Thursday, 13 April 2017

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman: Review & Giveaway

Everything Beautiful Is Not RuinedTitle: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Publisher: Scholastic
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.
IFC the breakfast club GIFThe first I heard of this book, it was being pitched as The Breakfast Club meets camping, or something quite similar. To me, that is probably the perfect way to describe it. And it was a huge part of the reason I wanted to read it, as The Breakfast Club just so happens to be one of my all time favourite movies. I finished this book with tears in my eyes and an overwhelming feeling of happiness, this book didn't just meet my expectations, it exceeded them.

Ingrid has been sent off to camp, and she is not looking forward to it. She is imagining uncomfortable bunks, cabins and having to go to the toilet in an outhouse. None of them are pleasant ideas to her. She is determined though, she made a deal with her mother to do it. If Ingrid can make it through the two weeks at the camp then she can go to a prestigious school in London to study. The only problem is the camp turns out to be worse than she imagined. The camp is not a camp at all, it's a tiring two week trek through the wilderness, sleeping in tents and with no toilets in site. Ingrid's idea of hell. Not to mention she is in a camp with 'at risk teens', something she definitely wouldn't call herself. But Ingrid is stronger than she knows and there is more to her camp mates than she assumes.

Image result for camping gifI really liked Ingrid as a main character, especially since she is such a complex character. She clearly has a strained relationship with her mother at this time, given the fact her mum has sent her to the camp. She is also closed off, not willing to open about herself or what led her to the camp. She doesn't feel like she fits there, she sees herself differently to the others at the camp. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character grow stronger, not just physically but emotionally. I loved seeing her open up to the others, standing up for herself and finding her voice.

This book also deals with some serious issues and I love it for that. It deals with depression, something I love seeing done well in YA books, especially as I have struggled with and used medication to help with depression in the past. It also deals so well with sexual assault, how that was handled in this book was just so perfect to me. Not to mention the perfect and complex mother daughter relationship here. Honestly, I am just so impressed with Danielle Younge-Ullman and I will read whatever she comes out with next.

This book was so much more than I had expected, I can fully admit that it didn't just hit me in the feels, it punched me so hard in them I wanted to double over in pain. I was a little bit of a weepy mess, but I kind of loved that. There is just so much about this book that I really loved. My only hang up is the same problem I have with almost every contemporary I read and that is that it felt too rushed at the end and there wasn't enough closure. It is the same with so many contemporary books, where you're holding just a few pages in your hands at the end of the book but feel there should be about another 30-50 pages to go. Don't get me wrong, the story wraps up and does it so well. I just felt maybe Ingrid's return from camp could have been given more time, so we have more time to adjust to that and see how it all plays out.

4.5/5 Butterflies

I am super lucky to be a part of the Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined blog tour, and Scholastic have been kind enough to offer a book for a giveaway. So one lucky winner could win a copy of this awesome book! The giveaway is for UK peeps only though, sorry international guys!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Review

HeartlessTitle: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends 
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless was one of those books you seem to constantly see and hear about in the months leading up to its release. If I'm honest, I hate when that happens. I end up hearing far too much about the book and how incredible it is, the hype makes my expectations rise to ridiculous levels and then the book can't live up to them. It happened with Caraval and it happened here. Don't get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, I just feel I might have enjoyed it more if there had been less hype and I'd heard less about it before I got to read it. Plus all the warnings about this book and how it made people feel made it all so predictable, so it never packed the same emotional punch it would have if I'd gone in blind. There was so much I did enjoy about this book, especially the world and the characters. Not forgetting Meyer's fantastic writing, she definitely breathed new life into the world of Wonderland.

Image result for wonderland gifHeartless takes place in Wonderland, way before Alice found herself there. It is a Queen of Hearts origin story, as we see how she becomes the infamous villain we all know. Catherine Pinkerton is the daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, and one of the most coveted women in all of Wonderland. Even the King of Hearts himself wishes to make Catherine his wife. But Cath has always dreamed of being more than a wife. He dream is to own her own bakery, to share her delicious treats with all of Wonderland. That is not seen as an acceptable dream for a woman of her social standing, but Cath is determined to fight for it. Then she meets Jest, the King's new Joker and a mysterious new face ii Wonderland. Cath finds herself drawn to him, going behind the backs of her parents and the King to spend time with him. Cath is falling in love, dreaming of a future with Jest and her bakery. But there are forces in Wonderland beyond her control, forces that threaten to bring her dreams crumbling down.

Image result for dessert gifFirst, I must talk about the writing, it is utterly glorious! Meyer really brings the world of Wonderland to life, I could visualise it all so clearly in my mind. Her food descriptions are heavenly, she basically had my mouth watering almost the entire time I was reading. I feel she added her own style to Wonderland, one which I personally loved. This is where I have to admit something... I have never been an Alice in Wonderland fan. The Disney film was always one of my least favourites, and I didn't enjoy the book either and really didn't get all the fuss over the Tim Burton adaptation either. If I am honest, the whole story is just too strange for me. So I was happy to discover that Meyer could write a Wonderland that I'd absolutely love, craziness and all.

Meyer also does a fantastic job with the characters here, ones you will recognise from the Alice in Wonderland stories and also some completely new ones. I think the best way to do this is to look at my thoughts on some of the individual characters themselves.

Cath: Of course I must start with the Queen of Hearts-to-be herself. She is a really likeable character, especially in the beginning of this book. She's funny, kind, determined, a dreamer, plus she makes delicious desserts and that just instantly makes me want to be best friends with her. I had a lot of sympathy for Cath, she was stuck in a very tough situation. Meyer has created a kind of Victorian style Wonderland in terms of the society, with a woman's future being determined by who she marries and how that will benefit her family. Making decisions for yourself isn't something afforded to the women in Wonderland, unless you want to find yourself rejected by society and wind up destitute. So I did feel for Cath, especially in terms of the pressure put on her to enter into marriage with the King. However, she does also happen to be a truly frustrating character, I found myself wanting to reach into this book and shake her on multiple occasions. Having to watch her stay silent for so long really bothered me. You understand why she does it, but it is hard to read. It felt like she brought so much on herself, so much so that by the end of the book she had lost a lot of my sympathy.

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Me with Jest & Cath
Jest: Now Jest is the mysterious and alluring love interest, who enters Cath's life with a band and doesn't want to leave. He was like the perfect breath of fresh air for Cath, especially since he wasn't stuck up or prone to sticking to the societal standards expecting of him - go Jest! I adored his character because he was so much fun and he managed to push Cath out of her comfort zone. Plus he is the King's Jester, so he has the added bonus of being a forbidden romance and those are one of the best kinds.

The King: I absolutely hated the King, which is really the entire point of his character. He is just so passive and useless, the worst kind of person to be in charge of ruling a kingdom. I also found his character super creepy, as he unashamedly and doggedly pursues Cath, a young girl half his age. Not to mention that he comes across as a total idiot and at times talks like an exciting toddler. Yes, it is understandable why Cath doesn't want to marry that man.

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Cath's parents: Some more characters that it is very easy to hate. These two are people of their time, strict in sticking to what society expects of them. They're so certain of themselves and that they know what is best for Cath, what will maker her happy, even though they have absolutely no clue. It's really hard to read books with a Victorian style society, as it is so horribly sexist. Reading a book where you're basically watching parents pimp out their daughter to man half her age is uncomfortable at best. I did not like these two at all, I wanted the Jabberwock to swallow them both whole.

Image result for wonderland gifMad Hatter & The Cheshire Cat: I really like how Meyer decided to play with these classic Alice in Wonderland characters. Cheshire was basically perfect, so sarcastic and superior, he was so spot on and had the perfect cat personality. I am sure if my cat could taken then she'd basically act the exact same way. Hatta was less fun but I adored him as he was the only person willing to call Cath out on her bullshit, her complete inability to fight for what she wanted and for her unfair treatment of Jest. Honestly, he made me want to put the book down and applaud him as finally someone was saying what I was feeling.

Overall, I found Heartless was a really enjoyable read but I didn't completely love it. I actually really enjoyed Meyer's Wonderland and it worked so well for me. However, I did feel this book was much too long and with very little happening for most of the book. A lot of the story is Cath bemoaning her situation, but doing absolutely nothing to change it. It gets tiresome hearing her whine for hundreds of pages whilst taking no action. I did thoroughly enjoy watching Cath and Jest fall for each other though. Personally, I felt the end was a bit manic after so long of nothing happening, and a certain event felt so blink-and-you'll-miss-it that it didn't pack any kind of real emotional punch. There was a lot to like about this book, but aspects I wish were different and would have made it a much more enjoyable read.

3.5 Butterflies

Friday, 24 March 2017

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianne Baer: Review

The Inconceivable Life of QuinnTitle: The Inconceivable Life of Quinn
Author: Marianna Baer
Publisher: Amulet Books
Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?

I have to start this review by saying that The Inconceivable Life of Quinn is one of the strangest books I have ever read, and I am completely unsure how I feel about it. It is such a weird and yet utterly compelling story. When I read the summary for this book I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to read it. Quinn Cutler is the sixteen year old daughter of  Brooklyn politician who is currently running for US Congress. The family is facing a ton of media scrutiny, so there couldn't actually be a worse time for Quinn to find out she is pregnant. The situation is made a whole lot worse because Quinn has no memory of ever having sex, as far as she is concerned she is a virgin and so is her long term boyfriend. It is a huge scandal for the family, and an alienating experience for Quinn as almost no one believes her. We follow Quinn as she tries to figure out how this happened, whether she has repressed the memory of a sexual assault or if something more supernatural is happening, or if she should believe those who think she is carrying the next messiah.

The best way to sum up reading this book:
Image result for what the fuck is going on gif

Going into this book, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The summary hints to a supernatural element, whilst also making it seem like it could be a clean cut contemporary. The book makes for interesting, compelling and frustrating reading. You're so eager to get answers, whilst feeling like you can't trust Quinn as she is an unreliable narrator at times. I really loved the mystery of it all, it grabs you and you're desperate to find out what actually happened to Quinn. I just had to know how Quinn has found herself pregnant, whilst insisting she is still a virgin. I was so curious to see how the author would wrap it all up.

If you're looking for a book that will keep you guessing, this is definitely that book. Almost the entire book I couldn't decide what I thought was really going on and I never would have guessed either. Be warned that this is a slow paced book, where the plot revolves solely on finding out the truth to Quinn's pregnancy. I can tell this book will divide opinion, some won't be able to deal with the end as well as others will. Personally, I do wish that I had got more of a payoff. But then I also couldn't put this book down, there is just something so compelling about Baer's writing that grabs me. The book could definitely have committed to magical realism elements earlier on in the story and then the end would have worked better.

This book is just so hard to review, and that is because I have honestly never read anything else like it. It was a unique reading experience and those are rare to find the over saturated market of YA, where sometimes it feels like you have read the same story ten times over. So I have to applaud Baer for being able to grip me and then genuinely surprise me. She's someone to watch and I will be very curious to see what she comes up with next. If you're looking for something different, that will keep you guessing till the very end then this is definitely worth reading.

3.5 Butterflies

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren: Review

The Last Thing You SaidTitle: The Last Thing You Said
Author: Sara Biren
Publisher: Amulet Books
Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

The Last Thing You Said turned out to be one of those books that I devoured in one sitting, as I needed to see how it would turn out for these characters. I foolishly started it just before bed, thinking I could read a couple of chapters and then put it down for the night, with the plan to return to it the next day. That did not happen, instead I ended up reading it in one go, staying up till the early am and paying for it dearly the next day at work. It was totally worth it though, there was just something about the story and the characters that made me unable to leave them until I knew how it all worked out for them.

Lucy and Trixie have been best friends for almost their entire lives, an inseparable pair, you wouldn't see one without the other. Lucy also just happens to be in love with Trixie's brother Ben, and she suspects that he might feel the same way. Just as it is seems that everything might work out for them, Trixie's heart gives out due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Ben hasn't really spoken to Lucy since, Lucy is struggling without Ben to lean or and without her best friend by her side. The anniversary of Trixie's death is looming closer, and Lucy and Ben keep finding themselves thrust together. The summer seems to be offering them a chance to heal and find their way back into each other's lives.

Recently I have read a ton of contemporary reads that deal with grief and I have enjoyed them all. What I particularly liked about this book was how it explore the uglier side to grief, how it can change us and turn us into people even we don't recognise. Every person copes with loss differently, some allow their own guilt and sadness to turn into anger that they aim at those who don't deserve it. It is horrible, it is also true to life and just how some people learn to cope. That is how Ben coped, by assigning blame to Lucy that she didn't deserve. It was hard to read and I will admit that sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and shake his character.

Sometimes I had to question myself and why I was so eager for these two to find their way back together. Ben could be a truly awful person and he was completely in the wrong, but I still felt for him. I am there, thinking he is a total asshole, whilst also really wanting it to work out for him and Lucy. Damn you, Sara Biren, you are good!

This was such a quick read for me as I couldn't leave it until I was done. It's a very enjoyable read and a great contemporary. It wasn't without its problems, mostly it had the over the top drama that usually bugs me in a book. I might have also totally hated the relationship that developed between Lucy and the renter next door, he came off far too creepy and clingy and I wish that was addressed more. This book just really worked for me though, it was such a great exploration of grief and how it can tear people apart but also bring them back together.

4/5 Butterflies

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Building My Own Army of Fictional Characters + GIVEAWAY

It's World Book Day! The 20th World Book Day to be precise. And what a wonderful day it is. A day to promote my favourite thing: BOOKS! This is always such a fun day, especially when you work in libraries, that was especially true in public libraries. I love watching all the little kids running around in their costumes based off of fictional characters. I still remember the year where I dressed up at work as a Hogwarts students, with full robe and wand. It was a wonderful day! I just love watching children get excited about reading, and I hope that excitement and love of reading stays with them into adulthood.

I was actually lucky enough to be approached by Egmont to see if I wanted to help promote one of the wonderful £1 books coming out this World Book Day. Hmmmm, do I want to promote books that help instil a love of reading in the next generation? OF COURSE I DO! So I said yes. I quickly said yes because the book in question is by Michael Grant, the man behind the fantastic Gone series. The WBD book is called Dead of Night and links into his Front Lines series. The Front Lines series is a young adult alternate history book set in America. It proposes the question, what if women had been allowed to fight on the front lines during WWII. It sounded incredible and I can't wait to read it myself, I am a huge fan of alternate history books, they are some of my favourites.

I was lucky enough to get sent a copy of Front Lines, as well as the sequel Silver Stars and the WBD short story Dead of Night. I am very excited to read them all. Here is a little more information on the first book:

Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1)1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.

The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

As a little something fun for this World Book Day, I thought I would pose myself a question: If I had to go into battle, what women from fiction would I want fighting by my side? I am also linking this up with Top Ten Tuesday, as there is no prompts for the last few weeks. A brilliant question and one I took some time to think of. I realised I don't just need those who can wield a weapon, or who would march bravely into battle, I also need those smart women who can help from behind the front line. So, without further ado, here are some of the wonderful women of fiction that I would want on my side:

Image result for manon blackbeak
Artwork by Charle Bowater

Manon Blackbeach - Throne of Glass

I ADORE MANON!!! She is the best character in the Throne of Glass series now. Seriously, I just love her and Asterin. I don't just want Manon, I want her and her Thirteen. If I can get their Wyverns too then I would have an unstoppable force all of its own. But even if I could only have Manon, I would be happy. She has CLAWS! Giant nails that could slice my throat. She is loyal, she is brutal and she will fight till the death, and you can bet it won't be her death. She can be horrifyingly scary though, she would probably petrify me but I love her.

Celaena Sardothien - Throne of Glass

I think this one doesn't need too much explaining. Celaena Sardothien is an assassin, who seems rather unafraid to throw herself into battle. She is used to getting her hands dirty, watching her back and using the element of surprise to best her opponent. Of course I would want her to be on my team. Although I would spend the whole time worrying she might kill us all if she suddenly decided we weren't worthy or useful to her - the progression of that series proved to me that Celaena is either very forgetful, very fickle or very unloyal. But, hey, she can wield a blade and also has powers!

Image result for hermione granger fighting gifHermione Granger - Harry Potter

I want Hermione on my side for so many reasons. She's kind, she's smart, she is loyal and she is so very brave. I don't like that many people just associate a 'strong female character' as basically meaning someone who can fight or wield a weapon. It isn't. Don't get me wrong, I think Hermione is skilled in magic and I wouldn't want to face her on a battlefied. Plus we all know she can throw a punch. But she is also ridiculously clever, she always seems to be thinking faster than everyone around her. She would be brilliant in a war, she's already faced one and won.

A little something to make sure I can still paint after my week off!
I read ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ whilst I was away. I loved it and this is very much inspired by Lynn.
A couple of hours in PS :)
Artwork by Charlie Bowater
Lynn - Not a Drop to Drink

I really feel like the Not a Drop to Drink series is far too underrated and doesn't get nearly the love it deserves. This is such a beautifully written series, set in a dystopian future it is easy to imagine becoming possible. Lynn is such a fantastic character, she is such an emotionally strong person. The events she goes through and the things she endures would break me as a person, but she gets through it and helps others. She is skilled with a gun, she's also hilarious and someone I know I would love to spend time with. She also protects those she loves with everything she has, so she would be perfect.

Image result for katniss everdeen shooting gifKatniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games

Come on, of course I am not going to go into war without Katniss Everdeen. I LOVE that girl. I don't care what others say about her, I think she is a fantastic character. She is strong in so many ways, but she isn't indestructible. She does hurt, she does break, she forms emotional bonds but rarely, only to those she truly feels are worth her time. She can hunt with a bow and arrow, she has killed before. Sure, she is probably not going to provide the most small talk, you'd be lucky if she even spoke to you. I still want her on my team!

Artwork by PhantomRim

Mustang - Red Rising

Mustang is a pretty kickass character and I absolutely adore her. I didn't when she was first introduced, as I was still recovering from the events of the first half of Red Rising. She quickly grew on me, because she is just incredible. She is another wickedly smart character, who is actually has the brains and mind for politics, which could prove very useful. Plus if I befriended her during a war she might introduce me to my two favourite people: Darrow & Sevro! YES, PLEASE!

Image result for lisbeth salander gifLisbeth Salander - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I honestly don't talk about the awesome Lisbeth Salander enough!!!! I think it is because I concentrate so much on young adult on here, I just seem to forget about her. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an amazing book and introduced me to one of my favourite characters of all time: Lisbeth Salander. Now this girl is smart, so smart that I can't even fathom it. She is also an expert in technology, she could probably hack into anything she sets her mind too. She doesn't take any crap from anyone, which I love about her.

So there are just some of the wonderful women I would want on my side during a war. Which women would you want fighting by your side?

Now time for a giveaway:

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer: Review

Letters to the LostTitle: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. 

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. 

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.
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Before Letters to the Lost, I'd actually once tried to read another book by Brigid Kemerer, Storm, the first book in her Elemental series. I ended up not finishing the book, I couldn't get in to the story and thought that maybe her writing just wasn't for me. So I must admit that I was a little hesitant to pick Letters to the Lost up, but I just had to read it as it seemed like exactly my kind of contemporary. I was so very right. I am so glad I took a chance on it, I ended up absolutely loving this bstory and now I am left wanting more from this author. I read this book in just a few hours, I honestly just couldn't put it down and step away from the story or these characters. Within just a few pages Kemmerer managed to get me ridiculously invested in her characters and their story. Ahhhhhh, I just really loved this book and now I just kind of want to gush about it.

Since Juliet lost her mother in a car accident, she has been leaving letters at her grave as a way to feel close to her. Her mother was a war photographer, constantly travelling to war torn countries to capture the true horror, so letters have always been how Juliet and her mother kept in touch whilst she was away. Juliet never expects anyone to read the letters she leaves at her mother's grave, she definitely doesn't expect anyone to reply. But Declan does. He is currently doing community service at the graveyard when he finds one of her letters. He understands her feelings, he is still dealing with the death of his sister and the guilt he feels from that. He write back, which begins a communication between the two of them. They seem to understand each others pain, guilt and grief, but they don't realise that they know each other in real life and they haven't exactly had the best interactions with one another. Cue all the good stuff!

Image result for now kiss gifI'm not even sure where to begin, there are so many things that I loved about this book. It covered so many issues so well, and gave me so many feelings in the process. I think first I should say that I loved the characters, they just felt so real. Their grief and pain was just so easy for me to understand and relate to, as well as their guilt, even for the things they really shouldn't blame themselves for. I loved watching Juliet and Declan connect through their letters, whilst also getting to know one another in real life without even realising it. It showed so well how quickly we can judge people and make assumptions about them, without knowing their full story. It also perfectly showed how anonymity can make us far more comfortable and willing to show who we really are.

This book dealt with a lot of tough subjects, not just loss and grief; Brigid Kemmerer dealt with these all so well. It never felt like too much, or that she went too over the top with it like I have seen in other books. These tough issues were never used for drama, they were so important to the story and these characters, who they were and the decisions they made.

Another thing I loved about the book was all the different relationships portrayed here. You had those with good relationship with their parents, those without. Not to mention the strong friendships here, ones that I really enjoyed. I especially enjoyed Declan's relationship with his best friend Rev, the level of understanding those two have of each other is just brilliant. They know each others past and the struggles it caused them, they were supportive, whilst also being capable of calling the other out on their bullshit when they needed it. I felt the family relationships were also very realistic, especially Declan's struggles with his step father. I felt like their lack of communication was so true to real life. If you don't open up and tell someone your feelings and motivations, they'll judge you only on what they can see and that won't always be who you are. I really enjoyed how Kemmerer dealt with that relationship over the course of this novel.

Image result for kiss already gifKemmerer did such a wonderful job building up the relationship between Declan and Juliet. This is a fantastic contemporary, where the romance isn't overpowering the story, and I actually preferred it that way. This was definitely a slow build and slow burn romance, with two characters truly opening up and getting to know each other; my favourite kind of romance. That isn't to say that I didn't totally want to see these two end up together, I did. I shipped these two so very hard!

I absolutely loved this book and can't really find any faults with it. My one and only complain might be that I wanted one more chapter or so, which is what I seem to say about every single contemporary I ever read. That's not because the ending didn't wrap up the story enough or didn't give me closure, it was just that I didn't feel ready to say goodbye to these characters, which is a good sign that I loved the book.

5/5 Butterflies

Monday, 27 February 2017

By Your Side by Kasie West: Review

By Your SideTitle: By Your Side
Author: Kasie West
Publisher: Harper Teen
When Autumn Collins finds herself accidentally locked in the library for an entire weekend, she doesn’t think things could get any worse. But that’s before she realizes that Dax Miller is locked in with her. Autumn doesn’t know much about Dax except that he’s trouble. Between the rumors about the fight he was in (and that brief stint in juvie that followed it) and his reputation as a loner, he’s not exactly the ideal person to be stuck with. Still, she just keeps reminding herself that it is only a matter of time before Jeff, her almost-boyfriend, realizes he left her in the library and comes to rescue her.

Only he doesn’t come. No one does.

Instead it becomes clear that Autumn is going to have to spend the next couple of days living off vending-machine food and making conversation with a boy who clearly wants nothing to do with her. Except there is more to Dax than meets the eye. As he and Autumn first grudgingly, and then not so grudgingly, open up to each other, Autumn is struck by their surprising connection. But can their feelings for each other survive once the weekend is over and Autumn’s old life, and old love interest, threaten to pull her from Dax’s side?

I have enjoyed ever Kasie West book that I have read, which is all of them, and my absolute favourite is still The Distance Between Us. I know what to expect from her books; cutesy romance and some great snarky humour. By Your Side was another enjoyable read by West, although it certainly isn't one her best and it isn't without its problems. One of the big ones being that is was a little lacking the both the cutesy romance and the snarky humour.

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I'm not buying the locked in aspect of this book!
By Your Side is being pitched as two people locked in a library falling for each other, just be warned that it's not exactly that. Yes, it involves two people getting locked in a library, but it actually only takes up the first third of the story. Be prepared, you need to suspend your disbelief in order to buy the whole locked in the library scenario. As someone who has worked in libraries for 8 years now, I guarantee the situation in this book is impossible. A library would have a security system, it would register there were people inside and cause an alarm with the security company, who would then send someone to have the building checked out. You would need that in place to get any kind of insurance, which you most definitely need. Not only that, but there would at least one phone on the main desk, even the smallest library I worked at had 4 phones.There would also be a way to exit the building from the inside, like a fire exit or something, otherwise that would be a major problem. So yes, that might have bugged me for the entire time that I was reading, as that whole situation was ridiculous and unrealistic.

I really liked the character of Autumn, she was funny, whilst also being very awkward. She also happens to suffer with anxiety, which I really liked seeing. I felt it was handled well and quite realistically, especially with Autumn trying to 'overcome' her anxiety, but not always in a healthy way. She also tried her hardest to make sure none of her friends would realise she suffered from anxiety. I loved seeing her come to terms with her anxiety and being more honest about it. I also love her supportive parents, and how much understanding and love they gave her when it came to her anxiety.

Image result for it's so cute gifDax isn't my favourite leading man of a West book, but I did still really like him. It doesn't help that I absolutely hated his name, why would anyone name their child that. Dax hasn't had the best upbringing, which has led to him becoming the silent, brooding type who pushes people away. The only problem here being that it makes it hard for you to actually get to know him. Dax totally won me over with his understanding and treatment of Autumn's anxiety, and calling out her friends for being so oblivious to it. I also liked seeing him slowly open up to Autumn, watching their relationship grow was adorable.

I still really enjoyed the romance here, our two leads definitely had a lot of chemistry. Plus it had some adorable moments, which I absolutely loved. It has one incredible kiss scene though, but one is not enough! Kasie West just seems to have a habit of rushing her stories at the end. I'm always left feeling like I want at least another chapter, if not more. I just love watching her characters get to know and fall for one another, sometimes I just need more of a pay off by the end. If you're in the mood for another cute, quick contemporary romance from West then you definitely will get it here, but it isn't her best.

3/5 Butterflies

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.
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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.