99 Days crop

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 days of summer vacation… that sounds a little like Phineas and Ferb *breaks into song*

Putting the whole cheating/betraying elephant-in-the-room aside,  I really liked this book. Real, raw,  honest and fun. I devoured it so quickly that it took me a while to realise there was no more. It was over. But it has such a pretty cover and will look good on my shelf *fangirls the cover*. That sounds a little shallow – but it is true!

Recommended age: 14+4 Star

Title: 99 Days
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publication Date: 21 April 201599 Days
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Purchased

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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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It is strange (but true) that many great books just don’t get into the hands of readers. Whether it’s an unappealing  cover / title or just poor marketing I feel sad for those little-known books that are really worth reading.

Here is a list (does anyone else get a spike of joy when compiling lists?) of books I loved but which have had very little attention on Goodreads even though it’s been a while since they were published. One thing these books all have in common, other than that I love them, is that they all have edgy, gritty characters (trust me this is a good thing!).

*All ratings are out of the possible 5 stars, subjective to the individual reviewer opinion published publicly on Goodreads and retrieved on 9 August 2016 .

These Books Deserve More Attention

Between Two Seas

 

Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen
317 Ratings,   4-star average
Set in Denmark this is a beautifully written historical fiction by a first-class author. It’s about a strong female character who journeys into the unknown to find her father. I have no idea why this book is not more popular. It’s a must read.

 

Dust by Sarah DaltryDust
37 ratings, 4.14- star average

An epic fantasy by an author whose writing is so seductive you’ll be sucked in from the first page. Full of twists the three main characters, a princess, assassin and a thief, will keep you on your toes throughout. Fantasy lovers add this to the top of your TBR. This is one of my rare 5-star reads,

Agora Files

 

The Agora Files by Adam Oster
18 ratings,  3.94- star average 

The Agora Files is a fast-paced, unpredictable and original dystopian story. Full of action, adrenaline, excitement and adventure but with a strong, appealing human element which comes through in family dynamics and unexpected relationships.

 

Scarred

Scarred by Joanne Macgregor
327 ratings, 3.86-star average

Written by a South African author this is a tender, sensitive contemporary story of hope and redemption but with strong, complex characters and witty banter.

 

Retaliation

Retaliation by Yasmin Shiraz
105 ratings, 4.24-star average

This is a powerful, brutal, raw but ultimately inspirational account of life on gang ruled streets.  Although set in Washington D.C. the story will resonate with any inner city streets of all major cities across the world and as such has the potential of reaching many teens who desperately need to hear the message of hope.

Grass

 

Grass by Cathy MacPhail
87 ratings, 3.75-star average

Grass is a story that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. Cathy MacPhail is a well-known author and this is my favourite of her books. A witness to a horrific crime by a local gang is placed in a very difficult situation when he is forbidden to grass (tell on).

Last Summer of Us

 

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt
388 ratings, 3.64-star average

Drama follows three best friends, whose relationships intertwine with unexpected results, as they embark on a road trip.

One Two Three

 


One, Two, Three
by Elodie Nowodazki
237 ratings, 3.61-star average

Passionate, gritty, complicated characters abound in this intense story which revolves around a ballerina’s future career after an accident and her bizarre family relationships


Street Duty

Street Duty, Case One: Knock Down  by Chris Ould
60 ratings, 3.82-star average

Trainee student police officers encounter gritty, streetwise characters on their watch. Fast-paced action and realistic settings. A book not to miss.

 

Goblet Club


The Goblet Club
by S.A. Partridge
34 ratings, 3.75-star average

Set in a boy’s boarding school this is a gothic, sinister, award-winning book by a South African author. Reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History with the formation of a secret exclusive club which in this case is dedicated to the study of poison. Dark themes and compelling characters make this a book not to miss.

Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Every Falling Star

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee

An unflinchingly honest account

Every Falling Star is a powerful and courageous memoir of Sungju Lee’s childhood. Having every little knowledge North Korea I was not sure what to expect when I requested an advanced copy from the publisher. What I found was an unflinchingly honest account written with just enough emotion to allow the reader to become involved, but without self-pity and righteousness, so many memoirs have.

Powerful & Inspirational

The book manages to be both inspirational and heartbreaking at the same time and so compelling that I was completely engrossed. It’s a sad story of  a childhood which began so well before it crashed and burned, only for its ashes to be recovered and brought back to life. Alive. Free. But never the same. We get an inside look into a country which, in (extremely) different circumstances could be a beautiful place to live.4 Star

Recommended age: 14+

Title: Every Falling Star:
The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
Author: Sungju LeeEvery Falling Star by Sungju Lee
Ghostwriter: 
Susan Elizabeth McClelland
Publication Date: 13 September 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: Review copy

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Every Falling Star is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Royal Auto-Buy List

My Royal Contemporary Auto-Buys

The Six Queens and a King of YA Contemporary

It should not come as a surprise that contemporary books are my thing. I devour the books and drool over the covers on Goodreads and Instagram (and sometimes at the library and in bookshops, please don’t tell). Although I like the flirty fun, the edgy angst and the drama, it’s the interactive relationships the characters have with family and friends that I love. People are fascinating. While I can watch them for hours in public places trying to imagine their lives, contemporary books provide a short-cut and I can get my dose of ‘peopleness’ anywhere, anytime in a book… and without the creepy gawking.

I present to you my royal contemporary auto-buy list

There are seven YA contemporary authors that have proven themselves (at least to me) that they rock. I have read  greedily gobbled all their books and any hint of a future book in the works is met with feverously stalking their social media accounts. They rule as the six queens and a king of my auto-buy list.

So in alphabetical order, the crowns go to the following Greats: 

The King

Adi Alsaid

Now before you go off on a rant by gender inequalities let me just say that I have yet to find another male contemporary author who rocks enough to reign. BUT. I would love to add to my list, to look more friendly to the male gender but also because I freaking love YA contemporary. So please hit me with send me lists of candidates who should be on this royal auto-buy list.

Adi Alsaid writes beautiful, realistic, dramatic, character-driven books that I drown in. Pick up one and sink in until you are deeply immersed in his writing and feel your soul rejuvenate. See my review of Let’s Get Lost.
Breaking news: Adi Alsaid announces his new book North of Happy! *commences stalking*

The Queens

Sarah Dessen

Sarah Dessen is (fortunately for me) a prolific author whose books will easily fill a bookshelf. Very popular in the school library, they are full of dynamic family relationships and rich, intense, feel-good depth.
My review of Saint Anything.

Morgan Matson

Morgan Matson is known for her big, sink-into-until-you-drown books filled with vibrant, rich characters that will stick with you for life.
My review of Since You’ve Been Gone, The Unexpected Everything and Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour.

Katie McGarry

Katie McGarry rocks so much she agreed to an interview with me way back when I started blogging and ambitiously contacted her. Not only was she friendly and obliging, but she also sent a parcel of bookmarks and printed ribbons all the way to South Africa for our school library.

She specialises in tough, edgy, messed-up characters and her books are gritty, raw and real. Contemporary with a bite. And her characters, which usually find themselves appearing in her other books, are the kind that will loyally stick with you for life. The kind you’d probably be a little nervous (like me) to approach them in the real world, but wish you could.
See my review of Pushing the Limits.

Jandy Nelson

Jandy Nelson does the quirky so well. Her books are full of life in the offbeat, wildly, crazy rollercoaster, arty way that feeds my soul. I don’t have the words to describe her writing other that it is insanely brilliant.
See my review of I’ll Give You the Sun.

Rainbow Rowell

Although I love Rainbow Rowell’s storylines, it’s her characters that steal the show. These are characters you’ll meet and never forget. Characters that you’ll wish were your best friends.
See my review of Fangirl and Eleanor & Park.

Kasie West

Kasie West is the queen of the fun, flirty, feel-good books that I can’t get enough of. Although she doesn’t shy away from serious issues her books are the ones to pick up when you are off to the beach, or wish you were. Because they are going to make you feel as though you are on holiday.
See my review of P.S. I Like You.

Now you know whose books I love, but what about you? Who is on your royal auto-buy list?

P.S. I Like You

P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

Kasie West is one of my favourite YA contemporary authors and she doesn’t disappoint. P.S. I Like You is a fun, refreshing read, I almost wish I hadn’t devoured it and still had chapters left to read.

High praise? This is why…

The richly layered fudge cake characters were climb-under-my-skin and sprinkle-crumbs-over-pajamas. The kind of characters who are now your best friends because you know and love them.5 Star

Recommended age:  13+

Title: P.S. I Like You
Author: Kasie West1P.S. I Like You by Kasie West
Publication Date: 26 July 2016
Publisher: Point
Source: Review copy

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What if the person you were falling for was a total mystery?

While Lily is spacing out in Chemistry one day, she picks up her pencil and scribbles a line from one of her favorite songs on the desk. The next day, someone else has written back to her on the desk! Soon enough Lily and the mystery student are exchanging notes, and lyrics, and even sharing secrets. When Lily finds out that her anonymous pen pal is a guy, she’s flustered — and kind of feels like she’s falling for him. She and her best friend set out to unravel the identity of the letter writer — but when the truth is revealed, the guy is the LAST person Lily could have ever imagined it to be. Now that Lily knows the truth, can she untangle her feelings and gather the courage to listen to her heart?   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

REFUSE Refuse by Joanne Macgregor, book 2 in the Recoil Trilogy

Refuse takes us further into the Jinxy’s post-apocalyptic reality. If it’s been awhile since you started the trilogy Refuse gives enough recall to re-familiarise yourself with Recoil’s dystopian fiction storyline. But if you haven’t read the first book then you need to start there. Read my 5-star review of Recoil to see why I loved it and links to where to find it.

Refuse maintains Recoil’s fast pace

Although Refuse maintains Recoil’s fast pace and is chock fill of action it fell just short of the first book. This may just be me – I frequently find the middle book in a trilogy a tougher read. I missed the secondary characters in Jinxy’s unit and the banter between the characters so evident in Recoil but I love the hint that Jinxy’s twin brother will be playing a bigger part in the third book.

A new and edgy vibe

The new rebel characters brought with them a new and edgy vibe and Jinxy bravely navigated the new tension and challenges. I love her no-nonsense approach which she maintains despite mounting resistance. But I felt the ending a little rushed with key players just conveniently in the right place to wrap-up the story. *being vague on purpose to prevent spoilers*

4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

 

Title: RefuseREFUSE
Series: Recoil Trilogy #2
Author: Joanne Macgregor
Publication Date: 30 July 2016
Publisher: Joanne Macgregor
Source: Review copy

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In a near-future USA decimated by an incurable plague and tightly controlled by a repressive government, teenagers with special skills are recruited and trained to fight in the war against terror. Now a rebellion is brewing.

All sixteen year-old expert sniper Jinxy James wanted was a little freedom, but now she’s trapped between the government and the rebels, unsure of who the real enemy is. When she uncovers appalling secrets and twisted motivations, Jinxy begins to question her allegiances. Soon she will need to choose between love and freedom, as she struggles to do the right thing in a world gone horribly wrong.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

reading around the world

The challenge set by the Broke and the Bookish was to find books set outside the US. I have never had the opportunity to visit the US *sad face* and it wasn’t until I began to look closely that I realised how many books are set in America. It became almost an obsession to find books and my list just exploded. I eventually realised that there was no way I could put all of the books I wanted to on one list. I’ll have to do a series of posts featuring books from different continents- watch this space!

This is a (somewhat shorter) list of books from around the world.  I have chosen books I have read and highly recommend. I hope you can find one (or more) you’d like to read.

reading around the world

 

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled  HosseiniThousand Splendid Suns Afganistan

This beautiful, inspirational but heartbreaking book tells the story of two very different women who find comfort and strength in each other in war-torn Afganistan.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

Jellicoe Road by Melina MarchettaJellico Road Australia

Set in a boarding school in Australia this YA book is one that I will always remember. This book combines two separate stories so that they intertwine and enrich each other as you unravel their secrets.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare BlakeAnna Dressed in Blood Canada

Anna Dressed in Blood is a dark, spine-chilling YA ghost story set in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Sinister, menacing and downright creepy, this is the perfect Halloween read.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy God of Small Things

Set in Kerala, Southern India this is a beautiful book that weaves wistful words replete with foreboding menace and the loss of innocence. Unforgettable mental images accompany the words making this a story you won’t disremember.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

Coram Boy by Jamila GavinCoram Boy

Eighteenth-century England comes to life in this sinister story that still haunts me five years after I put it down. Shocking, shadowy events and eerie characters traipse through the pages creating a subtle but dark menacing gothic atmosphere.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFeversGrave Mercy

This mesmerising book is a mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Set in 15th century France it is brilliantly, mysteriously bursting with treason and betrayal. I loved the storyline which has murder, secrets, assassins and villains seeping out its pores.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Babylon's Ark IraqAnthony

A non-fiction memoir by Lawrence Anthony, a well-known South African conservationist and author of The Elephant Whisperer, about the courageous rescue of the Baghdad Zoo animals during the Iraq War.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

OrchardsOrchards by Holly Thompson

Written in verse this award-winning YA book about complicated family relationships and a clash of cultures. I flew through this inspiring, uplifting story of a Japanese-American girl is sent to stay with her grandparents home in Japan after her involvement in a bullying-related suicide.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Between Shades of Gray Russia

This YA historical fiction book is a haunting and compelling portrayal of humanity during the Second World War. Sparks of life, small acts of kindness and decency, shine through between brutal cruelty while the prisoners of war face the reality of survival in an unbelievably harsh environment

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

 

The Trouble with Flying by Rachel MorganTrouble with Flying South Africa

Rachel Morgan is a South African author well known for her YA fantasy series. The Trouble with Flying is the first of a series of contemporary fiction. Although the characters make an appearance in their friend’s stories, each book is about different characters so can be read in any order.

Goodreads
Amazon.com   Amazon.co.uk
Book Depository   Loot.co.za

Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Put it Out There

Put It Out There by D.R. Graham

Put It Out There is a contemporary contradiction. Alternating light-hearted, flirty fun with a deeper and slightly paranormal twist. It beckons to the reader, calling for attention. With it’s complicated, layered characters (including the secondary characters) it gives back more than it asks.

Perfect summer read

The easy, relaxed writing style makes it a perfect summer read. It was over too soon. While I can’t wait for the sequel, this story is definitely unfinished, I think I would have liked all three in one book. That would have pushed it up to a 5 -star read.4 Star

Recommended age: 14+

Title: Put It Out There
Series: Britannia Beach #1Put it Out There
Author: D.R. Graham
Published: 1 July 2016
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Review copy

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reads

Returning home to Britannia Beach a year after her life was shattered is bittersweet for Derian Lafleur. Although some things settle back into place, others don’t click like they used to…especially her friendship with Trevor Maverty.

Derian suddenly wishes the boy next door would see her as more than just a kid sister type. She tries to be everything she thinks he’s looking for— bolder, more experienced – but is that who she wants to be?

With the fate of her family’s historic inn on the line and Trevor making life more complicated by the day, Derian struggles to manage her unexpected feelings, and deal with a past she’s not quite ready to leave behind.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Asking for it crop

An unflinching portrayal of human failure

Asking For It is a difficult read. A raw, honest, horrific read. But it begs for an audience, needs to be acknowledged. In the hope that its message is internalised and it’s courage shared.

Emma

Emma is a character you’re going to be conflicted about. She is not simple or easy to like. You are probably going to undergo an ongoing love/hate relationship with her. I did. At first, it’s easy to think she deserves what she gets. But no one deserves that. Ever. Shocked and angry, my emotions were all over the place while the words grated against my skin itching to climb inside. Emma is not alone. She is one of the most realistic characters I have read about. This book doesn’t sugarcoat or glaze over issues. It doesn’t allow that ‘it will never happen to me’ mantra.

Betrayal

No stranger to betrayal Emma finds herself on the receiving end again. Her small conservative town can’t accept the truth. Her unsupportive family just want to forget. Sweep it all under the rug and carry on as if nothing happened. She’s betrayed by those close to her. Sides are taken, battle-lines marked even if it’s to avoid conflict, to go back to status quo.

The writing

At first, I found the multitude of characters difficult to keep track of. This was not helped by the seemingly disjointed writing style. But this story did not need to be easy, it shouldn’t be simple. What happened to Emma will never be acceptable. 4 Star

Recommended age: 15+

 

Title: Asking For ItAsking for it
Author: Louise O’Neill
Publication Date:
3 September 2015
Publisher: Quercus
Source: Review copy

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It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…— Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Unexpected EverythingThe Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

There is nothing like sinking into thick Morgan Matson book on holiday. Her seemingly effortless writing is smooth and flowing and she gets right to the heart of her characters. I was sucked into the story and floated away for a few days wanting the book to never end – although 519 pages is a pretty hefty book, it was over too quickly.

And it had puppies, lots of them all over inside as well as on the cover. Talking about the cover – it is so happy and summery and fun. Although how is she going to hold an ice-cream cone and six dogs on leads? Maybe the ice-cream truck was just for show. Ice-cream should never be just for show. Especially not salted caramel ice-cream.

Back to the story… Relationships. That’s what was all about. Relationships with friends, family and romantic others. Especially nerdy book-loving author boyfriend material. But it was the focus on friendship that I really loved. I always wanted a big group of friends to do stuff with so it was nice to be part of one for a while.

Recommended age: 13+4 Star

 

Title: The Unexpected EverythingThe Unexpected Everything on the beach
Author: Morgan Matson
Publication Date: 3 May 2016
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Source: Purchased
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Andie had it all planned out.

When you are a politician’s daughter who’s pretty much raised yourself, you learn everything can be planned or spun, or both. Especially your future.

Important internship? Check.

Amazing friends? Check.

Guys? Check (as long as we’re talking no more than three weeks)

But that was before the scandal. Before having to be in the same house with her dad. Before walking an insane number of dogs. That was before Clark and those few months that might change her whole life.

Because here’s the thing – if everything’s planned out, you can never find the unexpected.   — Abstract from Goodreads.com