Monday, 21 April 2014

Book Review: Because it is my Blood by Gabrielle Zevin

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books; Unabridged edition (29 Aug 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330537903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330537902
Freed from jail, Anya hopes that things will get back to normal. But life on the outside is even more dangerous than life behind bars. Some of her gangland family want revenge for the crime for which she has done time: the shooting of her uncle. Forced to flee the country, Anya hides out in a cacao plantation in Mexico. There she learns the secrets of the chocolate trade, a trade that is illegal and deadly in her native New York. There too she discovers that seemingly random acts of violence carried out across the world have a single target: her family. As innocent bystanders get caught in the crossfire Anya must act fast and decisively to stop it, no matter what the danger to herself.

Because It Is My Blood was as action-packed and thrilling as the first book in this tremendous series. Anya has just been released from prison and she wants nothing more than to go back to normal. But unfortunately for Anya, nothing can ever be the same. She is still fiercely protective of her family, of her brother Leo who she hasn’t seen in forever for his own safety, and the brilliant Natty, and for good reason, since a few members of the Balanchine family seek retribution for the shooting of her uncle. Anya can’t even seem to find a school willing to take her, what with the criminal record and ties to the mafia, and all. And worst of all, is Win, who seems like he has had no trouble whatsoever in getting over Anya. 

And someone isn’t willing to sit back and let Anya, or any of her siblings, enjoy their lives and a hit is ordered on all three of them. Because It Is My Blood quickly becomes a thick-plotted murder mystery with creeping vines of subplots that both distracts the reader and gives them valuable clues as to what may have happened.

Because It Is My Blood was a rich and engrossing novel and I drank it in, savouring each and every word. I adored Anya’s story in this instalment of the trilogy and loved seeing how much she has grown as a character. I was kept guessing for the most part of this book and the moment it was finished I felt like I could finally let the breath go that I had been holding. 

I simply cannot wait for the final book in this wonderful trilogy. 

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


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.

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