Bookish Links #14

Monday, 29 February 2016


Welcome to February's (slightly late!) edition of Bookish Links, the monthly post where we share some of our favourite blog post, articles, videos and more from around the web. Here's what we've been enjoying lately...

1. 2016 Debuts - we're kicking off this month's roundup with Barnes & Noble's list of fifteen hotly anticipated debut novels set to hit the shelves in 2016. There's lots of amazing-looking books on the list and we've already added most of them to our TBR lists!

2. All About The Money - how much money do you spend on books? And do you keep a record of it? This interesting post has really got us thinking about our bookish spends!

3. Finding The Time - with busy day-to-day lives it can be difficult to make time for hobbies like reading, so we love Megan's top 10 tips on finding the time to read. How do you fit reading into your busy schedule? Let us know in the comments!

4. And Even More Time... - in addition to Megan's tips, we also found this post from Free People sharing great tips for how to read more in 2016!

5. Books On Display - we have total bookshelf envy after seeing beauty blogger Anna's sneak peek at her beautiful colour co-ordinated shelves. How do you organise your books?

6. Feeling Moody? - Shannon's interesting post over on It Starts At Midnight looks at how your mood can affect your enjoyment and rating of a book.

7. Talking Favourites - we always love hearing about which books someone finds special enough to make it onto their favourites list, so we loved Jemma's recent post featuring four amazing titles!

8.  More Please! - Jillian's post is all about the things she would like to see more of in YA novels, a topic we also recently discussed here at BB. What would you like to see more of in YA?

9. Love To Blog - we always enjoy seeing bloggers sharing positivity within the community and Wendy's post is a brilliant example of this. What are your favourite things about book blogging?

10. Bookish Commitments - over on The Perpetual Page Turner, Jamie discussed her thought process when deciding whether to continue with a series or not. If you don't absolutely love or hate the first book, how do you decide if you want to quit or finish a series?

11. What Makes A Favourite A Favourite? - Alex from Fiery Reads tackled the intriguing topic of favourites earlier this year, by asking what makes a "favourite" book.

If you've read or written an interesting bookish article you think our readers would enjoy please let us know - it may be featured in a future post!  

The Darkest Part of the Forest | Holly Black | Review

Friday, 26 February 2016

I received this book from Hachette Publishing New Zealand, 
in exchange for an honest review. 

Faeries. Knights. Princes. True love. 
Think you know how the story goes? Think again...

In the forest of the small town of Fairfold lies a glass case. In the case lies a horned boy. And he will change everything.

Hazel and her brother Ben have, like the rest of the town and the tourists it brings, always known about the horned Prince in the box. Ever since there were children they would play around his sleeping body, they would slay faeries in the woods, and tells stories to the Prince. Stories are well and good, and you can create a dream around a sleeping person...but when said person wakes and goes missing, all those dreams come crashing down. Not only that, but Hazel thinks she somehow was involved with breaking him out.

Now Severin, the horned Prince, is out of his glass case, there are even more strange going-ons in the town, and Hazel and Ben are caught up in the middle of it. When Hazel discovers there's more to her that she ever though, that the bargain she made with the Alderking all those years ago has much different, much more severe, consequences than she realised, she must figure out what is going on, and how to rid the town of a monster in the woods. As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough? - Good Reads.

I really enjoyed this book. Holly Black is an incredible world-maker, creating characters and stories and worlds that draw you in and refuse to spit you back out. While Hazel was a bit of a you-know-what with the boys of the town, and she was selfish and didn't blink an eye when it came to using people, she knew it. She knew who she was (at least that part of her), and though this was the case, as the story went on, it became apparent that that was more just a show, just an act because her true feelings scared her.

Ben, at first, seemed to be in the shadow of Hazel. He thought that even though they had both loved Severin as children, before the met him in real life, that Severin would be destined to fall for her Hazel, and that broke him. Ben's best friend, Jack, is a changeling, and while his human brother, Carter, is barely a character at all in this story, I really liked Jack and his connection to the faeries.

It's written in third person, and while it centres mostly on Hazel, Ben also has his moments in the spot light, and I really liked that. It was easier than reading the whole thing from Hazel's perspective, even if it was in third person.

If you enjoy YA books that are about small towns, about betrayal, loyalty, love and with a supernatural twist, then definitely give The Darkest Part of the Forest a go. While it is currently a stand-alone, from what I've read online, it seems Black isn't closed to the possibility of writing more books, and creating a series. If this is the case, then I will be reading any more she writes. But if not, it ends in such a way that it could happily remain a stand alone.

What about you? Have you read this book? 
Thinking about it? Let me know what you think!


Image from Good Reads. 


Monday Mourning | Kathy Reichs | Guest Review

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

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This seventh book in Kathy Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series was an exciting one! These books can be a bit “hit and miss”, but I definitely enjoyed this installment.

Temperance Brennan is in Montreal, Qu├ębec for the whole novel, which is not always the way. I rather liked the description of a Montreal winter, as it made me feel that our winter is nothing to worry about! While I was reading under a blanket, Reichs describes how they can hardly breathe for the cold, and have to dig out their cars.

At the beginning of the story, Dr Temperance Brennan is in a cellar under a pizza shop, along with some rats and some skeletal remains. The initial suspicion is that the bones are old and therefore not urgent. However, Temperance has a gut feeling that these discarded young women’s bones are more important than the dismissive Detective Claudel will believe. She keeps thinking about her own daughter, Katy, who is at college and having her own life now, and thinks that she could not imagine what it would be like for a daughter to go missing and to never find out what happened to her. She feels she owes it to the families to find out what happened to the deceased.

Meanwhile, Temperance also receives disturbing phonecalls from an elderly lady claiming to know something about the building in which cellar the bodies were found. Temperance always seems to miss the lady, hearing only messages. There does not seem to be a novel in this series where Temperance does not receive weird phonecalls, have somebody enter her home or threaten her, and in the end her search for answers gets her into trouble and she has to be rescued.

I was happy to see a friend of Temperance’s arrive to stay for a while, because it seems that she does not much but work and could use some friend time. We also see the love interest Detective Andrew Ryan return to the scene, but Temperance has doubts about a lady he has been spotted with. I like the pace at which hers and Ryan’s relationship is going. I think there were some fast moves and she was hurt, and now she’s being careful and mature.

Last but not least, we had the reappearance of Birdie, Temperance’s cat. I was pretty sure he was just living in Charlotte and Tempe’s ex-husband would go round and feed him, but now he lives in her apartment in Montreal. I kept thinking about how she fed him regularly, as she seems to keep such odd hours. I love how Reichs keeps mentioning him when the scene is in Tempe’s home; it feels like Reichs is a cat- or animal-lover. She mentions things like him rubbing against people’s legs or watching her eat, which added to the realism.

I have found that some of the previous books in this series tested my patience and the stories got stupid or Tempe did silly things. However, this book felt much more mature and considered. Perhaps by the seventh book Reichs’ writing has matured. I felt Tempe less petulant and obsessive, and I really liked the subject matter of kidnapping girls, looking back in time for clues, and some interesting scientific details/processes/people that help with the investigation.

Overall, a good, solid, four-star read. I will definitely be continuing with the series - probably until the end! I’ve never read a book in this series which left me not wanting to continue reading about the world of Tempe and the other investigators. Here’s hoping the next case is just as interesting.

★★★★

This review was submitted by guest blogger Jemma.

Demons of Liberty Row | Madeleine Holly-Rosing | Review

Monday, 22 February 2016


Summary:

Demon hunter/detective Samuel Hunter and his medium/spirit photographer Andrew O'Sullivan find themselves in need of better weapons so they request the help of inventor Granville Woods. Unfortunately, Granville has been burned before and requires help getting rid of the demon from his neighborhood before he will consider helping them.

Review:

I really enjoyed this story and it's sort of steampunk, American history, paranormal setting. It was highly reflective of the attitudes towards the Irish and African-Americans at the time. The steampunk technology is also an interesting way of dealing with spirits and demons. The characters were interesting and it was easy to empathize with them.

Really my only problem with this book is that I paid $1.99 for a short story (69 pages). It was a good story, but I'm used to paying $1.99 for books over 100 pages. I do encourage you to get this ebook for yourself, but maybe wait until there's a sale. 

Group Collaboration | Love That? Try This!

Saturday, 20 February 2016

This month's group post is all about recommendations! We asked our team to recommend reads based on some of their favourite books, TV shows and films. Here's what they came up with...

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Images via imdb.com and goodreads.com | Font used for graphics: BD Rouen
Contributors: Joshua, Anjali, Cat, Ria, Erin
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Next month we're celebrating International Women's Day by talking about some of our favourite female protagonists & literary heroines! If you'd like to get involved just email bloggersbookshelf@gmail.com or drop us a tweet @blog_bookshelf!

Features | Book Recs for Hamilton Fans

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Okay, so I am firmly on the Hamilton band wagon. I haven't listened to anything else for weeks and I'm starting to wonder if that might be a problem. If that sounds familiar then this post might be for you but if you're kind of sick of hearing people talk about this show then you'll probably want to look away because today I am recommending books for the people who just can't get enough of it.

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Obviously I couldn't make a list like this without including the book that started it all. If it's the founding father himself you're interested in then the most sensible place to start is probably the book that inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write his show in the first place. If 800 page historical biographies aren't really your thing though, don't worry. I have a few slightly different suggestions...

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell takes place a little later in King George III's reign than Hamilton and tells the story of two English magicians during the Napoleonic Wars. So if you want to read a different twist on a similar time period then this is definitely worth a go. It is also literally 1,000 pages long, so I can only assume that Susanna Clarke also writes like she's running out of time.

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story by David Levithan

Okay so there is very little crossover in subject matter between Hamilton and Hold Me Closer but it's safe to assume that a lot of Hamilton fans are also fans of musical theatre in general and Hold Me Closer just happens to be a musical. It is also a biographical musical, although Tiny Cooper is, of course, a fictional character from David Levithan and John Green's Will Grayson, Will Grayson, not a founding father of the United States.

Lorali by Laura Dockrill

Lorali is a modern YA mermaid romance, so you might be wondering what on earth that has to do with Hamilton. The reason I'm including Lorali on this list is because it has such a lyrical, poetic style, especially in the chapters written from The Sea's point of view. Yes, there are chapters written from The Sea's point of view, and they read with a beautiful rhythm, not unlike the songs in Hamilton. See, there's a method to my madness.

Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer by Katie Alender

Like Hamilton, Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer mixes the 18th century with the 21st, although in a very different way. In Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer a 21st century American schoolgirl comes face to face with the ghost of Marie Antoinette, who is looking for revenge on those who betrayed her during the French Revolution. Okay, so it's not as historical as Hamilton, but if you want something else that looks at events from the 18th century through a 21st century lens, here it is.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go and listen to Non-Stop 1,000 more times.

Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully Release Party | Giveaway

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Hello Blogger's Bookshelf readers! Today we have something special for you all. If you cast your minds back to around April last year, I shared with you my review and thoughts on a book called Death Wish, which is the first in the Ceruleans series by Megan Tayte. I really enjoyed the first of this series, and while I have yet to read the second one, it's sitting patiently waiting for me on my Kindle.

On the 16th of February, the fifth book in the Ceruleans series is released, and here at BB we're taking part in an awesome giveaway by the author herself...and you can too! Here's the blurb for the fifth book, Darkly, Deeply, Beautifully. 


Darkness has fallen, and she alone will see the light. 
With her mother’s life hanging in the balance, Scarlett is devastated – and done with being in the dark. She wants answers, all of them. 
But when was her pursuit of the truth ever straightforward?
Pulling a single thread impels a great unravelling. And each revelation will force Scarlett to rethink what she thought she knew about the Ceruleans, the Fallen, her family – herself. 
All that came before was a mere prelude to this, the last journey. From London to Twycombe to Hollythwaite to Cerulea, Scarlett will be stalked by the ghosts of what has been, what may have been and what may come to pass. Until she reaches the place where it all began, and it all must end. 
But in the final reckoning, none will survive unscathed. And some will not survive at all. 
In this explosive conclusion to The Ceruleans series, all must be defined by their actions: sinner, saint… or something more beautiful entirely? 

Sounds exciting, right? Right. You can grab a copy of the book from Amazon.com, and also Amazon.co.uk, or you can find all the others in the series here. 

Want to know what you can win with this Release Party Giveaway? And to know how to enter? All you have to do is enter using the Raflecopter widget below, and you're in the draw to win these pretty accessories. The giveaway runs from the 15th of February until the end of the month.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can read all about the author, Megan Tayte, below, and find her at all these places around the internet. Head on over and say thanks for the giveaway!

Website    |    Good Reads    |     Facebook    |    Twitter    |    Instagram


This Is Where It Ends | Marieke Nijkamp | Review

Monday, 15 February 2016

*Review copy c/o Netgalley
edward scissorhands volume 2 whole again "10:00 a.m. The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.

10:02 a.m. The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.

10:03 The auditorium doors won't open.

10:05 Someone starts shooting.

Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival."
-
description via goodreads

In This is Where It Ends we are introduced to a group of teens attending Opportunity High in Alabama, on a day that will change all of their lives forever. The book tackles the difficult and terrifying subject of school shootings and the devastation caused by these very real events.

Each of the teens we meet have some sort of connection to the shooter (whose perspective we do not have any chapters from) and it is clear the author has tried to include a diverse range of characters. Their stories unfold throughout the novel and although it was interesting to have various character’s points of view, I didn’t always feel a huge distinction between the voices.

One interesting aspect of the novel is the fact that it takes place in real-time, spanning 54 minutes from the first to last page. It also includes other snippets such as tweets and blog posts from people outside of the school.

As I was reading the novel I had mixed feelings and became completely unsure how I would go about reviewing it. Obviously, due to the subject matter This Is Where It Ends is a difficult read but I do think it is important for these awful real-life issues to be covered in YA. Whilst I can appreciate the idea behind the book and hoped not to have to share a negative review, overall it just wasn’t for me and I really struggled with whether or not to share a review at all.

Looking at other reviews online it seems that readers are completely split between those who loved the book and those who were left disappointed. If you are interested in reading a review of the book from a more positive perspective, check out team BB member Christina’s thoughts over at YA Love where she gave the novel a 4 star rating.

Changers | T. Cooper & Allison Glock-Cooper | Review

Friday, 12 February 2016

I received this book from Hachette Publishing New Zealand, 
in exchange for an honest review. 

New town. New school. New body.

Ethan is a freshmen at high school, a normal teenage boy about to begin the last four years of education. Until he wakes up as a girl. As it turns out, due to lack of information from the parents, Ethan is a Changer, a race of humans who Change every year, to either a boy or a girl, until they graduate. Once graduation arrives, they get to choose which version of themselves from the past 4 years they want to be for the rest of their lives.

As you can imagine, Ethan (who is now called Drew) is horrified, shocked, and creeped out by this sudden change in gender. As if high school wasn't hard enough. Now she has to not only deal with the catty girls at school - led by Mean-Girls-esque Chloe - try to be friends with Audrey even though Drew can't actually share her true self with her, but she has to figure out how to be a girl. Being a girl is hard enough, but when you've been a boy, it's even more difficult. As Drew goes through her first year at high, she has to keep a mental diary of the things she's experiencing as a Changer, and she must remember a set of rules, as laid out in the Changer's Bible; Never tell anyone what you are. Never disobey the Changers Council. And never, ever fall in love with another Changer.

This was a fun book. At only 277 pages, it was a fast read and one that could be easily done in a few hours. It had your typical sort of characters in it - the Mean Girl of the school, the idiot Jock, the sweet best friend, the good-looking but forbidden love interest - but with the extra layer of 'could have been the other gender last year' added in, it makes for some interesting reading. While I think that the Coopers have written the book very well, considering it's topic, and the way they had to write a boy's character in a girl's body, I think I was expecting more shock from Ethan at the beginning. Yes he was alarmed, and yes he had to wear different clothes and figure out what a bra was, but there was a lot more that could have gone wrong, which would have made it more humorous I think. But perhaps that's not what they were going for.

For a short read, it was an enjoyable one, and while there are 3 more books to come (presumably one for each year Ethan/Drew changes/each year of high school) I may read the others if they fall into my hands, but I won't be rushing out of my way to read them.

For fans of YA, with a bit of a fantasy spin.



Image from Good Reads. 

Since Forever Ago | Olivia Besse-Whitaker | Review

Wednesday, 10 February 2016



Since Forever Ago is about Riley, a 21 year old going through a break-up with her long-term boyfriend with her two best girl friends by her side. After deciding to become a dating expert, Riley's best friend Max 'helps' with her journey by giving her awful tips on what guys like to see in a girl in the hope of turning her off dating and potentially driving her into his arms. 

The most noticeable aspect of this book was its characters. As Olivia Besse felt the need to point out in a recent Goodreads post, she wanted the characters to be realistic 21 year olds with insecurities, melodramatic tendencies who are at times, a little clueless. As a 22 year old myself, I sort of agree that Olivia achieved this, but sort of don't at the same time. Yes this age group tend to dramatise relationships ending and are sometimes a little clueless when it comes to dating, but I personally have never met a person this stupid or this obsessed with guys. A lot of the way the characters act within the book is accurate to the new adult age group (obsessing over guys, internet stalking, having immature views on dating, partying) but I have never met anybody who only focuses on these things. If Riley had been a more rounded character, with other interests and hobbies being portrayed, she would have been much more relatable. The book as a whole would have been more rounded if it contained something other than the message that every twenty-one year old's life revolves around guys and little else. 

Despite this, the book was fairly enjoyable to read. The writing was fun to read and super-quick to get through. It would be interesting to read more of Olivia's work in the future but for now, if you'd like a fun, one-dimensional NA novel to kill some time, Since Forever Ago is a pretty good choice. 


*I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.

How You Can Get Involved With February's Group Post!

Image via unsplash.com

We may have already picked out some books for our 2016 TBR lists but they might be about to get a little longer as February's post is all about recommendations! This month the topic is titled 'Love that? Try this...' and we need your help to make it happen!

We know that you're all dying to spill the details about your favourite reads and we'd love to hear your recommendations based on books, as well as TV shows and films.

All you need to do to get involved is send us your recommendations and who you think would enjoy them in the format shown below. You can also include a sentence or two about why you think fans of the book/tv show/film would enjoy the recommendation/s.

For example;

"Love Pretty Little Liars? Try Dangerous Girls (Abigail Haas) or Ten (Gretchen McNeil). Both of these novels have a dark and mysterious feel to them that I think fans of PLL with enjoy." 

The post is due to go live on the 20th so we'll need your answers by February 17th.

You can email them to bloggersbokshelf@gmail.com or tweet us @blog_bookshelf

Thank you for reading, we hope to hear from you soon!

Hemlock Veils | Jennie Davenport | Review

Monday, 8 February 2016


Summary:

Elizabeth Ashton is trying to start a new life. Without knowing how she's going to do it, she heads to the forests of Oregon that her father spoke of constantly before dying when Elizabeth was 18. During a rainy night, near her destination, her car breaks down and she reasons her way into walking the rest of the way. Unfortunately her plans are derailed by magic in the forest taking her to the small hamlet of Hemlock Veils. The tiny town has been terrorized by a beast in the woods for decades and no one goes into the forest at night because of it. Elizabeth, however, does not fear the beast.


Review:

I can't remember exactly who recommended this book to me, but I am grateful that they did. I'm not generally one for love stories, but I've had some good luck with fairytale retellings. This retelling of Beauty and the Beast does not disappoint. If anything, I find it's better than the original tale. Instead of being held prisoner, Elizabeth is almost forced out of town, but continues to fight. Elizabeth does not back down from a challenge. In the few times she is under attack, she holds strong and never gives up. That is the kind of heroine I want to read about.

The structure of the story is pretty straightforward. There are the occasional flashback characters to show how Elizabeth got to where she is and how the Beast became cursed. Everything else, however, follows a clear path that is easy to follow. It is a little bit predictable, but, like all good books, the cast of characters is engaging and the dialogue is intelligent and enjoyable.

One of the other things I greatly enjoy about this book is how seamlessly magic and the real world combine. Though Elizabeth has doubts about the magic from her father's stories, one encounter with the Beast is enough to convince her. Combined with her intuitions about the forest leading her to various locations, and the acceptance of the townspeople, magic is accepted as something real.

So if you're looking for an entertaining love story with a strong female lead and strong male lead, mixed with magic and intelligent discourse, I recommend Hemlock Veils by Jennie Davenport.

Features | Are You Too Old For Children's Books?

Thursday, 4 February 2016


With Frances Hardinge being awarded Costa's Book of the Year last week for her children's novel The Lie Tree, children's fiction is a hot topic in the literary world at the moment. There has been plenty of discussion surrounding whether or not a children's book should have even been nominated alongside adult books, never mind whether or not it should have won, but that's not why we're here today. Oh no, we're here to determine whether or not you, yes you, are too old to read children's books, and we're going to do this by answering a few easy questions.

1. Have you finished learning?
I don't just mean, 'have you finished school?' I mean 'are you done with learning things about the world and about human nature?' Of course we can usually learn something about the world we live in from every book we read, but children's books are particularly equipped for teaching kids valuable life lessons. Think about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for example - the message there is that it's good to not be greedy or selfish, but maybe you're old enough now that you never need a gentle reminder of something like that anymore?

2. Is your comedic taste just too mature now?
You're older now, you're more sophisticated, and we all know real grown ups only read serious books and never ever books with characters who have silly names or fart jokes in them. The humour in certain children's books might be a little more subtle and darker, like in the works of Lemony Snicket, but some of the characters probably still have odd names and maybe you just can't see past that kind of childishness.

3. Have you forgotten what it was like to be a child?
The further away we get from childhood, the more difficult it can be for some of us to remember it. It's possible that you've just forgotten how exciting it was to roll down a big hill or how scary shadows in the dark used to be. Maybe you just can't connect with a child character, because you don't remember at all what it was like to be one.

4. Are you too busy for adventures?
A lot of children's books revolve around outlandish adventures and it's totally understandable if you just do not have time for reading about wizards and talking lions when you get home from a long day at the office. Children have all day to spend in imaginary worlds with their friends, but maybe you just don't have the time to spend on giving your imagination that kind of workout.

5. Do you think all children are the same?
Maybe you think all children like the same things and think in the same way so it just makes sense that all children's books must be essentially the same. There's no need for you to explore the different stories or genres of children's fiction. Jacqueline Wilson and Philip Pullman both write books for children so their books are probably exactly the same, right?

If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, then you just might be too old for children's books. I'm sorry. Although, if you're one of the people who thinks that The Lie Tree should never have been nominated for Book of the Year purely because it's primarily a book for children, then I'm sure you won't mind anyway.

Remix | Non Pratt | Review

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

*image via Goodreads

Schools out and the Summer is in full swing for best friends Kaz and Ruby as they hurtle headfirst off to Remix music festival for a three days of boozing, bands and boys. All is not all puppies and rainbows though. In the limbo between School and 6th Form College, both girls are dealing with break ups, family drama, broken hearts and that little thing called growing up.
But hey, that won’t get in the way of all the fun they’re about to have at Remix, right?...

So what’s my verdict?

I was really looking forward to ticking this off my TBR and it definitely lived up to expectations.
Personally my favourite thing about the book is the way Kaz and Ruby’s relationship was presented. As much as we’d like to believe our relationships with our best friends are perfect, in reality they’re messy, full of petty arguments and is always a work in progress. Kaz and Ruby are still very much trying to figure out what works for their relationship outside of the context of school and in contrast with their family, friends and romantic attachments. Yes, the boys do play a pivotal role in their lives but in the end it’s pretty clear the girls do love each other much more than any guy and preserving that friendship is ultimately what motivates both of them throughout the story. 

The duel narration plays off this well as it alternates between Kaz and Ruby’s viewpoints in short bursts, meaning you not only get the full story but a frustrating juxtaposition of the girl’s contrasting inner monologues too.

Thematically Pratt manages to relay some seriously important messages about sex, particularly regarding consent, manipulation and power dynamics. The book captures that time period of awkward teenage-hood and ‘pseudo adulthood’ really well, and in retrospect, as an ‘older YA reader, reading the situations that Kaz and Ruby get themselves into almost felt like I was taking a glimpse back to me and my friends at 16. And though the book does delve into some meatier topics, the humour and more dramatic moments are balanced without feeling preachy.

A definite recommend from me if you’re after a quick YA fix and a refreshing take on female friendships.

The Lying Game | Sara Shepard | Series Review

Monday, 1 February 2016

lying game sara shepard

Today I wanted to focus not just on one book, but a whole series! As part of my re-reading challenge last year my final read of 2015 was a second look at The Lying Game, the first book in this YA mystery series by Sara Shepard. I kicked off this year by continuing with the series, re-reading the second, third and fourth books, then picking up the final two novels for the very first time and finally finding out the answer to the big mystery; who killed Sutton Mercer?

In the first novel we are introduced to Emma Paxton, a teenage girl who has grown up being passed around various foster homes. After a fight with her foster brother, who frames her for stealing, Emma is kicked out of her current 'home', but not before watching an online video that will change her life forever.

The video shows a girl who looks exactly like Emma taking part in what appears to be some kind of awful prank where she is being strangled by someone off-camera. Although no one else may believe it Emma knows that the girl isn't her and starts to wonder about the possibility of a long-lost twin. After a little Facebook research she tracks down Sutton and the pair arrange to meet in person. Emma travels out to Arizona with dreams of being reunited with the sister she never knew she had, only to be blindfolded and shoved into the boot of a car. Luckily for Emma she discovers it was in fact Sutton's loyal BFFs who kidnapped her, thinking she was Sutton, as part of their so-called 'Lying Game' prank club.

Sadly for Emma things are about to take another turn for the worse as she comes to the realisation that her long-lost sister has been murdered when Sutton never shows and she receives a threatening note telling her to keep playing along. The mysterious killer instructs Emma to step straight into Sutton's life and she quickly has to learn how to be the sister she never even met. As the series continues we are right by Emma's side as she plays along with the killer's game and tries to figure out what really happened to her sister and why. Along with us for the ride is Sutton, who narrates parts of the books, watching over her twin, whilst also trying to figure out what happened thanks to the loss of her memory. Stuck alongside Emma, Sutton is unable to communicate with her sister and instead can only watch the events unfold as we do.

Throughout the series Emma narrows in on various suspects, eliminating them one by one until there are very few options left. This means that the format is pretty repetitive throughout the series, with Emma getting hold of some information that leads her suspect someone new in each novel, and generally finding out that she's made a horrible mistake! Despite many questionable decisions, Emma is generally a likable character and you'll find yourself rooting for her to solve the mystery.

From very early on in the series I had my suspicions about who was responsible for Sutton's death and in the final book I discovered that, like many other readers, I was correct. Was I disappointed not to be surprised by the reveal? Well actually, no. Although I did manage to correctly guess the killer's identity I still had no idea how things would play out. What really happened to Sutton that night? How would Emma solve the mystery? How did the killer find her? And what would happen once everyone else found out who she really was? All of these questions and more meant that I was kept interested until the very end of the series.

The repetitive format may be off-putting to some readers but if you can get past this The Lying Game is an entertaining and enjoyable mystery series that will always keep you guessing about one thing or another right until the very end, even if not the killer's identity. ★★★★