Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout.

dont look back

 

Publisher

Hodder Paperbacks – Published April 15th 2014.

 

Synopsis

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

First off, let me say that I wish I had gotten the other cover. The one with the music box is so much prettier than this one with a picture of Cassie on it. Anyway, don’t judge a book by its cover right? Moving on…

I started this book already knowing ‘whodunnit’ which I thought might impact my enjoyment, thankfully I was wrong. I have never read anything by Jennifer L. Armentrout before but I have heard great things through the booktube community. Happily, I was not disappointed with ‘Don’t Look Back’. Even knowing the culprit Armentrout had me on edge whilst reading. She had me suspecting all sorts of people even though I knew it couldn’t possibly be them. Suffice to say, if you didn’t know already, you probably wouldn’t be able to point the finger at one person. The author keeps you guessing.

Usually, I find myself rolling my eyes at any romance in a YA book. However the romance between Sam and Carson was very nicely done. Although at first it seems rushed, you find out later that they have history. There are no corny moments and it’s both believable and sweet.

The reader is kept on edge along with Sam in her journey to discover what has actually happened to her and Cassie. I think the amnesia was very well handled (obviously never having experienced it, I can’t be certain…) with information coming back to Sam in flashbacks and hallucinations, both of which she naturally finds disturbing. The letters were a nice touch and the twist involving them was unexpected and shocking.

My only issue with ‘Don’t Look Back’ is I would have liked to know a little more of Sam’s mothers back-story. I was left wondering what made her so distant as there seemed to be more going on than the fear of what her socialite friends would think. She makes several remarks hinting at her regret at marrying Sam’s father but doesn’t give any information as to why. A little explanation as to why she behaves like she does with Sam would have possibly made her a more likable character.

All in all I think that this thriller is very appropriate to the YA audience it is aimed at. The quality of writing shines through and I was never left wishing the pace would pick up. I would recommend this book to all fans of thrillers but especially if you are new to this particular genre. Armentrouts writing will leave you wanting more and I am eyeing the copy of ‘Cursed’ on my bookshelf as we speak.

Rating

gold-star2gold-star2gold-star2gold-star2gold-star2

 

I’m going to discuss the book a little more now but if you haven’t read it yet I suggest you stop here.

caution_spoilers

 

 

The twist involving Cassie being Sam’s sister could be guessed pretty early on in the story. When Sam first saw a picture of Cassie and her together, saying something along the lines of ‘we look so similar, we could be sisters’, I guessed it straight away and if that hadn’t given it away then their having matching music boxes certainly would have. Even so, I think this was an excellent addition and helped to explain why Cassie was so intent on having everything that Sam had.

The notes being written by Sam as a way of her subconscious trying to get through to her was genius! I would have sworn that it was Scott as he was one of the only ones with access to her bedroom.

I wouldn’t have suspected her Dad until well towards the end of the novel if I didn’t know it was him to begin with. Although he seemed shady all the way through the book, I didn’t think he was capable of that. I was torn between Scott or Del.

Who did you suspect?

The Book Of Ivy by Amy Engel.

book of ivy

 

Publisher

Entangled:Teen  – Published November 11th 2014.

 

Synopsis

After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual.

This year, it is my turn.

My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and restore the Westfall family to power.

But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy.

Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

 

My Review

If you have been reading my blog for a while now you will now that I love a good dystopian novel. I had heard a lot about ‘The Book Of Ivy’ from fellow bloggers and booktubers and could not wait to get my teeth into it. Needless to say, I was not disappointed and finished the entire thing in one sitting.

Admittedly, while the author was setting the scene I was a little apprehensive. The whole ‘USA destroyed by war and the survivors coming together to rebuild society’ concept has been done many times before – ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’ and ‘The Testing’ to name but a few. I was struggling to see what could be different about this book. How could Amy Engel spin it to keep my interest and not just be another HG clone.  Well,she did it. Let me tell you what I love about ‘The Book Of Ivy’…

My favourite part of the book is Ivy herself. She is not just a starry eyed romantic who falls instantly in love with Bishop. She is intelligent and blessed with common sense. She didn’t want to go down the expected route and have children, she wanted a job and to keep busy. Engel writes in a way that you can relate to Ivy and feel her struggle with her loyalty to her family versus her ever growing feelings to the husband she did not want.

*Warning – Spoilers Ahead*

Ivy has been brought up in a society of two halves. The leaders marry off their sons to the daughters of the other side. Sixteen year old Ivy is to be married to the presidents son, eighteen year old Bishop. A boy she has never met and whose father she believes is responsible for the death of her mother. At least that is what her father and older sister Callie have lead her to believe. They have manipulated Ivy into thinking that Bishop is a cruel, uncaring man just like his father and that she must kill him so that her father can take charge of their society. However, as Ivy gets to know Bishop, she finds out the truth about her mother and develops feelings towards him which prevent her from carrying out her mission.

From the start of this book I thought that there was something fishy about Ivy’s father and sister. They seemed all too eager to pass her to a complete stranger just to further their plan to overthrow the government. Ivy seemed to grow to understand how she was being manipulated by them but still gave them the benefit of the doubt up until the very end of the book when they essentially threw her under the bus. It spoke volumes when even though it was obvious to Callie and her father that Ivy was developing feelings for Bishop, they still expected her to poison him just to get to his father. Ivy’s father had hidden motives for wanting Bishop dead. He was jealous of President Lattimer because Ivy’s mother had been in love with him, and had ultimately committed suicide because she could not be with him.  He wanted the President to feel what it was like to lose someone that he loved (his son). Ivy was loyal right to the end though, because just as she could not kill Bishop, she also could not let her father and sister get ‘put out’ because of the plot so she set herself up to save everyone that she loved.

This book is the best YA I have read in a long time. The plot is well thought out and the ending has left me willing November to hurry up and arrive! The romance was believable and not rushed. I cannot wait to get into book two. I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of Mark Laird, the rapist. Now that Ivy has been put out, I think he will cause problems for her. I really hope that Callie and her father get what is coming to them and that Callie doesn’t get her claws into Bishop. Hurry up November 2015!

This book gets a solid five stars from me and I would urge anyone who likes dystopian fantasy novels to give it a try. I guarantee you will not be able to put it down.

 

Rating

gold-star2gold-star2gold-star2gold-star2gold-star2

My New Years Resolution.

I’m usually terrible with resolutions. I’ve gone through all of the usual clichés in the last few years. You know the ones. Lose weight – didn’t happen. Go to the gym – lasted about 2 weeks. Eat healthier – that one usually lasts until I pass the chocolate cake in the supermarket. Well, I don’t pass it, that’s kind of the issue!

This year I’m going to make one that I can keep. It’s not to get healthy, exercise or lose weight, because truthfully I’m not in the right frame of mind to achieve that right now so why set myself up to fail? It’s to write down one thought every single day before I go to bed. Have any of you seen a book called ‘A Thought A Day’? Here it is.

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I suppose that technically it’s more of a journal than a book. It’s also more than a new years resolution because this journal runs for five years. Each page has the date at the top and then five boxes, each with a couple of lines to write down a thought. It could be a summary of your day, how you’re feeling, a highlight of what has gone on. Each year you fill in another box on the page with another thought. At the end of five years you will have something to reflect back on and remind you of the good times and the bad.

I already have a journal. I don’t use it as a daily diary or anything like that. It’s more of a ‘rant book’ I guess. When I’m having a particularly bad day, I just let loose. Be it a page of expletives or an in depth analysis of my depressive state. This journal is not consistent. I can go for months without making an entry or make several entries in one day. That’s why I bought ‘A Thought A Day’. I like the idea of looking back in five years, in December 2019 when I’m 34 and seeing what I was doing or feeling that day one, two, three or four years ago.

I’ve had this book for about a month now and have been itching to start it but my OCD mind was telling me that I had to wait until 1st January 2015. That was the only sensible time to start a diary. It would have bothered me had I started it on some random date in November. Obviously you can start it when you want, if your mind doesn’t work in odd ways like mine!

Where do you think you will be in five years time? Personally I have no idea. I have no five year plan. To be quite honest, I don’t even have a five minute plan. Life in this house is run on the fly. I think that will make for an even more interesting read in 2019 though. All I know is that in December 2019, I will have a 16 year old, a 14 year old and twin 10 year olds and that scares the crap out of me! Whatever happens, I can guarantee that ‘A Thought A Day’ will be a rollercoaster of a look back and something that will be kept in a drawer for many years to reminisce and look back when I’m feeling nostalgic.

What are your resolutions? Do you keep a journal?

Here’s where you can purchase ‘A Thought A Day’. They ship internationally for free too. CLICK HERE TO BUY

I hope you have all had a wonderful year and I wish you good health and happiness for 2015. Happy new year lovelies! ❤

My 2015 Reading Goals.

As this will be my first ‘New Year’ with this blog, I thought I would set myself some reading goals for 2015. Usually, I don’t set myself goals, I just, y’know…read. I did however take part in, and fail miserably at, the ‘Goodreads 2014 Reading Challenge’. Six books below my target, I now find myself in the position of not wanting to read anything until January 1st because I can typically read a book in a day if I really go for it so that is potentially two books that could count towards next years challenge. I’m really restraining myself because I have a few books I’m dying to get into.

Anyhow, here are the goals I am setting myself for 2015.

1) Read 50 Books.

This is an average of four-ish books a month. Doable I think. I’ll see how it goes and how much having four noisy children impedes me!

2) Review Every Book I Read.

Either here on my blog or on my YouTube channel. I post my reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and Bookbridgr (and Netgalley when appropriate) too.

3) Read The Hunger Games Trilogy.

Love the films but have so far failed to get into the books. Every time I pick up the first book I can’t get past the first chapter. I normally wouldn’t try to force myself to read a book that I struggle with, but I feel like I’m literally the last person on Earth to have not read these three books.

4) Acquire A Set Of Harry Potter Books.

I read them all in 2008/2009 after picking up the first one from the bookshelf in Stirling Ward at the Parkwood Unit in Blackpool. My lovely sister-in-law let me borrow the rest of the series from her and I loved them. I’ve been looking at different sets but I can’t decide which one to buy as they’re all so pretty!

 

I probably should add to read more adult books. I’m nearly twenty nine and my favourite genre is still YA (dystopian and paranormal in particular). Honestly though, who cares if it’s called ‘Young Adult’? Why should I let a publisher’s opinion of who the book is for bother me? I’m not ashamed to admit that I love YA and that I will no doubt continue to love YA well into my thirties. I’ve never felt my age anyway ;).

What are your reading goals for next year? Will you be taking part in the Goodreads challenge?

Take care, Jackie ❤

We Need To Talk About… by Kevin Bridges.

kevin bridges

 

 

Publisher

Penguin – Published October 9th 2014.

 

Synopsis

Aged just 17, Kevin Bridges walked on stage for the first time in a Glasgow comedy club and brought the house down. He only had a five-minute set but in that short time he discovered that he really could earn a living from making people laugh.

Kevin began life as a shy, nerve-ridden school-boy, whose weekly highlights included a cake-bombing attack by the local youths. Reaching his teens, he followed his true calling as the class clown, and was soon after arrested for kidnapping Hugh Grant from his local cinema on a quiet Saturday night. This was a guy going somewhere – off the rails seeming most likely.

Kevin’s trademark social commentary, sharp one-liners and laugh-out-loud humour blend with his reflections on his Glaswegian childhood and the journey he’s taken to become one of the most-loved comedians of our time.

 

My Review

This is one autobiography that I am eternally grateful did not have a ghost writer. I’m not sure anybody else could capture Kevin Bridges quite as well as Kevin Bridges. Ever since being introduced to him on ‘Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow’ in 2009, I have loved his self-deprecating humor and his ‘realness’; not being ashamed of his working class roots and even building his early routines off of them.

Fame is known to change people and not always for the better, but in this book, Bridges shows himself to be a humble man with an affection for his family that is obvious when he talks about them. Cleverly taking inspiration from the title of another book (We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver), Bridges not only tells us about his upbringing and journey into stand up comedy, but throws in his views on controversial issues such as benefits and immigration. One of my favourite quotes from his book is “We were the ones dropping bombs on them, so we couldn’t complain when they were looking for a place to stay”. 

Bridges story begins when he was a nervous little boy in nursery and there is a particularly hilarious anecdote involving a wendy house that had me crying with laughter. His reluctance for his mother to leave him continued into primary school and he soon found his escape at home playing various football games with his dad. Going into high school, he was a bright boy but was very much an old head on young shoulders. Over thinking everything was a major problem, even when, at 17, inspired by Frank Skinner’s autobiography, he ventured into a Glasgow comedy club and did his first 5 minute set.

I could relate to a lot of the stories in this autobiography as Bridges and myself are the same age. I too remember staying up late to catch Eurotrash on Channel 5 ( I think everybody around my age will admit to that! 🙂 ) and chatting for hours on MSN messenger (RIP). The anxiety and feeling like being funny was all you had – without it your friends would obviously drop you right? Because what are you if you’re not funny? – is also all too familiar.

‘We Need To Talk About…’ showcases not only Bridges comedy talent but also his flair for writing. (I feel like an ass for continually calling him ‘Bridges’ but ‘Kevin’ makes it sound like we’re BFF’s or something!) He shows himself to have many endearing qualities, the most obvious being his humility. When taking part in two competitions early on in his career, he says that he struggled feeling that he had to impress the judges. That the opinion of what is funny is completely subjective and worrying about catering to one person is not what he got into stand up for (I’m paraphrasing there but that’s the gist of it). He also states many times that although this book could be a ‘f$%k you’ to the teachers that advised him to drop out of school because of his class clown persona, it is not and I honestly cannot picture him writing this with that in mind.

Overall, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars. The quality of writing along with Bridges modesty, even when talking about his roaring successes, make for a read that is full of laughs and showcases his family values and down to earth attitude perfectly. Despite this being a hefty read at over 400 pages, I would recommend this to not just fans of Kevin Bridges, but to anyone interested in a ‘boy done good’ story that will make you smile and reminisce along with him.

 

Rating

∗∗∗∗∗

 

The First book To Beat me.

I have never before simply looked at a book and felt like I couldn’t read it. This post is about the first book in my twenty-something years long love affair with reading to have stopped me in my tracks like a ten foot brick wall.

I received this book in August of 2014 from Bookbridgr. It had everything I usually love in a book. Horror, suspense, supernatural entities. All these things add up to my ideal read. Yet here I sit, on December 12th 2014, typing a blog post about this damned book and how it has, for the last five months, had me in a choke hold in the worst reading slump I have ever found myself in.

This 432 page novel has sat on my bookshelf taunting me. It’s menacing cover challenging me to read it. I picked it up many times and opened up the first page but I could manage 0nly a paragraph or two before I became frustrated and gave up. I did everything I could to conquer this book. Even signing up to Audible and downloading the audio book. I have sat all afternoon today trying to listen but could not make it past chapter one. It is not the narrators fault. She spoke with enthusiasm and expression. It is not the authors fault. Despite it being his debut this novel has many four and five star reviews on Goodreads with an average rating of 3.68.

What is this book I hear you ask? ‘The String Diaries’ by Stephen Lloyd Jones. Here is the synopsis.

A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night–her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?
Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion–a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.
If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

‘The String Diaries’ has prevented me from reading any of my other books (of which I have many) for five months now. Every time I pick up one of my many books, be it a copy for review or an old favourite, out of the corner of my eye I see ‘The String Diaries’ and feel like I have to finish it, or even attempt to finish it one more time before I pick up anything new.

I feel like I must clarify that I am in no way putting down the author in this post. It is completely my fault for allowing this book to get into my head and affect me so much. However, now is the time to let it go. This post is my white flag, waved in surrender to ‘The String Diaries’. You will not delay my reading any longer. I banish you to the back of a drawer where you can no longer make me feel guilty for wanting to read something else. Perhaps one day I will pick you up again and attempt to complete you, but for now, I admit defeat.

Have you ever had this experience with a book? Which one? 

Until next time,

Jackie x