Book Review: The Spaces In Between – Collin Van Reenan

Book Review: The Spaces In Between – Collin Van Reenan

Release Date: February 15th 2018
Publisher: Red Door Books
Pages: 288
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones
Source: The publisher kindly sent me an E-ARC to review
Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

One of the most disturbing true stories you will ever read…

Paris, 1968. Nicholas finds himself broke, without papers and on the verge of being deported back to England. Seeking to stay in France, Nicholas takes a three-month contract as an English tutor to the 17-year-old Imperial Highness Natalya. It is the perfect solution; free room and board, his wages saved, and a place to hide from police raids. All that is asked of Nicholas is to obey the lifestyle of the household and not to leave the grounds.

It should have solved all his problems…

The Spaces In Between details the experience of Nicholas as he finds himself an unwitting prisoner within an aristocratic household, apparently frozen in time, and surrounded by macabre and eccentric personalities who seem determined to drag him to the point of insanity. Much deeper runs a question every reader is left to ponder – if this tale is fact and not fiction, then what motivation could have driven his tormenters?

Review

“The most dangerous lies are the lies we tell ourselves…”

This was such a strange and unusual story that hooked me in from start till finish. Nicholas takes a job as an English tutor for a young woman named Natayla. The house has some odd rules – there’s no electricity, you’re not allowed to leave and everyone thinks the Russian war is still going on. Despite this Nicholas stays on, he’s desperate and the job is good, but as things take a darker turn, he’s not altogether sure he made the right choice.

I love an unreliable narrator and that’s exactly what Nicholas is. The story is framed with a doctor who sees Nicholas as a patient and he recounts his fantastic story. But what he saw, was it real? I was constantly questioning if what he saw was ghosts, a hallucination or in fact real. It keep me desperate to know more because I was never really sure what was real and what wasn’t.

The characters were similarly duplicitous, and everyone seemed to have an alternative motive. Nicholas was a really interesting protagonist, trying to understand what happened to him, and exactly why it did. The ending was a bit of a shock, and I would never have guessed the truth. There were also plenty of creepy, unsettling moments and I loved the setting of the big old house with long corridors and moving shadows.

If you love a story with plenty of twists and creepy moments, The Spaces in Between is a fantastic read and should definitely be on your to be read list. It also has a completely stunning cover!

Book Review: WaR – Wizards and Robots – Will.i.am & Brian David Johnson

Book Review: WaR – Wizards and Robots – Will.i.am & Brian David Johnson

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Release Date:
January 25th 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was given an ARC of this at YALC 2017.
Rating: 1.5/5 stars

Synopsis

When a young man breaks into her home claiming her life is in danger, Ada Luring’s world changes forever. Geller is a wizard, on the run from his father’s hidden clan who want to kill Ada and her mother. Sara Luring is the scientist who will create the first robot, the wizards’ age-old foes.

But a robot has travelled back in time to find Ada, and will lay everything on the line to protect her, as she may just be the key to preventing the earth’s destruction in the future.

Ada, Geller and the robots must learn to work together to change the past and secure the future. But they don’t have much time before a mysterious enemy launches its attack on Earth…

Review

kkkI wanted to like this book. I thought it would be a light and fun read that I could enjoy over the weekend, but it just wasn’t for me. Ada and her mum are entering a competition to create a robot with the most human intelligence, meanwhile there’s a band of wizards from the past (who were almost wiped out by a group of time travelling robots who are being mind controlled by a force known as the Spawn), hellbent on stopping them from creating it. Meanwhile in the future The Spawn have wiped out almost everyone and only the remaining few robots at the Hadron collider can stop the Earth being destroy completely. Confused yet?

I feel like Wizards and Robots had some potential. I really liked Ada and her mum. Ada is the strong techy girl who I thought made an excellent protagonist, but the story had too much going on for me to get to know her as well as I would have liked. The wizard aspects I felt had potential too, but with so much ground to cover the reader doesn’t get the chance to understand the magic systems in play.

The science and technical aspects of the story are clearly very well researched and I enjoyed those aspects of the story, but I otherwise struggled to finish this book. Particularly the last section of the book, which heavily focuses on action sequences and then what felt like a bit of a rushed ending. If you’re a fan of science fiction and like a mash up of ideas you might really enjoy this one, but it just wasn’t for me.
2 stars

2018 Wrap Up!

2018 Wrap Up!

BOOK REVIEW (70)
Now that January is here and I’ve finally managed to pick my favourite books of 2018. You can check that post out here, if you want to know what made the top fifteen. After deciding I thought it would be fun to do a little wrap up just to look at my reading over the last twelve months.

So in 2018 I read 142 books.

One of my reading goals for this year was to read more books. In 2017 I read 91 books so I was hoping to up it to 100. I’m so pleased I managed to completely blitz this challenge and read way more than I expected.

Breaking down what I read:

Review copy/ARC: 66book cover (56)
Backlist: 20
Newly Purchased: 37
Re-read: 19
I’m not particularly surprised about this as I tend to reach more for review copies and the titles I’ve most recently bought. I’m definitely going to aim in 2019 to read more of the backlist books on my shelves. (We’ll see how that goes!)

In terms of genre I read:

Non-Fiction: 3
Graphic Novels: 4
Poetry: 1
Science Fiction: 14
Crime/Thriller: 13book cover (57)
Classics: 7
Historical Fiction: 10
Contemporary: 19
Horror: 10
Fantasy: 61

There’s no surprises that fantasy was by far the most popular. I did plan to read more contemporary books in 2018 so I’m pleased by the 19 on the list and that’s definitely something I want to continue in the new year.

My average length of book was 345 pages with the shortest book being Warm Up by V. E. Schwab (15 pages) and the longest Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (744 pages).

My average rating was 4.0, which definitely shows how many amazing books I’ve read this year that the average rating is so high.

2018 was a brilliant year for books and I’m so excited to read and review more brilliant stories in 2019!

Book Review: Starfish – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Book Review: Starfish – Akemi Dawn Bowman

BOOK REVIEW (66)
Release Date:
April 5th 2018
Publisher: Ink Road
Pages: 353
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher sent me a copy of this book to review

Synopsis

A half-Japanese teen grapples with social anxiety and her narcissist mother in the wake of a crushing rejection from art school in this debut novel.

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

Review

I picked up Starfish when I had the weekend off work, thinking to get ahead in my blog tour reading. For two afternoons I was completely immersed in this emotional roller coaster of a book. It’s a beautifully written book and was a joy to read. If you haven’t added Starfish to your wish list yet, you absolutely have to because I’m already calling this as one of the best books of the year.

The thing I loved most about Starfish has to be Kiko and the amount of depth she had. book cover (50)She was an excellently written character and one that I could probably write about for days. I absolutely loved her and I became attached so quickly to this beautiful protagonist. The representation of anxiety in this book is completely spot on, and I loved watching Kiko as she grows and develops as a character. Starfish is sweet and sad in equal measure and I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough.

There is of course a romance aspect to the story, but I really enjoyed that it was a slow building relationship one that was well thought out and developed, it definitely added another layer to the story and made the characters feel more realistic. Jamie too is an excellently portrayed character, he’s sweet and determined and just the nicest character ever.

This book deals with so many more themes and topics beyond anxiety. I won’t say too much because I wouldn’t want to spoil this beautiful book for anyone but the story deals with trauma during childhood, dealing with a difficult home life as well as what it’s like to be bi-racial. This quiet, subtle book is all about finding yourself and creating an identity, and it’s the kind of book that stays with you long after you’re finished reading. It’s an absolutely stunning debut (with one of the most gorgeous covers I have ever seen!) and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what Akemi writes next.
5 stars

Book Review: The Leavers – Lisa Ko

Book Review: The Leavers – Lisa Ko

BOOK REVIEW (57)
Release Date:
24th April 2018
Publisher: Dialogue Books
Pages: 368
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

Review

This is a beautiful sad story of a young Chinese boy named Deming who’s mother disappears and his world is turned upside down when he is adopted by two wealthy white college professors. They give him a ‘more American name’ in the form of Daniel Wilkinson. The book follows Deming as he attempts to adjust to this new life as well as understand the mother that abandoned him.

book cover (30)This is a really powerful and moving story and one that I think is really important. It’s easy to see why this quiet tale has won so many awards because they are very well deserved. The writing is beautiful and really explores what it means to belong as well as issues around race and identity. I found myself completely absorbed in this book and it is an absolutely stunning debut novel.

This timely book is very character driven, focusing on the relationships between the characters and how you identify yourself based on your family and those around you. It explores different time periods in Deming’s life – his time with his mother before she left, his adjustment to life as the son of Peter and Kay as well as more recently as a struggling student with a gambling problem. It is at times heartbreaking but I definitely think this is a book everyone should take the time to read. If you’re looking for a strong emotional tale, this is definitely the kind of book you’re looking for.
4 stars

Book Review: The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

Book Review: The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

BOOK REVIEW (37)Release Date: 8th March 2018
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Pages: 336
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I received an ARC copy of this at YALC

Synopsis

Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…

Review

Contemporary YA can be a bit of a hit or miss for me but I thought The Exact Opposite of Okay had a really intriguing premise. After just a few chapters I was completely hooked on this funny and fascinating book. It is without a doubt my most favourite contemporary read ever.

book cover (12)This book is fun, clever and deals with a lot of important issues. (I mean what more could you really ask for?) Izzy is a teenager who is hoping to be a script writer when she’s older. She’s a comic and she’s hilariously funny. When a website surfaces claiming she is a ‘world class whore’ and highlights all the details of her sex life, Izzy is made to feel ashamed of her sex life and struggles to deal with the hateful comments. The book really delves into issues around slut shaming and the differing ways that men and women are treated regarding sex.

I loved everything about this book. I know a lot of the time people will say ‘oh this book is so funny’ but honestly I was laughing so hard at some moments that my boyfriend had to come and check that I was okay. The book is written as if Izzy is writing entries in her blog and I really liked this style. It’s also peppered with references to music and pop culture and they made me love this book even more (especially Dumbledore the dog).

This book is fresh and original and features such a fascinating protagonist. Izzy is sarcastic, brave, stubborn and brilliant and she’s definitely one of my new favourite characters. I loved that the book explored her relationships with her grandmother as well as her relationships with her two best friends, Ajita and Danny. I absolutely flew through this book because I just couldn’t put it down. It deals with important issues in such an interesting way and I am definitely looking forward to seeing what Laura Steven writes next.
5 stars

Book Review: Easy Prey – Catherine Lo

Book Review: Easy Prey – Catherine Lo

BOOK REVIEW (4)
Release Date: October 16th 2018
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 352
Find It On: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was given an ARC of this book at YALC.

Synopsis

Secrets and revenge run rampant in the Internet age—Easy Prey keeps you guessing until the final reveal.

Only three students had access to a teacher’s racy photos before they went viral. There’s Mouse, a brainy overachiever so desperate to escape his father and go to MIT that he would do almost anything, legal or not. Then there’s Drew, the star athlete who can get any girl’s number—and private photos—with his charm but has a history of passing those photos around. And finally there’s Jenna, a good girl turned rebel after her own shocking photos made the rounds at school last year, who is still waiting for justice. All three deny leaking the photos, but someone has to take the fall. This edgy whodunit tackles hot-button issues of sexting and gossip and will have readers tearing through the pages to reach the final reveal.

Review

Untitled design (11)Easy Prey is a perfect autumn read – it’s dark, mysterious and absolutely unputdownable.

The story follows three students who are accused of leaking racy photos of a teacher on Twitter. The three students are completely different – the geeky brainiac who is whizz with computers, the popular athlete and the good girl turned rebel after her own racy photos were leaked online. They all claim their innocent, but if they didn’t do it who did?

The one thing about psychological thrillers if that you can often tell what the ending is going to be, for that reason I don’t read too many thrillers, however with Easy Prey I would never have guessed the ending in a million years. It was an excellent twist and I definitely raced through this intense book because I was dying to know how it was going to end.

I really liked the characters. The story was told in alternating points of view with each of the three students and it was fascinating to see things play out from different perspectives – it definitely added to the mystery surrounding which one was guilty. The characters are much more than their stereotypes of the geek, jock and rebel girl and I loved that as the book continued you learned more and more about them. They are definitely morally grey characters and nothing is what it seems in this story. The book also really delves into the issues of leaked photos and privacy on the internet – something that really needs to be discussed more in books.

Easy Prey is absolutely a five star read for me. If you’re looking for something mysterious and fast paced, this book is perfect for cuddling up on a dark autumn night.

5 stars