The Girl with All the Gifts (M. R. Carey)

The Girl with All the Gifts (M. R. Carey)The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey
Published by Little, Brown Book Group Limited on 19-06-2014
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Fiction, Sci Fi
Pages: 461
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

NOT EVERY GIFT IS A BLESSING

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class.


When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like h
er. She jokes that she won't bite. But they don't laugh.

Melanie is a very special girl.

Emotionally charged and gripping from beginning to end, THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS is the most powerful and affecting thriller you will read this year.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★★
Readability: ★★★

The storyMelanie is a little girl who lives in a cell.  Every morning, men with guns and grim faces lock her into her wheelchair, push her down the corridor and into the classroom, where she and around twenty other wheelchair bound kids are taught lessons by a variety of teachers.  Melanie likes her classes, she loves her teacher Miss Justineau and she adores Greek mythology.  She doesn’t particularly love being strapped into her chair during classes (makes it hard to make friends), or the fact that most of the adults seem scared of her, even when she’s trying to be nice.

The jacket of the book gives very little away, so if you’d rather go into this blind as was intended, it’s probably best to stop reading here! If you don’t mind the slight spoiler/already seen it elsewhere or if you’ve already read The Girl with All The Gifts, you’re safe to read on!

The Girl with All The Gifts is not a book about a little girl with special abilites – I have to admit I was imagining an X-men style mutant or something similar.  It turns out, The Girl with All The Gifts is a book about zombies.

I’m seriously squeamish so zombie movies and TV are not my thing at all, but my few forays into zombie fiction have gone pretty well so far.  I adored Feed by Mira Grant, and I enjoyed Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel (though the second book not so much).

 

The characters

Melanie is an absolutely great character, and I think without her this book just wouldn’t have worked for me.  She’s unbelievably smart, but she’s also like a puppy: she’s so eager to please, and she has questions without answers that no kid her age should have to worry about.

The supporting characters mainly consist of Miss Justinea, Sergeant Parks and Doctor Caldwell which is perhaps where the story fell down a little for me.  With a relatively small cast, I expected to really connect with the characters, but although there were a few moments where I connected with the others, I didn’t really find myself drawn to any of them in the same way as I did with Melanie.  Strangely, the supporting character I found most real was Doctor Caldwell, who is less likable than both Miss Justineau and Sergeant Parks!

 

final thoughtsWith hints of the same scientific basis as Mira Grant’s Feed and moments so tense I didn’t want to leave the safety of my locked bedroom, I’m not quite sure why I didn’t click more with The Girl with All the Gifts.  It took me a while to get into, and there were few moments where I was truly hooked – I definitely enjoyed it, but The Girl with All The Gifts was probably a 3.5 star read for me.

 

Buy it? This is one I’d borrow or pick up on a deal.
In a nutshell: Enjoyable, and I’ll definitely be looking out for more by M.R. Carey, but it didn’t wow me.

 

Other Reviews of The Girl with All the Gifts: Wondrous Reads | The Book Plank | The Book Smugglers

One StarOne StarOne Star

Apple and Rain (Sarah Crossan)

Apple and Rain (Sarah Crossan)Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
Published by A&C Black on 14-08-2014
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley, Purchased
Goodreads

When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are.

A story about sad endings.
A story about happy beginnings.
A story to make you realise who is special.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★★

The storyApple has spent the last eleven years wishing for her mother.  Wandering why she left and why she never came back, all Apple wants is for her mum to come home.  She loves living with her nan, but she’s also beginning to chafe at being picked up from school and generally not being let out of sight.  She also wishes she had her mum to just talk to about things she couldn’t discuss with her nan, things like boys, petty arguments at school and make up.  When Apple’s mum does show up out of the blue though, it isn’t exactly the seamless family reunion Apple expected, and she has to face up to the reality of a mother she’s only ever imagined until now.

I found the story a bit predictable but very enjoyable and VERY hard to put down! Between how quick the story moves, the very short chapters and the easy-to-get-lost-in voice of Apple, I told myself ‘just one more chapter’ for far too long when reading it.  The fact that the story was a little predictable didn’t particularly bother me, because it’s just as much about the journey and the character development as it is about the end result.  In that respect, and with Apple’s clear voice, it reminded me a little of something like Thirteen Reasons Why.

Apple tries to build a relationship with her mother as she fears her relationship with her best friend is disintegrating, she goes through so many upheavals, and then on top of all that she’s also given a new English teacher, who tries to engage the class with poetry.  The poetry in Apple and Rain is used really well, and it really helps to see exactly how Apple feels – although her voice is very clear, she’s not always upfront with herself about how she feels, so the poetry gives you that little bit of insight beneath the mask.

The characters

I don’t want to say too much about the characters because learning about them was one of the highlights of the story for me and I don’t want to take that away if you haven’t read it yet!  So just a few quick thoughts from me on each of them.

Apple is great – although she’s only 13 she comes across as more mature.  At the start of the story Apple definitely comes across as younger and more naive – she idolises her mother, she worries about Nana making her look uncool etc but she grows brilliantly throughout the book.  Sure she makes mistakes, but what teenager human doesn’t?!

Rain and Del are both brilliant characters.  I couldn’t decide on an overall favourite character but it’d definitely be one of these two!

Apple’s mother Annie is really well developed.  I loved the fact that she was shown as making mistakes and having flaws without being the villain.  Unfortunately for me this was overshadowed a little by Apple’s issues with her dad, who she seemed determined to see as the bad guy and which I found a little frustrating.

 

 

final thoughtsApple and Rain was a quick, cute, enjoyable read, but it wasn’t the emotional rollercoaster I was expecting.  It can be a little bleak at times, but it’s fundamentally a heart-warming story about families, relationships, and growing up.  I’ve seen so many great reviews for Apple and Rain, and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn’t as deeply emotional as I was expecting, so I liked it but wasn’t overwhelmed unfortunately.

 

Buy it? This is one I’d borrow or pick up on a deal.
In a nutshell: All in all a good read, but didn’t have the impact I was expecting.

 

Other Reviews of Apple and Rain: Fluttering Butterflies | YA Midnight Reads | Reading Lark

One StarOne StarOne Star

Mini review: Geek Girl (Holly Smale)

Mini review: Geek Girl (Holly Smale)Geek Girl by Holly Smale
Published by HarperCollins on 28-02-2013
Genres: Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things.

She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves.

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did.

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★

Harriet Manners, the geek girl of the title, never wanted to be a model.  In fact, she doesn’t exactly get fashion, and she’s only at the fashion show because her best friend Nat dragged her.  Since she’s not exactly popular at school, she goes along with it when she’s spotted by a model scout, hoping to re-invent herself…but of course, there are costs, not least that she’s stolen her best friend’s dream.

I really liked Holly’s quirkiness, and her awkwardness (we can all relate sometimes!), but I wouldn’t call her a geek.  She’s clumsy, and full of random facts, but definitely not a fangirl.  Having said that, I really loved her voice as a narrator, and she’s genuinely funny.

It was cute, and funny, and the lack of angst was definitely a welcome change.  My biggest issue with Geek Girl though, was that it felt like it was aimed at a younger audience.  It definitely felt more like a young teen read than a young adult one, partially because I thought it was quite predictable.

All in all, I found Geek Girl a quick, light read, but I wasn’t wowed by it, and it didn’t leave me particularly fussed either way about continuing on with the series.  Having said that, it was a definitely a fun and speedy read, and it’d make a great readathon choice.

Buy it? This is a borrow for me.
In a nutshell: An enjoyable enough read, but it didn’t wow me.

Other Reviews of Geek Girl: Adventures with words  | Mab is Mab | There’s more to life than reading, but it’s a good place to start

One StarOne Star

[After Dark] The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (A.N. Roquelaure)

[After Dark] The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty (A.N. Roquelaure)The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty by A. N. Roquelaure, Anne Rice
Series: Sleeping Beauty #1
Published by Sphere on 01-08-2012
Genres: Erotica, Love & Romance
Pages: 273
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

From bestselling author Anne Rice, writing as A.N. Roquleaure. In the traditional folktale of 'Sleeping Beauty,' the spell cast upon the lovely young princess and everyone in her castle can only be broken by the kiss of a Prince. It is an ancient story, one that originally emerged from and still deeply disturbs the mind's unconscious. Now Anne Rice's retelling of the Beauty story probes the unspoken implications of this lush, suggestive tale by exploring its undeniable connection to sexual desire. Here the Prince reawakens Beauty, not with a kiss, but with sexual initiation. His reward for ending the hundred years of enchantment is Beauty's complete and total enslavement to him as Anne Rice explores the world of erotic yearning and fantasy in a classic that becomes, with her skillful pen, a compelling experience.

Plot: ★★
Characters: ★
Readability: ★

The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty begins with Beauty being ‘initiated’ into the world of sex by the Prince.  Naively, when I read the blurb, I assumed Beauty would be…well…awake, for this.  She’s not.  Beauty then goes with the Prince to his kingdom to become his sex slave.

I requested The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty on NetGalley, pretty much on a whim.  I knew it was an erotic retelling of Sleeping Beauty, I knew it was written by Anne Rice, and I knew a lot of bloggers I normally share reading tastes with had enjoyed it.  I was convinced enough by those facts to request it, but unfortunately The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and I just did not get along at all.

For a long time, I debated whether or not to write a review of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty, because while I do write negative reviews, I try to write negative reviews rather than flaming ones (see this great post by Dudette Reads on negative reviews without negativity) and that means highlighting the positives of a story – even if they’re few and far between.  Unfortunately, I really struggled to find a positive about The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty. 

I didn’t find either The Prince or Beauty compelling as characters, and I couldn’t really bring myself to care about either of them.   The sex (between them and others) is prolific, so there’s absolutely no sense of build up, and I found it quickly got repetitive.  This is not the BDSM of Fifty Shades or the like – the consent is so dubious, I wouldn’t feel comfortable calling it BDSM at all.  It’s also definitely not BDSM-lite: characters are ‘given’ to others to use, they’re humiliated and they’re treated as slaves.  Beauty seems to spend as much time crying as she does anything else.

The most intriguing character is Prince Alexi, the Queen’s favourite ‘pet’, who Beauty is drawn to.  I really enjoyed the possibility of romance there, but unfortunately this wasn’t enough to balance out the rest of the story.  My overwhelming impression of the novel, to be honest, is one of abuse and endless spanking.

Despite being less than 300 pages, it took me pretty much a week to read and I nearly gave up more than once.  I’ve read other reviews from people who loved it though, so it seems to be a bit of a marmite read.  Unfortunately, while I’ve read and enjoyed a fair amount of erotic (and BDSM) fiction, for some reason The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and I just rubbed each other the wrong way.

Buy it? I’d borrow or read a sample to see if it’s your style, but it isn’t one I’d buy.
In a nutshell: Just not for me at all.

Other Reviews of The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty: The Bookish Brunette | Reading in Bed | All About {n}

One Star

Saving June (Hannah Harrington)

Saving June (Hannah Harrington)Saving June by Hannah Harrington
Published by Mira Books Limited on 01-06-2012
Genres: Contemporary, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 322
Format: ebook
Source: NetGalley
Amazon
Goodreads

‘If she’d waited less than two weeks, she’d be June who died in June. But I guess my sister didn’t consider that.’

Harper Scott’s older sister has always been the perfect one — so when June takes her own life a week before her high school graduation, sixteen-year-old Harper is devastated. Everyone’s sorry, but no one can explain why.

When her divorcing parents decide to split her sister’s ashes into his-and-her urns, Harper takes matters into her own hands. She’ll steal the ashes and drive cross-country with her best friend, Laney, to the one place June always dreamed of going — California.

Enter Jake Tolan. He’s a boy with a bad attitude, a classic-rock obsession and nothing in common with Harper’s sister. But Jake had a connection with June, and when he insists on joining them, Harper’s just desperate enough to let him. With his alternately charming and infuriating demeanour and his belief that music can see you through anything, he might be exactly what she needs.

Except June wasn’t the only one hiding something. Jake’s keeping a secret that has the power to turn Harper’s life upside down — again.

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★

I really wanted – and expected – to love Saving June, but unfortunately, I just didn’t.  I started my review for Saving June back when I read the book in January 2013, but I couldn’t really pinpoint why I didn’t love it, so I left the review in my drafts to refine it later.  Over a year later I literally remember only the barest details of the book (good job I had that draft!) which sorta sums up Saving June for me.

I did really enjoy Saving June when I read it, and one of my favourite things about it was the writing style.  Harrington’s writing style is so easy to get lost in, and Harper’s voice comes through so clearly, which makes it easy to empathise with her from the very first page. Harper’s grief at the start is so emotive, but her conflicted feelings, as well as her anger and her frustration, also come across really well, which makes her feel so much more real – how often do you just feel happy or sad, without also feeling excited, frustrated, angry, nervous, worried or anything else? Never!

I also absolutely loved the friendship between Laney and Harper.  The two have plenty of sarcastic banter, but they also stand by each other.  Jake was a likeable enough character, but I’ll admit that his music obsession felt a little frustrating at times.  I did enjoy his and Harper’s relationship too, though my feelings towards him were a little less clear after the ending!

All in all, I enjoyed Saving June, but for me, only the writing style really stood out, and it wasn’t as powerful as I expected it to be – although there were emotional parts, the book didn’t stay with me the way I would have expected.  Having said that, a lot of bloggers (and I mean a lot!) absolutely loved it, and I did enjoy it, so maybe this was just a case of the wrong book at the wrong time for me.

Buy it? This is a library borrow for me.
In a nutshell: Beautiful writing, and I enjoyed this, but ultimately it wasn’t as powerful as I’d expected.

Other Reviews of Saving June: A Good Addiction | Young Adult Book Haven | Lauren Reads YA

One StarOne StarOne Star