‘Tower of Dawn’ – Sarah J. Maas

There’s no excuse for having taken so long to get round to reading this, and now I’ve finished it I can say it seems a fitting interlude.

Chaol may not be a character many feel much investment in, but in this we can see a most intriguing man. For so much of the series he’s been there, in the thick of things, but we never really see beneath the surface. Tower of Dawn allows Maas to really show us the man.

We follow Chaol and Nesryn as they journey to try and garner support for Aelin. We hear rumours of what is happening elsewhere (which I’m hoping will be the focus of Kingdom of Ashes), and there’s a clear sense of a people teetering on the edge of destruction.

Much of the story centres on Chaol and the attempts by the healer Yren to cure his paralysis. A number of stories merge here, and nothing happens smoothly.
Learning a little more of the Valg and just what horrors might be to come didn’t make for a book full of excitement. It wasn’t dull, but it felt like a necessary story to develop our understanding and shape things in anticipation of what is to come. The inevitable romances kept things entertaining, and it certainly got me back in the mood for tackling the last instalment.

 

‘Mix Tape’ – Jane Sanderson

 

Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with an unexpectedly entertaining read.
Alison Connor has a pretty miserable life as a student in Sheffield. She finds herself a boyfriend, Dan Lawrence, and their shared love of music is just one thing they have in common.

Unfortunately Alison’s life is far from good, and on the day some of the worst things you could imagine happening take place she leaves Sheffield.

Years later she’s married, a successful author and living in Australia. Dan is a music journalist and happy. Then they get in touch…and their fondness for sharing music reawakens something they thought was lost.

I don’t begin to understand why they act as they do, but in the context of the novel it’s plausible. The love of music was a definite bonus, and it certainly gets you wondering what if.

‘Love, Secret Santa’ – S.A. Domingo

A heart warming, Christmas-themed romance that will not fail to have you smiling.

Angel Green is a serious young lady. Determined to become a doctor, she is about to sit an exam to get a scholarship to study further, but she can’t help but worry that things may not be so simple.

Angel is busy with school and helping to fundraise for her school committee. They decide to raise funds for the Bluebell Hospice, the place Angel’s mum works. Unfortunately, Angel is paired to work with her old friend Caspar Johnson – publicly charming and talented at pretty much everything he turns his hand to, but notoriously unreliable.

Though this infuriates Angel, she is keen to try and reestablish their friendship. She doesn’t want to admit it, but there’s sparks between her and Caspar. So it’s lucky that she has her mysterious Secret Santa gifts to keep her occupied.

Whoever her Secret Santa is, they know her well. The home-made Advent Calendar pushes Angel to try new experiences and just open herself to thinking in a different way. This mystery person clearly knows her well, but as the gifts become more thoughtful Angel starts to wonder whether there might be more to it…

For a clever girl, Angel is a little short-sighted. Key details are rather obvious from early on, and yet she’s the kind of character you find yourself rooting for things to go as we predict. For things not to have worked out as you predict them to would have totally ruined the Christmas spirit here.

On occasion there’s just a little too much going on, but it all adds up to a quite entertaining read. Thanks to NetGalley for letting me read this in exchange for my thoughts.

 

‘Call It What You Want’ – Brigid Kemmerer

A tough lesson to learn here for so many characters.

Maegan was caught cheating on her SATs last year, and now spends her school day being ignored by people. Rob was the star lacrosse player, but is now ostracised because his father stole money from many people in the town.

Both teens are struggling to deal with their circumstances. They have to accept what others dole out to them. Rob can’t tell anyone about how his life has changed after his father tried to kill himself. Maegan has to keep the secret that her sister has left college as she’s pregnant with her tutor’s child.

When they’re paired for a calculus project, Rob and Maegan start a tentative friendship. Slowly, and falteringly, they break down some of their self-imposed barriers.

This was a thought-provoking and emotional read. Highly recommended.

 

‘Frankly in Love’ – David Yoon

Frank Li…Korean American…what does that mean?

In Frankly in Love we have the sideline story of Frank planning to fake-date his friend, Joy, so he can get to take out a girl in his class. He knows his parents would not appreciate him dating a white girl (after all, they disowned his sister for her choice of partner) so he and Joy cook up an elaborate plan.

Things set in motion often pick up their own momentum. That’s exactly what happens here and, before we know it, there’s a pretty big relationship mess. However, the novel seemed to be more about a young boy trying to work out his place in society. It explored his feelings of identity and showed the sense of a developing relationship with his parents.

There was something about the voice here that I found really hard to feel much for. Frank was quite self-obsessed and there were some events that had huge glowing signs pointing them out, yet they were ignored because they didn’t register on Frank’s radar. Perhaps if I’d felt more about the main character I’d have been more engaged with this.

 

‘The Places I’ve Cried in Public’ – Holly Bourne

Not due out until October, when Holly Bourne tweeted regarding a rather well-known book store selling these beautiful green-edged versions – and sending them immediately…THREE WEEKS BEFORE PUBLICATION – I succumbed and ordered. I’m glad I did, but this was a book that nearly broke my heart.

Our narrator, Amelie, is a shy young lady forced to leave her best friends and boyfriend to move from Sheffield to the South (and I honestly couldn’t tell you where). She is, understandably, anxious about starting anew at college but she seems to make some new friends. Though she’s extremely self-conscious about performing, Amelie loves music and ends up winning a talent show. It as at this point that she finds herself the subject of attention from Reese.

Her new friend’s response is forthright. Many people in their college view him negatively, but Amelie is smitten. All too soon, she’s part of a couple and then we see the damage that others can inflict.

Even though alarm bells are ringing from the off, Amelie ignores them. Where others see aggressive selfish behaviour, Amelie sees honest emotional declarations. Seeing things from Amelie’s perspective had me feeling so angered on her behalf, but it also meant I felt nothing but sympathy for the situation she finds herself in.

I really liked the fact that this story is told after the fall-out, and we get to learn – in pieces – some of the truths of their relationship. It meant that we felt part of Amelie’s healing process, while also gaining details that shed light on how such a vivacious young girl could become so broken.

This is not an easy book to read. The subject matter is tough, and yet it’s such an important book. Once again Holly Bourne takes a highly emotional topic and explores, with sensitivity, that issue. Unflinching in its message, this is another book that I want to force on teen readers and get them thinking carefully about their interactions and the effect their behaviour can have on others.

‘Maybe This Time’ – Kasie West

Nine events throughout the year. How much difference can a person make in that time? Is it enough to allow someone to fall in love? It’s a Kasie West romance, so you know it’s a pretty safe bet that the answer is yes.

One of our main characters in this is Sophie: a small-town girl with big dreams. Her hackles raise when she comes across Andrew, son of a celebrity chef signed up to help her best friend’s father turn his catering business around. They have quite an obvious attraction but wind each other up.

Throughout the year we spot their interactions at key moments in their town calendar. Sophie spends these occasions determined to avoid the inevitable, but also showing chinks in her defensive armour. Alongside watching her bumble through these at times humorous exchanges, we watch as Sophie has to learn a little about herself and her relationships with those around her.

This was a cute romance, which is rather obvious, but the interaction between the characters is amusingly relayed. Good cast of supporting characters and I liked the fact that not everything got resolved by the end.

‘The Unhoneymooners’ – Christina Lauren

This really was a story to take me by surprise. While the end result was obvious, it was such good fun to watch things unfold you’d have to have a heart of stone to not be sucked in.

Olive has always been used to feeling less than her composed sister, Ami. But when Ami and her entire wedding party get sick on the day of the wedding it ends up with Olive and best man, Ethan, taking up the honeymoon.

They hate each other, so it’s obvious they’ll end up together, but this was done naturally and in a way that had me both laughing out loud and swooning.

Great fun, though all quite obvious. A perfect summer read.

‘The Rest of the Story’ – Sarah Dessen

A coming-of-age story that explores family bonds, grief, friendship and romance…and even has time for a major event…

Emma Saylor is (dare I say it) rather bland as a character. Since her mother’s death she’s always been protected by her father and, at seventeen, leads quite a sheltered life. When plans for her to stay with a friend fall through, she is determined to do whatever it takes to ensure her father and stepmother go on their honeymoon. So she agrees to stay with her grandmother, the one she hasn’t seen since she was four, at the lakeside resort her mother lived in.

A rather slow beginning as Emma gets to know who’s who in the family she never knew. We have quite stereotypical reactions from Emma as she learns some of the truths about her mother that others have tried to hide. However, through these stories she also learns about herself.

There’s no major revelations, just a gradual self-awakening. But it was portrayed quite realistically and did leave me with a bit of a smile on my face.

‘Red, White and Royal Blue’ – Casey McQuiston

Will we ever see such a reality? A female President whose bisexual son starts a relationship with the Prince of England…probably not, but that’s why we have books.

Alex is convinced that he hates the Prince of England – but for someone who is so disliked, Alex spends a lot of time reading about him. Of course, his feelings are pretty obvious to everyone but Alex for the start of the book. Interestingly, it’s not him who makes the first move and this was a little more graphic than I was thinking it would be.

Some of the scenarios we were given were – I imagine – highly improbable. However, this was a romance with a difference.Great fun. Cheering. Highly entertaining.