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?

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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

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

∗∗∗∗∗

 

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg.

girl online

 

Publisher

Penguin Random House UK – Published November 25th 2014.

 

Synopsis

I had no idea GirlOnline would take off the way it has – I can’t believe I now have 5432 followers, thanks so much! – and the thought of opening up to you all about this is terrifying, but here goes…

Penny has a secret.

Under the alias GirlOnline, she blogs about school dramas, boys, her mad, whirlwind family – and the panic attacks she’s suffered from lately. When things go from bad to worse, her family whisks her away to New York, where she meets the gorgeous, guitar-strumming Noah. Suddenly Penny is falling in love – and capturing every moment of it on her blog.

But Noah has a secret too. One that threatens to ruin Penny’s cover – and her closest friendship – forever.

 

My Review

Let me start off by saying that I am glad I waited a couple of days after reading this before writing my review as Zoe has now confirmed she had a ghostwriter (Siobhan Curham).

I have very mixed feelings about ‘Girl Online’. The writing style is very immature but at 28 years old, I’m not sure that I am the target market for this novel. I would recommend it more for ages 12-18. It is a very light read with a rather predictable plotline –

  • awkward girl meets hot boy
  • best friend becomes jealous
  • hot boy teaches awkward girl to believe in herself
  • boy and girl are separated
  • they begin to doubt their relationship and break up
  • big reunion at the end and everything is peachy

I can’t help but feel I’ve read this multiple times before. It’s the classic ‘teen angst’ plot line. Little things about the story bothered me, like using all the standard ‘touristy’ places in Brighton – beach, pier, Choccywoccydoodah etc. I would have thought that people actually living in Brighton would have had their fill of these places and visit other locations not swarming with tourists. If any of my readers are from Brighton, please feel free to correct me on that as I am just assuming.

Another issue I had with this novel is the believability of Noah as a famous musician and song writer. If you have read the lyrics of his song’Autumn Girl’ you will probably get my point. I mean…really?!

Some plot points seem to be thrown in just to fill  up pages. Elliot’s homophobic father just seemed like an afterthought and Ollie suddenly deciding that he likes Penny just doesn’t sit right with me. I mean, I get that Ollie is a symbol of her awkward phase before she met Noah and that Noah represents how she has blossomed into a confident young lady (at this point I have Britney Spears ‘I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman’ in my head but you get where I’m coming from) but why, after 4 or 5 years does Ollie suddenly want her? There is no reason given. I’m probably being pedantic here but it annoyed me.

Anyway, enough whining, lets get to what I did enjoy about ‘Girl Online’. It was a light enough read to pull me out of an almost-4-month reading slump. I could just switch off and relax whilst reading it and didn’t have to concentrate too hard to follow what was going on. I only actually took around 3 hours to read this which surprised me as the book does look fairly hefty but if you look inside you will see the print is quite large. Honestly, the book could have been condensed down a lot more to save paper. I am however, interested to see where Zoe (Siobhan?) goes with the next installment.

I have deliberated long and hard about the rating for ‘Girl Online’. I originally wanted to give it 2.5 stars but in the spirit of the holiday season and taking into account the fact that it has eased me out of my reading slump, I will give it 3 stars. I would recommend this for teen readers who want a nice, easy read over the Christmas holidays.

 

Rating

starstarstar