Book Review · Monthly Round Ups

June 2015 Reads.

Look at how organised I am! We’re only a few days into July and here I am with my June reads round up post all written and published. I’ve got one book that is unfinished so that will roll over to my next round up.

In June I read a total of 10 books. There was a bit of a mixture, a couple of adult books alongside lots of YA. and a few different genres and time settings. One book in particular left me scratching my head, it took me a couple of weeks to even work out what star rating to give it on Goodreads and you’ll see that my review is still on the rambling side (some of my thoughts are impossible to discuss without being spoilery – if you want to discuss this book though feel free to email, I’d love to talk more about it). I’m still thinking about it though so maybe I’ll come back to it in the coming weeks for an expanded post.

Code Red Lipstick (Jessica Cole: Model Spy #1) by Sarah Sky. Scholastic
This book was so much fun! I actually found myself stopping a couple of times to take in how much I was enjoying reading it. It’s the story of Jessica, a teen model who happens to also be the daughter of a former MI6 spy. Her father has had to retire, he has MS and is unable to do everything he formerly did, but instead he works privately and Jessica helps out when she’s needed to. When he goes missing in highly suspicious circumstances she puts all the skills she’s learned from him, and from modelling, to work as she tries to find him and solve the case that seems to have landed him in hot water. This makes for a fast-paced, highly entertaining read – I loved seeing how Jessica brought together the seemingly disparate parts of her life together. She’s a great character, I like the way she has these unusual skills but is still very normal and real feeling – I think young readers will really identify with her.

Anything to Have You by Paige Harbison. MIRA Ink.
I enjoyed this book well enough but I could only say that I liked it, i was far from loving it. It’s a story about friends who are very different, one quiet and studious, the other outgoing and fun. The quieter one suddenly decides to cut loose a little, there’s a party and shenanigans and then the cat is firmly amongst the pigeons. I think this book is supposed to work on the basis that you’re in the dark like the characters but I’m afraid I could see what was going on and what had happened and so the reveals didn’t work and I just got a bit irritated. This isn’t a bad book, it’s just a bit non-descript and didn’t do much for me.

The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery. Hodder Children’s Books.
I started reading this book on my way to work on morning and got completely sucked in to it. Around lunchtime I realised I’d been feeling low level worry all morning, which was odd as the day was all running very smoothly. Eventually the realisation hit – I’d been fretting about the characters and what was going to happen to them!

This is a gritty read, set in our world though with added memory boosting drugs. The main characters get caught up in the underworld of dealers and gangland bosses, quickly you realise that you don’t know who you and can trust and you don’t fully know what has happened between these characters before the events of the book. This adds to the intrigue and the reading experience. The book is tense and twisty, the final sequences in particular are unexpected but fit what’s come before so well. I really enjoyed Carla Spradbery’s debut The 100 Society, having followed it up with this she’s fast becoming one of authors to watch out for.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine. Egmont.
This is a lovely, historical middle grade novel set in a Selfridges-esque department store. Sophie, our main character, is going to be working as a shop girl in the millinery department in this brand new store. Quickly though sinister things begin to happen and she, along with her new friends, get drawn into a world of mystery. This is a real throwback of a book, it’s evocative of the stories I loved when I was young and this made it all the more enjoyable to read. The mystery element is well done, there are moments of real peril and suspense that had me on the edge of my seat. What I loved most of all was the friendship element of this book, from Sophie who has found herself having to adapt to life as an orphan who lost her fine lifestyle alongside her parents, to Lilian who is working as a model in the shop while trying to make it as an actress, Billy who loves nothing more than hiding with a good mystery to read and then Joe who’s fallen into bad ways but is desperate to go good again. The four have not met before the events of the book but they come together so well and form wonderful friendships. This is the first book in a series, sign me up now for book 2 please!

Car-Jacked by Ali Sparkes. OUP Children’s Books.
I have always had mixed experiences with Ali Sparkes’ books, there have been some that I’ve loved and some that have left me underwhelmed. I liked the sound of the premise of this book and I’m really pleased that it falls into the camp of love. This book follows the misfortunes of Jack, a child genius, who is accidentally kidnapped when his parents’ car is stolen from the forecourt of a petrol station. The car-jacker, Ross, has unwittingly got far more than he bargained for, and seeing how he and Jack both cope with the situation they find themselves in makes for a really good story. I got very invested in both character’s stories – there were many laughs along the way and also a few tears. My only slight misgiving was in the characterisation of Jack’s mother, she’s an over-protective, over-invested mother who has focused her everything on Jack and his genius and this makes her come across in a manner that is very hard to take. Jack’s upbringing has a definite impact on the plot so I understand why she’s written the way she is I just wonder if maybe she isn’t a little over-done. That said this is a minor quibble in an overall excellent book.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. Simon & Schuster Children’s Books.
This book, well I still can’t make my mind up about it. It’s set in a modern residential setting for children and teens with an incurable form of tuberculosis. We arrive with Lane, a straight A overachiever with the next decade or two of his life planned out. He is our way in to this odd world, we learn about it alongside him and see how it changes him. His development is interesting, while it feels understandable at the same time it had me wanting to roll my eyes periodically. The ending of the book is, as I’m starting to come to expect from books about sick teens, complete with its huge emotionally charged, tear-jerking moments. Well, I could see that’s what they were supposed to be and a quick scan of Goodreads’ reviews of this book suggests that this is the impact they had on most readers. For me however they left me cold, they were entirely unnecessary and if anything verging on the manipulative. I think my overall feeling about this book was that I was let down, seeing illness portrayed in fiction is something I feel strongly about and I had high hopes for this book but sadly they were unmet.

Knight’s Shadow by Sebastien de Castell. Jo Fletcher Books.
After reading the first book in this series, Traitor’s Blade, and falling completely in love just last month I was planning on waiting a little before reading this second book. Then I spotted it on NetGalley and found myself compelled to request a review copy, and then start reading it almost immediately. I suspect some magic at work!

This book picks up shortly after the ending of Traitor’s Blade, and continues to follow the Greatcoats as they first regroup and then begin the new fights that have come as a result of what has gone before. One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the character development, characters are given the opportunity to breathe and grow and evolve – not always for the better. I loved seeing how some of the characters changed, this never goes against the flow of the book no matter how hard the changes may be to accept. The humour that comes in the relationships between the characters continues as does the more touching side of these friendships. This book brought me to tears on numerous occasions, I felt so deeply involved with the plot and the characters. There are a number of take your breath away moments, I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this series throwing surprises at me. This is a brilliant continuation of the story of the Greatcoats, my only sadness is that I now have to wait until next year for the next instalment!

Blueprints by Barbara Delinksy. Piatkus.
I nearly gave up on this book. I got a little way in to it and one character in particular was getting me so wound up that I considered stopping reading because I wasn’t sure I could bear to read much more. Then a huge shift happens in the story and from this point on I got far more invested in what I was reading and ended up really enjoying the book. The story is, on the surface, about a mother and daughter who co-host a home improvement show based around their family firm and the difficulties they face when TV bosses decide the mother might be too old to host. It’s really about so much more, it’s about family and relationships, it’s about finding happiness and about being true to yourself. I’m really glad I stuck with it.

Thirteen Days of Midnight by Leo Hunt. Orchard Books.
Luke gets the sudden news that his estranged father, a world famous paranormal expert, has died and that he must go and meet his father’s lawyer. Upon meeting the strange lawyer he discovers he’s inherited a huge amount of money, and signs away merrily on each document the lawyer tells him he must sign in order to get said money. Soon after strange things start happening and it’s not long before Luke’s life is turned upside down as he discovers he’s also inherited his father’s collection of ghosts. I must say I haven’t read many paranormal thrillers like this one, and this makes me sad. There’s a great creepiness to this story, it left me so unnerved at times that I had to have a second book on the go that I could switch to – books don’t often get under my skin in this way. The world the author has built makes sense(something I value in books set in other worlds), and while its certainly not one I’d want to experience in person I’m happy that the book has a somewhat open ending that feels like we could easily revisit for a second story. This is an accomplished debut novel, Leo Hunt is going on my ones to watch list.

Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Macmillan Children’s Books.
I truly believe you can never go wrong when you pick up a book by Frank Cottrell Boyce. It doesn’t matter the specific subject matter of the plot, it’s going to be written brilliantly and leave you entirely satisfied. Millions is no different. It is the story of brothers Damian and Anthony, they’ve recently moved following the death of their mother, and are trying to find their feet again. They’re slightly unusual children, Damian is obsessed with saints and Anthony with economics, when they “acquire” a hold all full of pounds sterling that will soon be obsolete (the version of England in this book is one where the pound was exchanged for the euro) they decide to spend it all before it can’t be used any more. This certainly helps their social standing but brings its own problems as the money belonged to someone and that someone wants it back. This story is warm and thought-provoking, there were little moments that were touched upon so lightly but actually revealed a real depth to the characters and their situation. This isn’t necessarily as funny as some of the other books I’ve read by this author (that’s not to say it isn’t funny, it definitely has some funny bits) but it’s just as enjoyable.

My copies of The Memory Hit, The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Car-Jacked, Extraordinary Means, The Knight’s Shadow, Blueprints and 13 Days of Midnight were all provided in for review consideration. All of the opinions expressed here are my own

One thought on “June 2015 Reads.

  1. Clockwork Sparrow looks like such fun, but it’s hard to circulate paperbacks or e versions in my school library. Maybe it will come out in hard cover at some point!

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