Blog Tour: Review – Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky

I received this book for free from Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: Review – Code Red Lipstick by Sarah SkyJessica Cole: Model Spy: Code Red Lipstick by Sarah Sky
Series: Model Spy #1
Published by Scholastic UK on June 5th 2014
Genres: General, Young Adult
Pages: 336
Source: Publicist
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Models, spies and lipstick gadgets... When Jessica's father, a former spy, vanishes mysteriously, Jessica takes matters into her own hands. She's not just a daddy's girl who's good at striking a pose; she's a trained spook who knows how to take on MI6 and beat them at their own game.

Note: This review is part of the blog tour for Jessica Cole: Fashion Assassin. It was meant to go live yesterday (Saturday) but due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to post this until today.

Review: I heard a lot about the Model Spy series through twitter and the UKYA community so when Faye (A Daydreamer’s Thoughts) asked me if I’d like to review the first book for Sarah Sky’s upcoming blog tour I leapt at the chance.

I really enjoyed Code Red Lipstick and read it at just the right time, when I needed something fun and funny to read. While the concept isn’t entirely new, Jessica’s realistic and relatable voice carried this book really well and Sky raised several themes and ideas that made it stand out in the crowd, plus the gadgets and Bond-like feel worked well.

The balance between modelling content and spying worked well and as in Holly Smale’s successful YA series Geek Girl, Model Spy also shows the unglamorous side to modelling as well as the glitz with label-dropping and  the beautiful city of Paris as the backdrop. While the way some of the plot develops is implausible, Sky makes it feel convincing for the novel and the main villain of the book had some interesting twists and developments I won’t spoil.

I did guess quite a few of the twists, however I love mysteries and puzzles and this is the case for a lot of the books I read and review, so I don’t feel this is particularly negative

What I really liked about this bug was Jessica and her family. Her dad is a really interesting character and the stakes behind his disappearance are very high for Jessica due to him needing his medication. At the same time, he’s a former spy and successful in his current career and not letting illness or disability destroy him. The father-daughter bond works well in Code Red Lipstick and it’s nice to see parents have more importance in YA.

I read this book very quickly and it was an addictive read. While I would say this feels more like the younger end of YA, it has great appeal and I think fans of Geek Girl in particular would find a lot to enjoy in this series.

A fun, compelling and enjoyable read. I would continue reading the series and am intrigued to see what Jessica does next.

 

three-half-stars

TV Post: Epic Soundtracks and Musical Moments

I think that one of the things I love about TV and films is the use of music. It’s something you just can’t experience so readily in a book and a song can utterly change a scene and send shivers down your spine. This post is a look at some of the musical moments in TV and film that have stuck with me. I have a whole playlist on Spotify of songs I have discovered through TV shows and films and I often find new bands and singers I love through this. Obviously due to copyright, I cannot include clips of the actual shows, however hopefully you guys will still enjoy the post and maybe even seek out some of the songs for yourself.

The Hanging Tree- Mockingjay

This was always going to be a hard scene for the film crew. How to turn a song everyone had read and possibly imagined differently into something for the film and carry through its important message. For me the montage with this scene was the strongest scene in the film and sent shivers down my spine. The haunting melody, coupled with people taking action against their unfair society was really effective and worked.

Nitesky – Robert Koch and John LaMonica

This song is beautiful and while I don’t always like Teen Wolf’s music, a few bands they’ve used and songs I have loved (I discovered Hozier through this show) This song is in the season two finale and is evokes the mood so well, the good and the bad happening in that scene.

Bad Moon Rising – Mourning Ritual

This song was everywhere last year; Teen Wolf, The Following (where I heard it first) and the Walking Dead. It’s a wickedly atmospheric cover and full of awesome. It’s a fantastic writing song and you can see (hear?) why it’s so popular on TV when you listen to it.

The Blacklist Soundtrack

It’s hard to just pick a couple of songs from the Blacklist for this post. The music supervisors need serious kudos because the music on this show is fantastic. From the great closing of the pilot with 99 problems, the use of Sinnerman and Sympathy for the Devil in episode two, I just don’t know where to start. I particularly love Susie Suh’s Here With Me and Radical Face’s Welcome Home, Son.

 

What are the songs and musical moments onscreen that stand out to you? Do you like music on TV shows or does it detract for you? 

 

January Wrap-Up

I can’t believe it’s February already, once again time just seems to be passing me by so quickly. This year I’m hoping to post monthly wrap-ups and keep to them, I have some short codes and ways that should hopefully make these a lot simpler to write.

Reviewed in January

Non-review posts in January

What I’ve Read

This month I managed to read 15 books and make some progress on my reading challenges.

1. Yes Please – Amy Poehler
2. Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill
3. All Fall Down – Ally Carter
4. Us – David Nicholls
5. The Murdstone Trilogy – Mal Peet
6. Don’t Ever Change – M. Beth Bloom
7. Frozen Charlotte – Alex Bell
8. The Minaturist – Jessie Burton
9. Simon vs the Homo Sapien Agenda -Becky Albertalli
10. Mind Games – Teri Terry
11. Vanishing Girls – Lauren Oliver
12. Seven Days – Eve Ainsworth
12. Model Spy: Code Red Lipstick – Sarah Sky
13. Arsenic for Tea – Robin Stevens
14. Othergirl – Nicole Burstein
15. The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle

Book of the month: I loved Only Ever Yours and found that very haunting and thought-provoking. I also adored The Accident Season and found it beautifully written and haunting.

Reading challenge progress:  I read and reviewed 2 books for the British Books Challenge, plus read another five UKYA books, some of which were review books and I’ll schedule closer to publication/shortly. I read five non review books and three non YA books.

 

Review: The Illusionists by Laure Eve

I received this book for free from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Illusionists by Laure EveThe Illusionists by Laure Eve
Published by Hot Key Books on August 7th 2014
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Source: Hot Key Books
Goodreads
A thrilling, seductive and electrifying new adventure set in the world of FEARSOME DREAMER
A shocking new world. A dangerous choice. Two futures preparing to collide . . . Having left her soulmate White behind her in Angle Tar, Rue is trying to make sense of her new and unfamiliar life in World. Its technologically advanced culture is as baffling as is it thrilling to her, and Rue quickly realises World's fascination with technology can have intoxicating and deadly consequences. She is also desperately lonely. And so is White. Somehow, their longing for each other is crossing into their dreams - dreams that begin to take increasingly strange turns as they appear to give Rue echoes of the future. Then the dreams reveal the advent of something truly monstrous, and with it the realisation that Rue and White will be instrumental in bringing about the most incredible and devastating change in both World and Angle Tar. But in a world where Life is a virtual reality, where friends can become enemies overnight and where dreams, the future and the past are somehow merging together, their greatest challenge of all may be just to survive.

Review: I really enjoyed Fearsome Dreamer so was excited to read the conclusion, The Illusionists. I think Laure Eve has a beautiful writing style and I love her prose.

What really makes this series standout for me is the world building and how vivid the setting feels. Both World and Angle Tar are so well described and so easy to visualise. This really made a difference for me reading the books as I was able to fully immerse myself in the world. It was great to see more of World as well in The Illusionists as in Fearsome Dreamer most of the plot takes place in Angle Tar. Seeing World through Rue’s outsider eyes worked really well as well because she was as new to this as the reader.

The characters are really strong in the Illusionist and Wren in particular stands out as I both loathed him and felt there was an element of tragedy to his character. His feud with White was carried through and understood more as the plot progressed. The relationship between White and Rue was beautifully handled.

Rue really grows a lot in this book as she explores what she wants, whether that is in World or Angle Tar and I felt her journey felt true to the character. Eve really made me care about Rue and the other characters and invest in their development and adventures.

Towards the end things do develop very quickly and the ending is quite unexpected and the sort of ending that you need to take time to think over. I wasn’t entirely sold on the Castle plot if I’m honest, however I think that may be more personal preference.

Overall Eve is definitely a YA author to watch. The Illusionists is a satisfying, beautifully put together and crafted novel and I definitely want to read more from Laure Eve.

Review: Captive by A.J Grainger

I received this book for free from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Captive by A.J GraingerCaptive by A. J. Grainger
Published by Simon & Schuster, Limited on January 29th 2015
Genres: Action & Adventure, Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 240
Source: Simon and Schuster
Goodreads
three-half-stars
I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a splice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope. Dad isn't here. No one is, but me. Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now. Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all . . .
A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.

Review: I was really intrigued by the concept of Captive, which tells the story of Robyn, daughter of the prime minister, who has been kidnapped. I read Captive very quickly and within a couple of sittings.

I thought Robyn’s first person narration worked well, as did the interweaving of a past incident with her father through flashbacks, as Robyn tries to work out what is going on and why. The overall plot was fairly tight and I thought there were some good twists and developments. There is very little time before the action starts so the reader is immediately pulled in and shocked.

In terms of characters, I thought that Scar was just as creepy as his named implied and Grainger really depicted that danger well. Feather felt flat at times, and a little too obviously unhinged however overall the characters were well written.

I really liked Robyn’s relationship with her sister, Addy, and the way familial relationships were included in the book. The stockholm syndrome esque concept was very high stakes as Robyn begins to learn more about why this has happened and the role her father may have played. I liked that her father was a quite flawed character.

I felt that the  final quarter was a little confusing at times due to its fast pace, also while parts felt realistic as we got closer to the ending certain aspects began to feel less realistic. However, this did not detract from my overall enjoyment of the book and I thought it was tense, well written and very compelling.

The themes raised about corruption, animal rights and also testing were very interesting and topical. I think Grainger balanced the exploration of these themes with the plot very well and the corruption and political side of the story made the concept and kidnap feel far more unique.

Fans of novels like Stolen and tense contemporary YA will find a lot to enjoy in Captive. It’s an assured, promising debut and I would definitely read more by the author.

 

three-half-stars

Review: Juvie by Steve Watkins

I received this book for free from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Juvie by Steve WatkinsJuvie Published by Walker Books on 1st January 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Friendship, General, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Source: Walker Books
Goodreads
three-half-stars
Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie offers an unflinching and poignant view of life in juvenile detention, and will appeal to fans of TV shows like Orange Is the New Black. Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one - she's the star player on her basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal - wrong place, wrong time - it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn't commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger - at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla and at herself - fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

Review: I was lucky enough to be invited to Walker Books blogger brunch last November and had a wonderful time chatting with bloggers and publishing people, eating yummy food and hearing all about the upcoming books from Walker. One of them immediately caught my attention with its striking cover and compelling concept: Juvie.

Described alongside Orange Is The New Black comparisons, Juvie tells the story of Sadie who is accidentally caught up in a drug deal. To keep her sister out of jail, and niece out of care, Sadie confesses despite being innocent. What was meant to just be a slap on the wrist turns into a six month sentence and when we meet Sadie she’s just about to start this.

Juvie surprised me as I read it. It is far more about Sadie’s own journey and growth than action. The structure is divided between past (what led to juvie) and present time serving her sentence. With the flashbacks I loved seeing more of Sadie’s family, something that could have easily not featured in a novel set away from home, and in particular her relationship with Lulu, her adorable niece. I did find Sadie’s relationship with her sister Carla frustrating as Carla was a difficult character to sympathise with at times and I really wanted her to step up more for both her daughter and her sister.

Sadie was a strong narrator and I thought the moments where she discovered more about her fellow inmates and  the way first impression and innocent expressions can actually be deceiving. The only criticism of the fellow inmates was that not all of them stood out to me and a few felt quite cliched.

There were some great tense moments in the final third of the novel I won’t spoil and I found the whole book very readable and compelling. I read it in just over one sitting and wanted to find out what would happen to Sadie. The ending was also quite open and while I often like this openness and making my own conclusions, I wanted something a little more cement personally.

Overall, Juvie is an interesting and character focused story with an unglamorised look at the justice system, and a novel that I think would appeal to fans of Orange is the New Black and similar programmes.

three-half-stars

ChooseYAtrope: Grief, Loss and Suicide in YA

This book may contain content that is triggering or disturbing.

chooseyatrope

 

ChooseYATrope is an original feature at ChooseYA discussing, examining and analysing popular tropes and trends within YA literature. 

ChooseYAtrope is back. While my survey is still open on the blog, currently 100% of participants have suggested they would like to see more posts about YA trends and tropes so I’m brushing the dust off this feature and hope to make it a regular occurrence.

Today I’m talking about something I’ve noticed in a lot of early 2015 titles I’ve been reviewing: suicide. Obviously, this is a potentially very triggering topic and therefore I have put my standard content warning and would advise readers who may be affected to use their discretion and be carefulI would also like to add this post may contain spoilers for several recent or upcoming releases and while I’ll try to tag those who don’t reveal this in the summary, I cannot promise you won’t be spoiled.  

Grief and loss have been a staple topic discussed in YA for years; the loss of a parent, sibling, friend or brother. As teenagers we may unfortunately start to see death more than as a child and it’s an important issue to discuss. Mental health is too and lately I’ve noticed several YA books dealing with a friend or sibling’s suicide, most notably Gaye Forman’s I Was Here, Cynthia Hand’s The Last Time We Said Goodbye, Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff and View Spoiler » I read two of these in the same week, not realising where the latter title was heading, and it was a quite difficult and emotional experience. The Last Time We Said Goodbye in particular was an incredibly poignant and moving book about dealing with  a sibling’s death/suicide and the guilt that can come with this.

At the moment in the UK, children and youth’s mental health funding is being cut and more and more teenagers are seeking help for mental health issues. Literature informs, some would say it’s the duty and others would say literature shouldn’t be so didactic. It’s tough, isn’t it? Where do we draw the line from informative to preachy? And does literature have to save, does YA? About a year or so ago there was a trending topic on Twitter, YA Saves. And I think it does. It can make someone feel less alone and like they have a voice and this is so important. It’s why I’m against books like Speak being banned in schools. Literature is a lifeline.

I think on the other hand there is a line, is the use of this serious topic just for drama, to give backstory or create sympathy? In the examples I’ve used, I would like to make it clear I don’t think this is the case at all, I think they are pretty sensitively handled and have more to say than ‘my main character is tortured, yo!’ If I’m honest, I don’t like Finch fixated on Violet at the start of All the Bright Places but as the book progressed, I found this lessened.   However, this probably isn’t the case for every book and using a topic like this just for backstory or drama really upsets me. There’s a difference between sensitively exploring difficult topics to look at wider questions around them to just throwing in angst for drama. Also romanticising mental illness is dangerous, it isn’t glamorous and in particular romanticising suicide in YA is really worrying.

What I find particularly interesting about the aforementioned group of recent YA books that look at suicide are they are often from the perspective of a friend or sibling and I’ve been trying to think about why? Why are authors choosing to approach this subject from a friend and not the actual person? I think by doing this they get to show the repercussions of suicide, there’s an element of cautionary tale without being overtly obvious and perhaps feel like they are avoiding romanticising suicide. If you see the pain caused by an action, are you more likely to get help and not attempt this yourself? However there a danger in writing through the perspective of the depressed to further trigger others? Mental health is an important topic to be explored though. And like I said, death narratives and exploration are common in YA and can be an unfortunate part of growing up.

There is certainly more YA being published dealing with mental health and suicide than I can remember from earlier years. There’s more discussion and openness. We live in a post ‘It Gets Better’ world, I think people are beginning to see that teenagers can suffer from depression and mental health issues in the same way as adults and are more forward about this now. Just this week Hot Key Books announced a new non-fiction James Dawson book for 2016 about mental health: Mind Your Head. 

What do you think? Have you noticed an increase in books that deal with difficult topics about grief and suicide? Do you think these books work or do they feel preachy? 

 

 

 

Review: The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

I received this book for free from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Mime Order by Samantha ShannonThe Mime Order by Samantha Shannon
Series: The Bone Season #2
Also in this series: The Bone Season
Also by this author: The Bone Season
Published by Bloomsbury USA on January 27th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, General, Young Adult
Pages: 528
Format: eARC
Source: Bloomsbury
Goodreads
four-stars
Paige Mahoney has escaped the brutal penal colony of Sheol I, but her problems have only just begun: many of the fugitives are still missing and she is the most wanted person in London. As Scion turns its all-seeing eye on Paige, the mime-lords and mime-queens of the city’s gangs are invited to a rare meeting of the Unnatural Assembly. Jaxon Hall and his Seven Seals prepare to take center stage, but there are bitter fault lines running through the clairvoyant community and dark secrets around every corner. Then the Rephaim begin crawling out from the shadows. But where is Warden? Paige must keep moving, from Seven Dials to Grub Street to the secret catacombs of Camden, until the fate of the underworld can be decided. Will Paige know who to trust? The hunt for the dreamwalker is on.

Review: I enjoyed Samantha Shannon’s debut The Bone Season and was excited to see what was in store for Paige next. I found The Mime Order even more engaging and intriguing than The Bone Season.

There’s definitely a very different tone and atmosphere to the Mime Order, whereas The Bone Season was Paige forced into a very difficult situation and fighting to escape, now she’s fighting the society she lives in and has developed as a character into more of a leader. We don’t see much of London in the Bone Season, it’s the secondary location and most of the book takes place in Oxford, so it was great to see and learn more about it in the Mime Order. We learn a lot more about the world and rules and politics behind in the Mime Order and I thought this really worked well. The book also felt easier to follow, however at the start immediately jumps into the action from the cliffhanger ending of book one so you may wish to remind yourself – it took me a few minutes to remember what had happened and where the plot was going.

One of the characters we learn more about is Jaxon and he’s particularly compelling. I thought Shannon painted his charm despite his manipulative and selfish streak really well and bought him to life. Learning more about the mime queens and lords was really interesting too.

To my surprise, I found Warden less important to me in the Mime Order, he does have an essential role in his scenes, but perhaps because the balance and the world view has shifted away from Oxford, I was more intrigued by Paige’s understanding and exploration of her city, London.

The action feels more muted in this book, however a lot is still happening and the final third is particularly action-packed. This feels more about the politics and justice than the Bone Season did but it works. There were some very interesting parallels about civil rights and the ‘unnatural’ community.  I enjoyed this book a lot and I’m keen to find out what happens next and continue with the series.

 

four-stars

Review: The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet

I received this book for free from Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal PeetThe Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet
Published by David Fickling Books on November 6th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publicist
Goodreads
four-stars
Award-winning author Philip Murdstone is in trouble. His star has waned. The world is leaving him behind. His agent, the beautiful and ruthless Minerva Cinch, convinces him that his only hope is to write a sword-and-sorcery blockbuster. Unfortunately, Philip - allergic to the faintest trace of Tolkien - is utterly unsuited to the task. In a dark hour, a dwarfish stranger comes to his rescue. But the deal he makes with Pocket Wellfair turns out to have Faustian consequences.
The Murdstone Trilogy is a richly black comedy from an author described by one American critic as 'the best writer you've probably never heard of'.

Review: I was very intrigued by the concept of The Murdstone Trilogy and Mal Peet is an author I’ve been meaning to read for a while so was really excited when I was offered the chance to review Peet’s latest novel, especially as the main character is a YA author and it looked very original.

Peet’s narrator, Philip Murdstone is being forced by his agent to write a fantasy novel and fit in with the latest trends. Murdstone who writes about sensitive boys with problems is unsure where to start and at the beginning very dismissive about fantasy. This did concern me at the start a little as I worried the book would be ‘antigenre’, however as the plot progressed Murdstone’s reticence recedes. There is a really great darkly comic and cynical tone to this book and a lot of humour. In many ways it’s quite satirical and harsh on the publishing industry and I found this very interesting to read. I’d recently completed J K Rowling’s The Silkworm which also contains an interesting look at the publishing industry and the two complemented each other in some ways.

The Murdstone Trilogy really comes into its own once Murdstone meets Pocket and begins writing his book. There is a fabulous faustian edge to the plot as the fantastical and real collide. I also liked how the amulet functioned in the novel and seemed like a thinly veiled reference to the one ring in Lord of the Rings.

While the novel was engaging and enjoyable overall, I felt the ending chapters didn’t draw me in quite so easily – however, I did love the section in Tibet and messages about literary interpretation. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the agent’s narration when first introduced either, however it did work and by the end felt seamless.

The Murdstone Trilogy is one of those books that doesn’t really fit into one category, it floats delightfully in between, though I would say that for me I felt it was more skewed towards the older end of YA/crossover due to the more mature narrator and occasional inexplicit sexual content. That said, I think those interesting in the process of writing would find a lot to enjoy. Peet’s prose is wonderful and fantasy fans, those with an interest in writing or publishing should find a lot to think about in this book.

 

four-stars

Very important notice for current wordpress/ email subscribers

This post is just for those of you who subscribe to my blog via email, specifically through wordpress, feedburner is unaffected by this as far I as am aware.

I’ve recently started using the UBB plug in which I love and I’ve noticed that Jetpack doesn’t let me keep the short codes in my emails so you guys just get the review body of text. As I’m not happy with this, I have removed Jetpack email subscriptions from the sidebar and replaced with a different email subscriber widget.  I would ask any current subscribers getting email subscriptions from wordpress please transfer to feedburner as I am deactivating Jetpack subscriptions as of now (Friday 16th January 2015)

TLDR: If you subscribe to ChooseYA via email/via wordpress and wish to continue this you WILL need to resubscribe via feedburner using the widget in the side bar. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause however feedburner doesn’t offer a way to import subscribers.