Saturday, 25 February 2017

Margot & Me by Juno Dawson: Review

Margot & MeTitle: Margot & Me
Author: Juno Dawson
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Sometimes love has to cross all kinds of barriers . . . 

Fliss is on the way to visit her grandmother in Wales - the grandmother who she doesn't get on with - with her mother who is recuperating from chemotherapy. But her mum is getting better, that's the main thing, so Fliss can concentrate on being grouchy and not looking forward to meeting her grandmother Margot, who is so cold and always so unforgiving of Fliss's every mistake . . . But when the six months is up, Fliss consoles herself, she and her mum will go back to London and back to Real Life!

In the meantime Fliss needs to get used to her new school, not upset the scary girls, and just keep her head down (whilst still making sure that everybody knows she is from London, of course). Then Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and, Fliss realises, is actually Margot's diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot's deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with...

Margot & Me is Juno Dawson's best book to date, at least in my opinion. It was emotional and moving, I was sucked into the story and unable to put the book down. The book is set in the 90s and follows Fliss, a fashion forward teen from the city, as she moves to a rural Welsh town with her mother, to live on her grandmothers farm. Her mother is in remission, having gone through gruelling chemotherapy and now needing a break and a place to relax. Fliss doesn't want there to be there at all, especially as she sees Margot as a miserable former career woman, who has never been warm or loving. She doesn't like her, and the feeling seems mutual.

Image result for mean girls gifWe watch Fliss as she deals with this major change to her life. As she struggles with being the new girl and finding her place. I'll admit that Fliss's story seemed to have quite a few parallels to Mean Girls - not sure if this was on purpose or not. She moves to somewhere vastly different to where she is used to, with the typical Regina George type of mean girl and her two female sidekicks, and then our new girl is immediately befriended by a gay guy and his girl best friend. See, it is so Mean Girls. Where this book truly set itself apart was when Fliss discovers Margot's diary and begins to read it - here we begin to learn all about Margot's life during WWII, when she was evacuated from the city to Wales.

I loved the diary entries, it felt like they truly transported me back in time. It explored so many issues of the time; the racism and homophobia, as well as the every day struggles of living during a time of war. These entries allowed Fliss to see who her grandmother once was. She can't seem to reconcile the strong, funny, likeable Margot she finds in the diary with the cold, uncaring woman she has always known. The more she reads, the more she realises that she doesn't know very much about Margot, or what she has been through. There are things about Margot she will discover that even her mother doesn't know.

I can happily say that I loved this book, whilst also admitting it was not what I had been expecting at all. That is because the original summary I saw for this book said it contained an LGBT+ love story, and that Fliss discovere a scandal that could tear her family apart. I immediately thought that this meant Fliss would discover that her grandmother had fallen in love with a woman during the war, but married a man because of the pressures put on her by society at the time. This was not the case at all. I don't really see any LGBT+ love story present in this book, which is a shame, so I will admit to being slightly disappointed by that. I loved the book regardless, especially for how it explored some important issues, like racism and homophobia. The story was very emotional, I couldn't put it down. I came to care so deeply for Fliss and Margot, especially as I learnt more of Margot's past. I loved watching Fliss discover more about Margot, and how their relationship changed over the course of the book.

You might wonder, given how much I am gushing over this book, why it didn't get 5/5 from me. I truly did love this story, it just wasn't quite perfect for me. I felt it all got a little too tragic at the end, to the point where it started to feel a little like a soap opera. My other issue was that it ended very abruptly, so I felt I didn't get much closure to the story. Yes, it had a real ending but it also left me with so many other questions and things I still wanted to know. I still highly recommend the book though, I especially loved how easily Juno Dawson could transport me back in time.

4/5 Butterflies

 I received a copy of this book from Hot Key Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Stargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan: Review

Stargazing For BeginnersTitle: Stargazing for Beginners
Author: Jenny McLachlan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Science geek Meg is left to look after her little sister for ten days after her free-spirited mum leaves suddenly to follow up yet another of her Big Important Causes. But while Meg may understand how the universe was formed, baby Elsa is a complete mystery to her. 

And Mum’s disappearance has come at the worst time: Meg is desperate to win a competition to get the chance to visit NASA headquarters, but to do this she has to beat close rival Ed. Can Meg pull off this double life of caring for Elsa and following her own dreams? She’ll need a miracle of cosmic proportions …

Fans fell in love with the warmth, wit, romance and fierce friendships in Flirty Dancing, Love Bomb, Sunkissed and Star Struck, and Stargazing for Beginners has all that and galaxies more. This is the best kind of real-life fiction – with big themes and irresistible characters, it goes straight to your heart.
Image result for so cute gif

Oh my, this book was so adorably cute, I can't handle it. I am officially a Jenny McLachlan fan, she just knows how to write a great contemporary. I read the first three books in her Ladybirds series and felt it got better with every single book. This is a standalone contemporary and it is my favourite of McLachlan's books so far. If you are a fan of contemporary YA, you definitely need to read this book.

Megara has been obsessed with space for as long as she can remember, she dreams of one day becoming an astronaut. She is working hard on her entry into a competition to win a trip to the NASA headquarters. Her plans are derailed when her free spirited mother up and leaves without warning, going across the world to Myanmar to help the people there. She seems to have no regard for the fact she leaving Megara, a fifteen year old girl, in charge of her baby sister, their dog and their household. Sure, Meg has her grandfather nearby, but he is eccentric to say the least and pretty busy with his home brewery, plenty of chickens and about a million hamsters. Megara has to juggle looking after Elsa, going to school, as well as preparing for a competition that requires her to give a speech, and Meg just happens to be petrified of public speaking.

I loved this book so much, I had a smile on my face almost the entire time I was reading it. Jenny can give her books the absolute perfect blend of emotional, hilariously funny and adorably romantic. Her characters are very realistic, which I feel is very important here when Megara is being put in such a tough situation. You need to feel like she handles it in a believable way, and she does. It isn't easy, she struggles and makes mistakes. I also loved that this explored her anxiety and fear over public speaking, something I can completely relate to.

Image result for so adorable gifThere is an adorably cute romance in this book, although I don't want to give much away and spoil anything. It was just so well done, so very cute and a great portrayal of first crush/first romance. Every scene between the two of them just put the biggest smile on my face. Her books are perfect for a younger YA audience, but they can truly be read and loved by all.

I also loved all the science within this book. Megara is a wickedly smart girl, who seems completely unaware of how incredible she is. I loved her working on her speech and all the different stages it went through. I also loved the growing friendships shown within this book as well, that was another one of my favourite things about it.

Honestly, the only thing that stopped me from completely, 100% loving this book was that I felt Megara's mother was never truly held accountable for her actions. It almost felt like it was being excused at one point, and it shouldn't have been. Her actions required social services intervention and I kind of wish that had happened, it was what she deserved for how selfishly she acted, not once considering her children's welfare. It was just one little thing that nagged at me whilst I was reading. Absolutely everything else I loved and adored, so I will be recommending this to all!

5/5 Butterflies

 I received a copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Recent Surprising Reads: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

It's time for Top Ten Tuesday and this weeks topic is:

Recent Books I Loved More or Less Than I Thought I Would

YAY!!! I like this weeks topic because it lets me do two of my favourite things:

1. Gush about those books that blew me away and I loved.
2. Moan excessively about horrible disappointing books that did not live up to my expectations.

Who doesn't love a good moan every now and then! I have decided to stick to recent reads, so those read within the last few months.

Phantom LimbsLoved More Than Expected

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner

I didn't really know what to expect from Phantom Limbs. it was a review copy sent over by Walker. I knew it was a contemporary YA novel, and I am a very big contemporary fan. This book follows Otis, who tragically lost his younger brother three years ago, straight after his neighbour, best friend and first love Meg also moved away. Now she's coming back and he doesn't know what it means for them, he has never got over her but they are both different people to who they were three years ago, the tragedy has changed them both in different ways. It was a beautiful and moving story, I absolutely loved it and was happily surprised by it. I am now counting down the days till her next release, which is over a year away. If you are a fan of contemporary YA then I highly recommend this.
Letters to the Lost
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

I realise already that all the books that pleasantly surprised me are YA contemporary books, what can I say, I love them. I was very unsure of this book before I read it, I had tried the author in the past and her book just didn't work for me. I am so glad I took a chance on it, I ended up absolutely loving the story. It follows Juliet, who lost her mother in a car crash and has been leaving letters on her grave as a way to talk to her. She doesn't expect anyone to ever read them, let alone reply. But Declan does, he feels her connection to her and the guilt and grief she feels. It is another contemporary YA dealing with grief and it is soooooooo good. Soooooo good!!! I loved the characters, I loved the romance, I loved the complex relationships between characters.

Stargazing For BeginnersStargazing for Beginners by Jenny McLachlan

I read the first three books in Jenny McLachlan's Ladybirds series and enjoyed them all. They were fun, easy, contemporary romance reads aimed at a younger YA audience and they were a lot of fun. I expected to enjoy Stargazing for Beginners, I was surprised to find that I absolutely loved it. It is another YA contemp that seems perfect for a younger YA audience, but anyone will love and enjoy it. This book was so adorably cute, especially when it came to the romance, it was almost too much to handle. It jas epmfrtg
Margot & Me

Margot & Me by Juno Dawson

I have read a lot of Juno Dawsons books, and I have enjoyed them all for the most part but never been blown away by them. Margot & Me is definitely the best book Juno Dawson has wrote so far, I really loved this book. It's an emotional and moving book, it sucked me into the story completely and I wasn't able to put it down. We follow Fliss, a fashion forward teen from the city, as she moves to a rural Welsh town, on to her grandmother's farm. It is set in the 90s, but we also get diary entries from her grandmothers diary of her time during the war. It is about family secrets, romance and seeing how our experiences change us. The diary entries transported me back and explored so many issues of the time -homophobia, racism, as well as the every day struggles of living during war time. Superb book, highly recommend.

Wing JonesWing Jones by Katherine Webber

Wing Jones is another book set in the 90s, this time set in the South of the US. It follows Wing Jones, a girl who has never felt like she belonged. She has Ghanaian and Chinese heritage, it has always set her apart from everyone else around her. I loved Wing as a character, she wasn't looking to change who she was as a person. When her family suffer a tragedy, she finds a talent for running she never knew she had. It proves to be the perfect distraction, as well as being the answer to some of her families problems. I loved the writing, I loved the characters, I loved the story and I loved the slow build romance. You can read a full review here.

Done Dirt CheapLoved Less Than Expected

Done Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon

I was so excited to read Done Dirt Cheap, it was pitched as a young adult Thelma & Louise meets Sons of Anarchy, which just sounded awesome. Sadly, I did not enjoy this at all and I appear to be the odd one out - it has so many 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads. I think my biggest problem with the book was the writing, and it wasn't even that it was bad it just didn't work for me. It didn't pull me into the story, it didn't connect me to the characters. There were two POVs in this and there wasn't enough to distinguish between the two of them.

By Your SideBy Your Side by Kasie West

Now By Your Side wasn't a terrible read, it was just very disappointing considering how much I love Kasie Wests books. It was pitched as a locked in a library story, which it very much wasn't as that only made up about 35% of the book. Plus the characters didn't appreciate the awesomeness of being locked in a library. Also, as someone who has worked in libraries for 7 years now, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the whole locked in situation would never have happened like that - it was so unrealistic. The romance was okay, it was adorable and there was one brilliant kiss but there wasn't enough. This just wasn't as good as I would have expected from West.
RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

RoseBlood is one of those books where the more I think about it, the worse it gets. Quite honestly, it has to be one of the most ridiculous books I have ever read. It made almost no sense, and has one of those storylines that just seems more and more stupid the more you think on it. I can't even describe this story. All I can say is this: PSYCHIC VAMPIRES! Urgh, really. You take amazing source material like The Phantom of the Opera and that is what you come up with. Nope, no, nope. It was terrible. Awful in every sense of the word. You can read my full review here.
It Ends with Us
It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

I have mentioned many times that Colleen Hoover is one of only a few new adult authors whose books I will actually read. I love her characters, I just connect with them so easily. I love her romance, it doesn't get too cheesy. She also seemed to avoid some of the usual NA tropes that I hate. She went on to hit almost all of them here and I didn't like it. The most utterly awful of them being all the tragic back stories she had to give to almost every single character. It was not okay. Plus the first male lead I didn't care for at all, even before the story progressed. My favourite character was the guy from her past, he was the best and I shipped him the whole time. But overall this was not the usual CoHo book, it was just missing everything I love about her books.
The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)
The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

I really enjoyed The Raven Boys, I could understand why so many people recommend this series. So I was quite excited to read the sequel, especially since it focuses on Ronan and he is one of my favourite characters. But, to me, this book was horribly disappointing and made me want to not bother continuing. The main problem was that it seemed to have almost zero plot. It didn't really progress the story much, it seemed more of a filler book. I just was expecting so much more from this series and this book. You can read my full review here.

What recent books disappointed you or surprised you in a good way?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Wing JonesTitle: Wing Jones
Author: Katherine Webber
Publisher: Walker Books
Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

Wing Jones is the debut novel of Katherine Webber, set in the 90s in the US. The story follows Wing, who has always felt out of place. She has Ghanaian and Chinese heritage and that has always set her apart from the crowd in her southern state, and not always in a good way. When Wing is faced with a tragic and complicated event that she can't quite handle, she finds a talent for running she never knew she had. It's not only the perfect escape from her problems, but might be a solution to some of her families problems too.

Image result for i love it gifThis is truly a spectacular and stunning debut from Katherine Webber, I honestly couldn't put this book down. It just gripped me straight away, I became so heavily invested in these characters, especially the incredible Wing. The writing was absolutely beautiful and I will most definitely be reading whatever Webber does next. I especially loved how much diversity there was in this book, Webber wasn't afraid to tackle tough subjects, like racism, which was important considering the 90s setting in Southern USA.It felt especially poignant given the current political climate in the US, and elsewhere in the world right now.

What I loved most about this book was definitely the writing. There is just something about Webber's writing that grabs me, so that even during one of the worst reading slumps I have ever had, I was completely unable to put this book down. She writes fantastic characters, making it so no secondary character ever feels secondary. Wing was definitely my favourite, I'm sure she will be for many, she is strong in ways she doesn't even know, so many people will be able to relate to Wing. She feels oiut of place and like there is nowhere she fits, but she's also proud of who she is and isn't looking to change herself or who she is to fit a standard dictated by others, and that is fantastic to see.

This was quite an emotional book, dealing with some hard hitting issues and this book really touched me. My only issue with it was that I felt there was not a lot of closure to the story. There was so much more I wanted to see and know what happened, especially in regards to Wing's brother. I finished the book wishing there was at least another couple of chapters, as I didn't get all of the answers that I had wanted.

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Basically me when the dragon & lion showed up.
The only other thing that threw me off about this book was the fact that by about page 7 we are introduced to an imaginary lioness and dragon that Wing sees, They come to her when she needs them most, they're with her throughout her running journey, but they are just plain weird to me. Call them a metaphor, magical realism, a figment of Wing's imagination, whatever they were they felt wholly unnecessary. To me, they added absolutely nothing to the story, it would have been the exact same book without them. I also thought it was a bit too much to have the girl with Ghanaian and Chinese heritage have a lioness and a dragon as her imaginary guardians, but that might just be me.

Personally, I felt this was a superb debut and a great contemporary young adult story. I loved the characters, I loved the writing and I loved the story itself. I also adored the romance in this book, it was utterly adorable. I also loved that the romance wasn't the main focus of the book, or Wing's main focus, I am definitely going to be eagerly awaiting whatever Webber does next.

4/5 Butterflies

 I received a copy of this book from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Caraval by Stephanie Garber: Less Circus Vibe More Venice Vibe

Caraval (Caraval, #1)Title: Caraval
Author: Stephanie Garber
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Whatever you've heard about Caraval, it doesn't compare to the reality. It's more than just a game or a performance. It's the closest you'll ever find to magic in this world . . . 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. 

Image result for magical gifCaraval has to be one of the most talked about books of 2017, and certainly one of the most hyped. I have been hearing about this book since early 2016, I was even lucky enough to read an ARC of it back in July last year, but it took me forever to get to it. In that time, I have seen an endless amount of people gushing over this book and how incredible it is. I have to say that all these glowing reviews did make my expectations skyrocket. I feel it made it nigh on impossible for Caraval to live up to those expectations. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy this book, I really did. In fact, I found this to be one of the most enchanting and magical books I have read in a long time, and it was almost impossible to put down.

Caraval follows Scarlett, the daughter of General Dragna, a controlling and abusive man. Scarlett loves her sister, Donatella, and would do anything to protect her. Even if that means accepting an arranged marriage to a man she has never met, just to get Tella and herself away from their father. Scarlett is only a week away from her wedding day when a letter from the famed Legend, master of Caraval, arrives at her door. Inside is an invitation to Caraval, a magical event where you can play to win or just go to watch. Scarlett has always wanted to go, she has spent years writing to Legend himself, always knowing she could never go, her father wouldn't allow it. Scarlett doesn't want to risk the wrath of her father or losing her fiance, she doesn't plan to go. Her decision is made for her, and her determination to win Caraval is made stronger when Tella is taken as a part of the game. Scarlett has no choice but to play, and play to win. But nothing is as it seems at Caraval, Scarlet can't trust anything she sees, but she is willing to risk everything to get Donatella back.

Image result for i ship it gifI found Caraval to be a wholly riveting read, a book I was unable to put down. There was something lyrical about Garber's writing, and it had me completely swept up in the story. There is not one dull moment when reading this book, it feels like there is always something happening. I will admit to being a total sucker for the adorably shippable romance in this book. Garber definitely knows how to build up the sexual tension between two characters. I was so happy with how that relationship progressed over the course of the book, I am most definitely a fan. I finished the book and understood why there was so much hyper surrounding it, it is an enthralling read that brings something new to the genre. I for one can't wait for the sequel and whatever Stephanie Garber does after it.

Related imageWhilst I thoroughly enjoyed Caraval, I didn't fall as completely in love with this story the way most people have. There was just one or two things that bothered me when reading and stopped this being a 5 star read for me. The first was that, whilst I was all for the romance here, it was definitely a case of instalove given that the whole of the book takes place over 4 or 5 days. It is even more glaringly obvious when our lead actually bemoans someone else for thinking they are in love after four days, whilst she completely ignores the fact that that is apparently what she herself has done. My other issue was that this did not have a carnival or circus vibe AT ALL, instead taking place in what feels like a Venis-like city of canals and walkways. The circus theme was pushed very hard when the book was being publicised and I was looking forward to that aspect of it, but it was sadly not evident at all when I was reading it.

The only other aspect I didn't completely love was the ending to the book. It felt just a little too rushed to me, with almost too much going on. I am aware that there is a second book coming, so I hope that gives me more of the characters and their story, and more answers. I just didn't feel I got enough closure by the end of the book, so I most definitely need more.

4/5 Butterflies

 I received a copy of this book from Hodder in exchange for an honest review.