Book Review: You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour & David Levithan

You Know Me WellYou Know Me Well by David Levithan & Nina LaCour

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You Know Me Well is a fantastically well written story about friendship, love and working out what you want to do with your life set during San Francisco’s Pride Festival. As you can probably tell there is a strong LGBT element however it deals with issues that everyone has faced at some point in their lives regardless of sexual orientation.

It’s an enjoyable and emotional read that once I started I just couldn’t put down. Although the time period covered is short, there is a real journey for all of the characters and I found myself really rooting for them and caring for them. I could definitely relate to a lot of the issues and problems they faced.

If you like YA contemporary books with a lot of feels I think you’ll definitely enjoy this book.


Synopsis (from GoodReads)

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other — and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.


Thoughts

I think I spent around the first third of this book trying to figure out what film it reminded me of. It drove me nuts for ages until I finally figured out it was Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. It just had that indie, crazy night out, quirky character type vibe to it. As you all probably know (but I didn’t) David Levithan co wrote the book the film is based on which is no doubt why it felt so familiar to me and why I enjoyed it so much.

The story starts with Mark and Kate meeting in a bar at the start of the Pride Festival. Kate is supposed to be somewhere else meeting a girl she’s been fantasizing about for ages and Mark has been abandoned by his best friend Ryan, the boy he’s been in love with forever but who may not feel the same. Both are at a bit of a cross roads in their lives, having a bit of personal crisis but discover in each other the person they need at that point in time.

I think most people will have met someone at some point that they just instantly click with and that’s what happens with Mark and Kate. It’s so great to read a story about friendship rather than romance and that’s exactly what this is. It’s about finding and keeping people in your life who will support you, advise you, encourage you to take chances and be there for you if/when it all goes wrong.

Don’t get me wrong there is a little bit of love and romance but it’s the realistic, non perfect kind rather than hearts and flowers and everyone living happily ever after. It’s unrequited love, fear of putting yourself out there and saying how you feel, feeling not good enough and being rejected (or accepted). Basically it’s real life as a teenager at that crucial point in time when you’re leaving school and deciding what you want to do with your life.

Of the two main characters I think Mark was probably my favourite. He’s the openly gay jock who’s madly in love with his best friend Ryan but is scared to tell him as he has a suspicion his feelings aren’t returned. He was just so sweet and nice, devoted to Ryan but terrified of telling him in case he loses him. I was so proud of him throughout the story and just wanted to hug him.

Kate (or Katie) was a little harder to warm up to but I think that was more due to frustration with her than dislike. She’s a talented artist who seems to achieve everything she wants but is terrified of going for it. She’s been accepted to one of the best art programmes, has the chance at an exhibition and is due to meet the girl she’s been dreaming of forever but just wants to run away from it all because she doesn’t think she’s worthy. I could definitely relate to that feeling but it didn’t make it any less annoying. The main thing I loved about her however was the way she supported her friends.

The other characters in the book were also exceptionally well written. I loved them at times, they annoyed me at others but they were just very real. I’ve definitely met at least some of them in my non book life.

Each chapter of the story alternates between Mark and Kate’s perspective and I assume with the two authors David wrote Mark’s chapters and Nina Kate’s (although I don’t know for definite). This works incredibly well and the flow feels very natural and easy rather than in any way disjointed. Overall I thought the story was well paced. It’s contemporary young adult so there’s obviously not going to be a huge amount of action and excitement but it definitely had me hooked and wanting to know how it would all end.

There were a lot of moments that made me laugh and smile and the occasional tear so it’s safe to say I enjoyed it a lot. If you like this genre (and possibly even if you don’t) I think you’ll really like this book.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. It’s released on the 2nd June in the UK.

Book Review: Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Dangerous LiesDangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my second book by Becca Fitzpatrick so I had a rough idea what to expect as far as writing goes and was looking forward to reading this new story. Unfortunately, while I found it an enjoyable enough story and an easy read, it wasn’t anything particularly special.

Synopsis

17 year old girl, Stella, witnesses a crime and is forced to leave her home, family and her boyfriend to go into witness protection. She moves from a big city to a small town in Nebraska where she has to try to adjust to a new way of life. As her mother had money and a drug habit Stella is used to doing her own thing so it’s safe to say she rebels a bit at the start even though it’s for her own safety.

It’s not long though before she meets boy next door Chet and starts to realise life in Nebraska might not be too bad. However someone in town starts stirring up trouble and there is a chance the secrets from her past will catch up to her putting her life and the lives of those around her in danger.

Thoughts

Overall I had nothing against this book I just seem to be struggling to find reasons to love it.

The writing is pretty good and the story ticks along at a nice pace. I liked the idea of the whole witness protection thing and it definitely had the potential to be a real page turner. Added to that there is a bit of mystery around the events Stella claims to have witnessed which makes you wonder what really happened that night. There are a few twists and surprises in the story which do keep you guessing (and reading) but I felt like there could have been a little more tension. I was never really on the edge of my seat.

In terms of main character Stella, I’ve read a few reviews talking about how much they disliked her but I actually kind of admired her attitude. Yes, for a girl in hiding she does some remarkably stupid things which are guaranteed to get her noticed but I liked how she stood up for herself and others even when it led trouble her way. Like a lot of YA heroines she is a little bit boy crazy which kind of annoys me but it seems to be standard in these types of books. I also found it quite strange how quickly she developed feelings for someone other than her boyfriend (who she apparently couldn’t live without at the start).

Boy next door Chet is nice enough and I did enjoy the banter between the two of them but I felt it lacked that little bit of spark that would have made their attraction a bit more believable.

The remaining characters could also have done with a bit more depth as I felt they were a little stereotyped. There was the bullying high school jock with the massive ego, the underage pregnancy, younger teen going off the rails due to lack of parental role model etc. I’m not sure what else the author could have done but I think I’m getting a bit fed up of the same types of character in every YA book. Although I have to admit that I did like that there were a lot of strong women.

As far as the ending to the story, I have to say that I found it a little unsatisfying. It seemed like there was a lot of build up to not a lot of action. What action there was seemed to be over in a few pages with minimal fuss or emotion. It wasn’t bad it just wasn’t as good as I hoped and I would have liked a slightly different ending for Stella.

Overall therefore I would recommend it if you’re looking for an easy read with some action for a lazy afternoon but I don’t think it’s a stand out book.

Sneak Peek : The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

The Forbidden Wish by Jessica Khoury

Publication Date :  23rd February 2016

The Forbidden WishBlurb from GoodReads

She is the most powerful Jinni of all. He is a boy from the streets. Their love will shake the world…

When Aladdin discovers Zahra’s jinni lamp, Zahra is thrust back into a world she hasn’t seen in hundreds of years — a world where magic is forbidden and Zahra’s very existence is illegal. She must disguise herself to stay alive, using ancient shape-shifting magic, until her new master has selected his three wishes.

But when the King of the Jinn offers Zahra a chance to be free of her lamp forever, she seizes the opportunity—only to discover she is falling in love with Aladdin. When saving herself means betraying him, Zahra must decide once and for all: is winning her freedom worth losing her heart?

As time unravels and her enemies close in, Zahra finds herself suspended between danger and desire in this dazzling retelling of Aladdin from acclaimed author Jessica Khoury.


Sneak Peek

I am so excited about this re-telling of Aladdin which is due out in February 2016. I managed to get a sneak peek via NetGalley of the first few chapters and they are so good I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest. The chapters I read had a lot of world building but the descriptions really draw you in and there is action and intrigue from almost the very first page.

The narrative is told from the point of view of Jinni Zahra who comes across as a conflicted and complicated character with a lot of power and a tendency to bend the rules. I get the feeling she could be unpredictable. Aladdin however I’m already in love with but then who doesn’t love a rogue’ish bad boy. He’s a flirt and a thief with a tragic past that he’s trying to escape. I’m so excited about how his relationship with Zahra will develop as there are hints of it already.

To top it all off we have an oppressive monarchy, incredible magic and some strong female rebels. This definitely has the potential to be one of the most exciting books of 2016. I’m off to pre order now.

Book Review: The Blonde Eskimo by Kristen Hunt

Blonde EskimoBlonde Eskimo by Kristen Hunt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maybe I’m too old for this one or maybe I’ve just read too many YA fantasy books recently but this book just didn’t really work for me.

It starts off quite well in a way quite similar to Twilight with main character Neiva packed off by her parents to Spirit Island, Alaska to stay with her Grandmother and finish her final year at school while her parents go travelling.

There are hints from the very beginning that there is something very mysterious about the Island. It’s remote and very insular and no one seems to have heard of it. Those who Neiva tells seem to instantly forget about it. This time however she is determined to get proof that something isn’t right. When she first arrives everything seems fairly normal however you quickly get the sense that everyone is keeping secrets from her.

It’s only on her 17th birthday that the secrets begin to come to light and strange things start happening. Neiva finds out that she has to take part in an ancient and traditional ritual which involves among other things receiving a totem of her spirit guide. She soon discovers however that she and her friends have powers and there is a whole other world around her. A world of spirits and demons and other legends, one of which seems to be determined to kill her. She also meets a mysterious stranger in a mask that she can’t help being drawn to.

There are some great ideas in this book. I loved the idea of the Eskimo legends being real (although I should say I know nothing about Eskimo legends so have no idea if any of them are truly legends). It does give it that slightly different twist on the usual young adult fantasy book.

The problem I had however was that I felt there was too much going on and I found it confusing. Spirits, guardians, demons, spirit guides, vampires, Triton, the Loch Ness monster and various other creatures get a mention at some point or another. I have to admit I gave up trying to follow it. There is a lot of information that’s thrown at you in big chunks and at times it breaks the flow of the story and doesn’t seem relevant. There could have been a bit more subtlety in working it into the text.

There are also some inconsistencies and continuity issues which were a little frustrating. For example one minute a raven was her favourite animal, the next she was terrified of them and then she loved them again. There was a moment she thought she recognised someone then dismissed it as her imagination. Five minutes later she was writing in her diary about how she was positive she’d seen them. Neiva also knew someone’s name even though after the last time they met she commented that she’d forgotten to ask for it. I had an ARC so hopefully these have been fixed.

I found it strange in this book as well how none of the adults seemed overly concerned about the fact someone was trying to kill Neiva. In most YA fantasy books the adults are blissfully ignorant of what’s going on however in this case they all know the legends and could help. Instead they quite happily sent her off camping in a remote location with her friends. She does receive training but that seemed to be mostly dance lessons and riding sea creatures which isn’t much practical use if someone is trying to drown you, eat your soul or send a possessed bear after you. The advice she kept receiving was to stick with her friends. Although her friends didn’t seem to be a huge amount of use in keeping her safe.

The characters were OK. I found Neiva a little annoying in some ways and felt like she was younger than the 17 she was supposed to be. Every boy she met was soooo good looking and she seemed to spend most of her time blushing or crying. I was not a fan of the diary. I did like how she pushed for answers though and that she cared so much about her friends and family. I also liked her friends Nate and Viv and the relationship between the two of them. Viv is fiery in more ways than one whereas Nate is funny and loyal. They fight constantly but I get the feeling it’s a bit of a love/hate thing.

The story does pick up towards the end and I did find that it started to draw me in so that I wanted to know how things would turn out. I don’t think though that I will be rushing to read the next in the series although maybe I just need a break from this genre.

Overall, while I didn’t love it I think a lot of people, particularly younger teens will. It reminded me a bit of the Iron King (which I also wasn’t keen on) so if you like that you would probably like this.

Thanks to NetGalley and SparkPress for the ARC

Book Review: A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand NightsA Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I finished this book a couple of days ago but I’ve been feeling a bit conflicted about it and have been struggling to find the right words to describe it. The ones that immediately jump to mind are unique, magical, beautiful, captivating, weird, confusing and, I’m really sorry to say this, kind of boring.

I really, really wanted to like this book. If you’re a regular follower of my reviews you will have noticed that I’m a big fan of books that re-tell the classics, particularly if they add a bit of a unique twist. I was so excited when I saw this book. The cover is stunning and it’s based on one of my favourite stories “A Thousand and One Nights”. I have to admit however I found it a bit of a disappointment. Maybe my hopes were too high but I get the feeling that this is one of those books that people will either love or hate.

This retelling starts in a similar way to the original as our main character marries a king, Lo-Melkiin, notorious for killing his wives. By the time he reaches her village in search of a wife he has killed over 300 women so she knows there is little hope of surviving but she is willing to give her life to protect her sister. When she gets to the palace no one will meet her eye or speak with her as they are all sure of her fate. While servants pamper, bathe and dress her she is left to her own thoughts and company until evening comes and the king arrives. Miraculously she survives first one night and then another and another.

Meanwhile back at her home her sister has already begun to mourn her. She sets up a shrine in her honour making her a “smallgod”. As word of her bravery and her continuing survival starts to spread from village to village across the kingdom, more and more people begin to worship her. Within the palace things also begin to change, the members of the court begin to talk with her and treat her as a queen. Our heroine also begins having visions and develops powers which allow her to manifest the objects she dreams of. As her power grows, belief starts to spread that she could be the one to defeat the monster within the king and save the kingdom.

Despite my rather low rating there were quite a few things I loved about this book. I loved it’s originality both in terms of plot and writing style. While it is based on a classic tale it takes it in a very new and different direction which I really liked. The writing itself is also very different and unique. There is a lot of flowing narrative, vivid descriptions of dreams and visions as well as a very different world and way of life. I can appreciate the beauty in the writing and I think for this reason alone a lot of people will love this story.

Personally however, I felt it was short on dialogue and emotion. There is very little action within the first three quarters of the book. A girl is wed to a king and goes to stay in a palace where she eats, bathes, dresses, spins or weaves, and dreams. Once a night she is visited by the king who asks her a couple of questions, touches her in some way (holds her hand, grips her arm) and then leaves and she sleeps. There are none of the stories from the original work like Aladdin or Alibabah, so if you are expecting them you will be very disappointed.

There are in fact very few stories at all. Those that do appear are memories from her home and stories of her ancestors and smallgods. They are not told but remembered and as a result there is no questioning or interruptions, no dialogue and mostly serve to provide more substance to her background. Generally I found them difficult to focus on and tended to skim through to try and get to some action. There are a couple of interesting stories, most notably one with a talking camel, but a lot were stories about things she did with her sister or mother such as making a dress or looking after a flock of sheep. Maybe I missed something or didn’t look deep enough to get to the meaning. Possibly others will get more from them.

The other thing I found frustrating is that there are very few characters within the story who have names. The name of the main character is never revealed. She is referred to as “daughter”, “sister” and “lady bless” but never by a name. Her family are referred to by their relationship to her for example, “sister”, “mother”, “my sister’s mother”, and even my “father’s father’s father”. I found this a little confusing at times and had to think through the relationships to work out who people were. I can understand why the author decided to do this however, I found it difficult to connect with the characters. I didn’t feel any of the emotion I should have felt and this, combined with a lack of dialogue, meant that overall the whole story left me cold.

I will recommend that this book be read rather than avoided. While I didn’t like it I have to admit it is very different and I think a lot of people will love it.

Note: I received a free ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. It will be released at the start of October.