoon-worthy romance :)

Review: Ask Me by Kimberly Pauley

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Ask Me
Author: Kimberly Pauley
Publisher: Soho Teen
Publication Date: 8 April 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 3/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Ask Aria Morse anything, and she must answer with the truth. Yet she rarely understands the cryptic words she‘s compelled to utter. Blessed—or cursed—with the power of an Oracle who cannot decipher her own predictions, she does her best to avoid anyone and everyone.

But Aria can no longer hide when Jade, one of the few girls at school who ever showed her any kindness, disappears. Any time Aria overhears a question about Jade, she inadvertently reveals something new, a clue or hint as to why Jade vanished. But like stray pieces from different puzzles, her words never present a clear picture.

Then there’s Alex, damaged and dangerous, but the first person other than Jade to stand up for her. And Will, who offers a bond that seems impossible for a girl who’s always been alone. Both were involved with Jade. Aria may be the only one who can find out what happened, but the closer she gets to solving the crime, the more she becomes a target. Not everyone wants the truth to come out.

ASK ME Blog Tour Banner

Full tour Scheduel HERE

REVIEW 

I don’t know whether you’ve noticed but there seem to be a few books out/coming out that feature an oracle (Greek Mythology) as the main character of the story. We’ve caught snippets of oracles in most of the YA fiction based in Greek Mythology so the chance to get to know one on a personal basis wasn’t something I could pass up :)

I’ve got to say from the onset that the ‘criminal’ was OBVIOUS, the clever way in which it was revealed provided an ‘ah ha’ moment lol. Saying it was obvious to me, doesn’t detract from the ingenious yet chilling portrayal of a sociopath – charismatic yet manipulative, self-absorped and with an utter lack of regret/guilt sent chills down my spine.

Told from Aria’s point of view, she inherited the ‘gift’ of prophecy as a direct descendant of the original Sybil she has to answer any question she hears; whether its directed at her or not. This, as you can imagine can lead to some very uncomfortable situations resulting in loss of friend and family. My heart-ached for Aria. Add in the fact that the prophecies rarely make sense and can cause her physical pain, you can empathise with her retreat from socializing and losing herself in music. The music lyrics, songs titles and artist at the chapter headings added to the plot while providing a deeper connection with Aria, you could listen to the song at the same time as Aria in the story.

Kimberly Pauley’s writing is beautifully descriptive adding depth to the imagery; I did, however, have a problem picturing Aria, her physical description was scattered throughout the narrative. I think I would have preferred the description earlier in order to connect with her further.

For all the bad Aria has encountered due to her ‘gift’ she retains her optimism. She is kind, considerate and empathetic while her trust issues create a barrier to making friends when they do break through they are guarenteed unquestioned loyalty and devotion :)

Ask Me is fast paced, a murder mystery wrapped in paranormal with a good dose of theology. Providing more insight into the role of an oracle Ask Me leaves you asking more ;)

Review: Hate by Alan Gibbons

Received from Publisher

Received from Publisher

Title: Hate
Author: Alan Gibbons
Publisher: Indigo
Publication Date: 10 April 2014
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 4.5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Eve’s older sister, Rosie, was bright and alive and always loved being the centre of attention. Then one day, she is brutally murdered. Six months later, Eve meets Antony and discovers that he was there the night Rosie died and did nothing to help. Is there any way she can ever get past that? Inspired by the Sophie Lancaster murder in 2007, which saw Sophie and her partner Rob viciously attacked in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire because of the way they dressed. This is a hard-hitting real-life thriller about friendship, courage, loss, forgiveness and about our society and communities.

REVIEW BY BETH

Hate is an exceptionally well executed novel that takes its inspiration from the true, terrible story of Sophie Lancaster, murdered for looking different. Gibbons’ inspiration is clear throughout and he deftly manages to craft a new story that puts the mindlessness of such events into a little perspective.

Hate is a dual narrative with Eve, the sister of brutally murdered Rosie and Anthony, a witness who stood by and did nothing, taking turns to tell their story and come to terms with everything they have been through. It’s hard, to begin with, to feel anything but confusion for Eve, she can’t possibly work out how to continue as before, her entire family has disintegrated. Her mother has been swallowed up by Rosie’s forthcoming court case and fight for justice whilst her father has shrunk into nothingness, afraid and broken. Eve is somewhere in the middle not knowing what to do, only thinking ‘What would Rosie do?’ but this all changes when Anthony arrives.

Anthony’s story is fascinating as it’s clear he is haunted by Rosie too and the events of that night and his inability or choice to do nothing. Whilst Eve is powered by fury and grief, Anthony is engulfed by grief and frustration at his choices.

Scenes throughout this novel are hard to read, especially in light of the story’s inspiration, but Alan Gibbons should be praised for not holding back. The murder scene is very hard going but it’s through this you get a chance to see Anthony’s perspective as well as watch (read?) in horror as both Rosie and her boyfriend are beaten beyond belief, for absolutely no good reason.

As the story progresses the second plot, focusing on Eve’s friend Jess and her recently out homosexual brother is a chance for Anthony to do something he couldn’t do before. I would say it was a little predictable as the cues and hints as the story built were quite obvious but this didn’t detract from its power.

The back of the book features a range of thoughtful questions which would be brilliant for a book group or in a classroom discussion (this novel should be read in classrooms with no doubt).

Review: Cross My Heart by Carmen Reid

Image from Goodreads

Image from Goodreads

Title: Cross My Heart
Author: Carmen Reid
Publisher: Corgi Children’s
Publication Date:
Source: Review Copy
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads

Brussels, 1940. Fifteen-year-old Nicole watches as the Nazis invade Belgium. Determined not to stand by as her country is brought to its knees, Nicole vows to fight back and joins the Belgian Resistance. Under her new alias – Coco – Nicole embarks on a dangerous new life as a spy, where the only question is not if you’ll be caught, but when

REVIEW BY BETH

Cross my Heart is another book after my own heart! World War Two Resistance in Belgium is something I knew next to nothing about but as another facet of World War Two history I was hooked from simply reading the synopsis. I’m loving how more and more authors are writing about this period of history in different ways and making it accessible to younger readers who are more than likely being let down by our less than satisfactory National Curriculum (despite hundreds of truly fantastic history teachers).

Anyway, that’s not why I’m here. Cross my Heart is Nicole’s story and from page one I was invested in her character and on her side. Despite being only 15 she is committed to playing a role in the resistance and her strength and bravery and that of her friends is both astounding and believable. She becomes a spy, which is hard to believe of a 15 year old girl, and her entire life is lived on the basis of when she’ll be caught, there are no ifs and buts in wartime Belgium.

Alongside her resistance life there are glimpses of normality, love and teenage development. It’s all thwarted of course as the characters are forced to grow up far too quickly.

When Nicole becomes Coco a whole new terrifying world is opened up to her. A world where everyone is a pseudonym from the Poet to Hawk to Owl and the harrowing accounts of what happens when the worst occurs are so powerfully written I found myself thinking about them for a long time after reading. Hope’s story is one of the saddest and most painful – I would love to know what Reid thought happened to her next.

As the novel concludes there is a powerful big reveal which is both uplifting and devastating for Nicole. It’s the perfect way for the novel to conclude and this powerful look at the Second World War from a different angle once more should be read by as many people as possible.