Friday, 28 March 2014

Book Review: A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Quercus (3 April 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1780870477
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780870472

  • When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.
    Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy - everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.
    Alex can't help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive...
    But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

A Kiss in the Dark was raw and frank and I was gripped from the very beginning.

I have been staring at a blank page and blinking cursor for ages now, and still cannot think how on earth to write this review to both do the book justice and convey just how amazing it is. 

Alex and Kate are two teens who meet and form an instant bond. Straight away they fall deeper into their feelings for each other and can barely stand to be apart. But one of them is keeping a secret and the other has no idea. 

Told firstly from Alex’s POV and then Kate’s, we get an incredible insight into both of these characters. A secret, a lie and an impossible situation. Cat Clarke has an amazing talent of showing us gritty story lines in unflinching honesty and I admire her bravery and this book shines because of it. It was rich and vibrant with Edinburgh as the backdrop to the story and the characters simply leapt off the page is startling clarity and Technicolor. 

Once I started this book I could barely put it down and the deeper into the story I got, the more it held me until the end. It is real and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Many thanks to Quercus for the review copy.


Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Book Review: Amy & Matthew by Cammie McGovern

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (27 Mar 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1447239008
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447239000
Amy is unflinchingly honest about her limitations. Born with cerebral palsy, she can’t walk or talk without help. But trapped inside this uncooperative body lies a brilliant mind and a luminous spirit – a girl capable of truly loving and worthy of being loved in return.
Matthew has his own set of challenges – a mind consumed by unwanted repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals and a crippling fear that he can't explain. But underneath all of the anxiety lies a deep seed of hope for someone to come along who believes in him…
This is the story of Amy and Matthew. It may not be a fairy tale romance or set in an imagined world far from our own. But the love they share is real. And yes, there's magic in it.

Amy has cerebral palsy but like that is going to stop her from living her life exactly the way she wants to. Her parents, however, have other ideas. Amy has always attended school normally, though with an adult aide that never leaves her side. But now Amy is a senior and she is tired of having no friends, so she enlists her mother to hire students to help her between classes and at lunch, whatever she needs. She has no disillusions that technically she is paying people to be her friends, but what she really wants is the chance to show people what lies beneath her obvious disability, and the roaring person behind it. 

Matthew does not want to be Amy’s aide. Everyday he is crippled by a fear he can’t name and driven to distraction by obsessive thoughts and rituals without throwing responsibility for Amy into the mix. Too bad for him Amy doesn’t take no lightly. 

Amy & Matthew is one of the best books I have ever read. I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I was blown away by the words between the covers. Amy and Matthew are two of the most vibrant characters I have ever encountered and I devoured their story as though it was the last slice of chocolate cake and tomorrow’s diet begins. 

The plot itself is cleverly written with a story arc I did not see coming. It was handled beautifully, as was both characters and their impairments. 

Whilst I liked Amy and I really loved her appetite for life and her dry humour and thought she was incredibly inspiring, my heart just went out to Matthew. I thought for sure it would be Amy I really rooted for, but there was something more vulnerable in the limitations Matthew faced everyday that just about broke me,

The relationship between the two teens was beautiful to read and it was fascinating to witness their journey, not only with each other, but in their lives. I laughed out loud, sat on the edge of my seat and prayed for a happy outcome. 

Amy & Matthew is the kind of book that you feel bereft upon finishing it. You hug it to your chest, let out the long held breath and try and imprint every word in your brain. Everyone should read this book at least once in their lifetime. It feeds your soul better than food ever could. 

Many thanks to MacMillan Children's Books for the review copy.


Friday, 21 February 2014

Book Review: Stella by Helen Eve

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; 1 edition (2 Jan 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1447241711
  • ISBN-13: 978-1447241713

17-year-old Stella Hamilton is the star blazing at the heart of Temperley High. Leader of the maliciously exclusive elite, she is surrounded by adulation; envied and lusted after in equal measure. And she is in the final stage of a five-year campaign to achieve her destiny: love with her equally popular male equivalent, and triumph as Head Girl on election night.
By contrast, new girl Caitlin Clarke has until now lived a quietly conformist life in New York. With the collapse of her parents’ marriage she has been sent across the Atlantic for an English boarding school education, only to discover that at Temperley, the only important rules are the unwritten ones. It's a world of the beautiful and the dangerous, and acceptance means staying on the right side of Stella Hamilton, the most beautiful and dangerous of them all.
Not everyone is happy to be under the Hamilton rule. But fighting the system means treading the same dark path as Stella - and if Caitlin puts a foot wrong, it's a long way down . . .

Stella Hamilton is the star of Temperley High School. Literally. She is the leader of an elite group of Stars who rule the school and set the standard for all other girls and is in the final stage of her campaign of supreme reign: love with her male counterpart and win position of Head Girl.

Caitlin Clarke is the new girl at Temperley and has a lived a quiet life compared to Stella. After her parents separation, she travelled with her father from New York to England to attend school and had to say goodbye to the little brother she adores. Caitlin quickly learns that those in charge at Temperley aren’t necessarily the teachers and the most important rules are the ones no one tells you about. 

When Stella takes Caitlin under wing, Caitlin blossoms. She sees what life is like on the beautiful side and she doesn’t ever want to go back. Life in the popular circle isn’t always sunshine and happiness. Some aren’t happy to be under Stella’s rule but going against the system means doing things like Stella would. And if you fall, it’s a long way to the bottom. 

I absolutely loved this book. It is one of the rare books that has me switching allegiances gradually throughout. It is fraught with the perils of teenage politics and drips elegance of wealth and luxury. At times the story did go that stretch too far to be believable, but it’s largeness only made it more fascinating. 

As the story progressed each girl grips furiously to what she has claimed at the school and neither will admit defeat, and even becomes a little unhinged in their mental state. There has been a lot of comparison with the Cecily von Ziegesar books, Mean Girls and Great Expectations and I can see why, but also, Stella stands up pretty well all on its own. 

Read it and be glad you never went to this school. 

Many thanks to My Kinda Book and Macmillan Children's Books for the review copy.

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