‘Jamyria: The Entering’ – Madeline Meekins


I received a digital copy of this book from the author, Madeline Meekins, as part of a YA Buddy Readers’ Corner group read.

This book was also available on Amazon, and the information given there certainly makes it sound intriguing. Jamyria is a parallel world, that people get drawn into and are desperate to escape from. They await the arrival of the New Mark, a god-like person who arrives in Jamyria every 50 years, who will help them to return home.

The Prologue was beautifully written, although Margo’s initial foray into this new world had a slightly surreal quality that felt rather odd. As we journey through the world with Margo I felt that I was getting some way to understanding the construction of the world, but I could not understand how Margo was so unfazed by what she was experiencing. Unfortunately I was struck by the absence of much happening in the middle section. It didn’t really have enough to engage my interest. Though it picked up a little with the big fight scene there really wasn’t enough in there to make me want to read more.

For me, the most interesting part of this novel was the background to Margo’s story, and yet we never really find out about this because the focus is on her finding her way around this new world.

This is probably a book I’ll mention to fantasy fans, but it wasn’t really one for me.


‘The Painted Ocean’ – Gabriel Packard

The Painted Ocean


This novel is due for publication in early March 2016, and I would like to thank NetGalley for the ARC I received in exchange for an honest review.

From the way this book is ‘sold’ to the reader it is a touching coming-of-age story that focuses on our narrator, Shruti, and her coming-to-terms with the fall-out from her Indian mother’s family demands to return to India – without her daughter – and remarry. The inevitable confusion Shruti feels as she deals with playground racism, her mother’s refusal to break the traditions of her home culture and her own needs was, at times, heart-breaking.

This initial section of the book was absorbing, and was definitely given some spark through the arrival of Meena – the only student in Shruti’s school who seems to have any idea of what she is experiencing. Meena really is a sparky character, but her selfishness is apparent from early on and Shruti’s dependence on this character is painful to watch.

This discomfort becomes more so as we witness Shruti and Meena head to university. Shruti cannot find her place, and her need to belong somewhere seems to be at the heart of many of her decisions. Watching Shruti do everything she can to cling on to her childhood friendship is what gets her into the sticky situation that forms the central part of the novel.

Without giving away any details this section was not really prepared for, and I felt it was bordering on preposterous. The behaviour of Meena and her boyfriend during this section was appalling, and the way in which they degraded Shruti was deeply unpleasant to read. Meena attempts to redeem herself, but for me the damage was done. I also disliked the way this section of the story seemed to not link to what came before, and I felt the book suffered for this.

By the final section, where things seem to be going well for Shruti, it read like the kind of story that someone is determined to get through without even trying to bring the reader with them.

Ultimately, I found this disappointing – particularly as it started off so well.

‘Tragedy Girl’ – Christine Hurley Deriso

tragedy girl


This novel is due for release in April 2016, but I received an advance digital copy from NetGalley. For these reasons I won’t give any plot spoilers away.

Anne goes to live with her aunt and uncle after the tragic deaths of her parents. She is drawn to Blake, the golden boy of the school, who also has experienced his fair share of tragedy. While things seem good, there are clues that not everything is quite what it seems.

In this novel we get lots of questions, and Anne’s constant questioning does make the book feel slow at times. Unfortunately, once these questions start to get answered I feel that the story is rushed to its dramatic resolution.

While this isn’t my cup of tea, I can certainly see it being a book that certain students that I teach will love.

‘Bullet Boys’ – Ally Kennen

Bullet Boys


While ‘Bullet Boys’ features a trio of teenage boys at its heart, and some fairly mature action, it is a relatively straightforward read. I can see it appealing to boys and girls, particularly those who like their action and aren’t too bothered about understanding why it happens or even whether the action is particularly credible. That’s not to say it’s a bad read, but I didn’t find it quite as good as ‘Berserk’ or ‘Beast’.

It was, without question, entertaining once things got going.

Alex, Max and Levi are an unlikely group of friends. Alex is calm and steady, content to watch those around him, and he is handy to have around in a crisis (useful by the end of this novel). Levi is desperate to improve his lot in  life. His initial actions spark a lot of the problems that come later. However, they could probably have avoided a lot of these problems if it weren’t for Max – a definite character to avoid if you ever came across him in real life!

This novel focuses in part on the boys’ developing relationships and their progression to adulthood. It’s successful here, and in the moments when we are watching the boys out in the wilds of Dartmoor. Where I found it less successful was with the plot concerning the Army and the hidden cache of guns. Made for some interesting scenes, but it all got so far-fetched by the end that I was keen for it to be over. I’m sure others will put it down in a much more positive frame of mind…

‘The Jewel:The Lone City 1’ – Amy Ewing

the jewel


From the start, we are under no illusions that Violet Lasting’s life is not meant to be easy. She is an Augury, separated from her family and auctioned off to the highest bidder to act as a surrogate for a wealthy family.

Many dream of living in The Jewel. While its inhabitants don’t suffer many privations, their lives are far from easy. Beneath its glittering surface, The Jewel is a harsh and unpleasant place to exist.

In many ways this is like so many other YA dystopian novels. We have a female protagonist who is a lot stronger than she thinks; rumours of scandal at the highest level; some gruesome deaths; a clearly defined social structure and, inevitably, the romance.

However, it is not a mere copy of these novels. There is something about Violet that makes you hope she’ll triumph. While she is naive in giving in to her feelings for Ash, we are made to understand her motivation for continuing something so dangerous. The character of Lucien – like Cinna in The Hunger Games – is intriguing, not least because he really does seem to offer hope for the future. The biggest plus for this novel though was the completely unexpected element to the ending, which has me desperate to know what comes next.

While this didn’t make it onto the Carnegie Long-list for 2016, I am certain that those amongst its target audience who pick it up will find a place for it in their hearts.

‘The Shut Eye’ – Belinda Bauer

the shut eye


What can I say? A slow-burner in the sense that I spent most of the book feeling I was missing that one elusive detail that would allow everything to make sense. Yet this was not as off-putting as you might think.

I don’t want to give away any plot details here, but the story focuses on a number of key characters. We have the Buicks, James and Anna, whose son went missing some months ago; Edie Evans, a young girl who has been missing for over a year; DCI Marvel, who was investigating her case and Richard Latham, the  psychic who seems to have been involved in both cases.

The focus on Anna, and the day-to-day impact of losing a child, is heart-rending. DCI Marvel is more than little infuriating, but well-meaning, and I found myself desperately hoping he’d get his happy ending and finally manage to put this case behind him. As we veer from story to story it reads like a jigsaw puzzle, with that final piece tantalisingly out of reach.

It’s only after I’d finished reading that I could really appreciate the skill shown in the writing of this novel. A surprise hit – and a writer I might have to try more by.

‘You and Me, Always’ – Jill Mansell

you and me always


Jill Mansell is one of those writers whose works I’ve always enjoyed…and this latest offering was no exception.

Lily is 25 years old, and lives in the rural village of Stanton Langley where everyone knows everyone else’s business. On the day of her 25th birthday she receives the final letter from her mother (who died fourteen years previously) and two bits of information that completely change her life.

The story centres around a fairly small, tight-knit group of characters who are all warmly portrayed. You can’t help but get caught up in the ups and downs of their lives, fairly safe in the knowledge that all will be resolved by the end.

Warm-hearted, feel-good read that you will love if it’s your sort of thing. Thanks to NetGalley I didn’t have to wait for this to come into the local library…

‘Silent’ – Sara Alva



At 15, Alex has the kind of life that makes for horrific reading. His mum frequently abandons him, her boyfriend is abusive towards him and he is desperate to hide the fact that he is gay from those around him. These pieces are slowly fed to us, and they felt worse to me because of Alex’s acceptance of his lot in life.

When a well-meaning teacher calls Social Services after Alex is burned, he is angry and determined to reject all overtures of friendship/help. Watching Alex try to find his place as he is taken away from everything he has known makes for painful reading.

It would be easy to put this down as the book is bleak. However, when Alex is taken to foster care he becomes friends with Seb, a boy who doesn’t speak, and they form an unlikely bond. Their friendship – and inevitable romance – really does become a source of strength to both boys and offers some hope to the reader.

The boys do not have an easy time of it, and some of their experiences make for uncomfortable reading. I felt quite wrung out by the end of this, but so pleased that I picked it up.

‘The Love That Split the World’ – Emily Henry

the love that split the world

The cover for this book is beautiful, and made me really keen to read it. The reference to time travel made me think this would be a Young Adult romance/finding yourself book with a bit of a difference.

When we first meet Natalie Cleary we learn she is preparing to leave for college. Everything is changing and she is trying to work out who she is. So far, so normal. We also learn that since she was little she has been receiving regular visits from a mysterious Native American woman known to her as Grandmother, who tells her stories to try and help her make sense of the world. When Grandmother tells her she has three months to save him, and she must find Alice, I really wasn’t sure what was coming.

For almost the first half of the book I was struggling to really engage with it. Though well-written there was a sense of something missing that I just couldn’t put my finger on. Some reviews I’ve read criticise the way Natalie and Beau’s relationship is set up, but it wasn’t that. It all just felt very slow.

However, as the story continues it picks up intensity. As Natalie meets with Alice and starts to learn more about what is happening to her, I cared more. Considering all the various possibilities, and seeing Natalie’s uncertainty as she tries to work out what matters to her, felt very real.

There was definitely a sense for me that this book is better than I first thought. I just wonder whether I’m alone in finding the slow-burn approach a little off-putting.

Thanks to NetGalley for the digital copy received in exchange for an honest review.

‘The One Plus One’ – JoJo Moyes

the one plus one

Before reading, we are given some fairly big clues about where this book is heading. We’re told that single parent Jess Thomas is an eternal optimist, but her daily struggles are taking their toll. Dealing with a teenage stepson who is being bullied and a young daughter who has a chance to escape their environment because of her affinity with numbers is getting harder.

A chance encounter with Ed Nicholls, a man who has his own struggles, results in what can only be described as a somewhat crazy road trip as they try to journey to Aberdeen to allow Tanzie to take part in a maths competition.

I don’t want to give anything away to do with how this all comes about, but it really took me by surprise. The characters are warmly portrayed, and I was rooting for certain events to take place throughout the story. There are some laugh out loud moments throughout the story – but there are also more than one or two moments that had me wiping my eyes.

There were so many things that I loved about this book: the way both main characters slowly thawed as they learned to trust each other; the children and their rather eccentric outlook on life; Norman the dog, who really comes into his own later in the book, and the general sense of optimism that abounds throughout.

It is not a criticism to say that, to a large extent, I got what I expected from this book. I also got a lot more than I expected. Captivating!