Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott

Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott

Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott

A wannabe-thriller or contemporary?

Through the Lens is a YA wannabe-thriller but reads as contemporary. Slow and descriptive the story focuses chiefly on angst and the love triangle that is (or isn’t?) there.

The characters

I liked the two main characters and was rooting for them from the beginning, the other characters coming and going as they brushed up against the couple. Sometimes playing a large role in the story only to fade away before coming back into focus again. I would have liked to have had the chance to get to know Jessa’s siblings better.

The thriller side and finale

I only wish the thriller, suspense side of the story had been more dominant. At times I felt like everyone had conveniently forgotten Carly, she only came up in passing. The ending was weak and disappointing and having read the preview of the second book I am not sure whether I will pick it up. The characters in the first few chapters of book 2, which starts only weeks after book 1, show two very different people – could they have changed so much so quickly?

If you’ve read further in the series let me know what you think.3 Star

Recommended age: 12+

Title: Through the Lens  
Series: Through the Lens #1Through the Lens by Shannon Dermott
Author: Shannon Dermott
Publication Date: 25 August 2015
(first published 22 November 2012)
Publisher: CreateSpace
Source: Review copy
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Being a twin isn’t all that bad, nor is it all that good. Being the fat twin makes things a little worse. Seventeen year old, Jessa Shelby has been all but ignored. Trimmed down, but not skinny like her sister, she has decided to make her mark in her final year in high school.

Things begin anew the summer before her senior year when she makes friends with Ethan Hart, a boy with a twisted past, and Allie, his near celebrity status girlfriend, while taking pictures with her new prized possession. Hanging out with them opened her eyes to a lot of new possibilities including Josh Macon, whom she’s secretly crushed on all through high school. No longer the ‘fat girl’, Josh now seems interested in her too.

Long before the day comes to graduate, Jessa finds herself gasping for air. With her vision clouded from tears born of pain as the straps from her precious camera tighten around her throat, clarity sets in. They say that just before you die your life flashes before your eyes. And on the threshold of death claiming her, she finds that partially true. Her flash begins as if to explain just how she ended up on Death’s door. With mere moments left, she has to wonder if trust had come at a very high price.   — 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.

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

But then I came back

But Then I Came Back by Estelle Laure

One glance at him, and it’s nerves upon nerves eating nerves and spitting them out again, then consuming more nerves.

But Then I Came Back almost didn’t get read. The story started off disjointed, with the writing almost stumbling. I felt as though I had come into a story that had started before and I was perpetually on the back foot. And then all of a sudden the murky confusion lifted, and I got it. I got Eden. Identifying with her in a powerful flash. It was only afterward I realised, although a standalone, it features characters from This Raging Light which I haven’t read yet.

“What about you? You got a guy?” he asks.
I unzip my jacket. “Please,” I say. “Have you seen me? I’m patchy.”

Still feeling in a parallel universe where the story unfolds in skips and plops. It’s not smooth, but it is unique. Good, extraordinary… Addictive. My eyes glued, my heart stopping as the words washed over me. It’s sad. Melancholy perhaps. But also funny and ultimately hopeful. I loved it.

Flint taps against the granite in me, and before I can tamp it down, there is a spark. 4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: But Then I Came Back
Author: Estelle LaureBut Then I Came Back
Publication Date: 4 April 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Review copy

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Eden Jones, a 17-year-old girl, feels lost after surviving a near fatal accident. Unable to connect with her family and friends, Eden forms an unlikely relationship with Joe, a boy who comes to the hospital to visit Jasmine, a friend who may soon be gone forever. Eden is the only person who can get through to Jasmine, but is she brave enough to face a world that’s bigger and more magical than she ever would have allowed— 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.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby

Stranger Game

The Stranger Game by Cylin Busby 

(These quotes are taken from early in the book to prevent spoilers)

I felt as if the ground below me would swallow me up, like a big black hole was opening again, the hole Sarah left when she disappeared. 

The Stranger Game is full of suspense. Dark and gritty the thrilling storyline was captivating, albeit a little slow. While some parts were easy to see coming, the ultimate twist was totally unexpected, but surprisingly not very satisfying. I was left with “is that it?” on my mind when I put the book down. The build-up was so engrossing that the end was a letdown.

Loved the first line:

I knew my sister was dead. I felt it in my body, as if my bones could tell me the truth.

Then throughout the book the alternating voices kept up the suspense…

The door closed and I heard the lock slide into place. I was alone again, in the dark.

3 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: The Stranger Game
Author: Cylin Busby
Publication Date: 25 October 2016Stranger Game
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Review copy

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When Nico Walker’s older sister mysteriously disappears, her parents, family, and friends are devastated. But Nico can never admit what she herself feels: relief at finally being free of Sarah’s daily cruelties.

Then the best and worst thing happens: four years later, after dozens of false leads, Sarah is found.

But this girl is much changed from the one Nico knew. She’s thin and drawn, where Sarah had been golden and athletic; timid and unsure, instead of brash and competitive; and strangest of all, sweet and kind, when she had once been mean and abusive. Sarah’s retrograde amnesia has caused her to forget almost everything about her life, from small things like the plots of her favorite books and her tennis game to the more critical—where she’s been the last four years and what happened at the park on the fateful day she vanished. Despite the happy ending, the dark details of that day continue to haunt Nico, and it becomes clear that more than one person knows the true story of what happened to Sarah. . . .     — 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.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

crop-definitions-of-indefinable-things-by-whitney-taylor

Definitions of Indefinable Things by Whitney Taylor

“How does anyone know they are depressed? You feel equally alive and dead and have no idea how that’s even possible. And everything around you doesn’t seem so full anymore. And you can’t tell if the world is empty or you are…”

Definitions of Indefinable Things is one of those rare books where I totally lost myself in the feels. It’s honest. Witty. Moody and raw, sometimes to the point of pain. But real in the best possible way.

“Snake?” That was the most obscenely ambitious nickname I’d ever heard.

Beautiful writing combined with head-spinning twists, this story is so real it could be true. Gritty, complicated characters whose depression is realistically portrayed.

He was staring at me with a weirdly attractive grin on his face, and I felt like telling him to screw off.

I felt everything. Hope, melancholy, joy and sorrow. Sad to the point where I feel the characters life is being leeched. But at the same time, I felt happy, grounded, satisfied.

There was only one conclusion to reach, one answer to a question so incomprehensible that it made my blood go warm in anger.5 Star

 

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Definitions of Indefinable ThingsDefinitions of Indefinable Things
Author: Whitney Taylor
Publication Date: 4 April 2017
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Source: Review copy

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This heartbreaking, humorous novel is about three teens whose lives intersect in ways they never expected.

Reggie Mason is all too familiar with “the Three Stages of Depression.” She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in.

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.   — 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.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Heartless

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Oh, Heartless is clever, very very clever. So clever in fact, it manages to be both unique and heart-stoppingly familiar at the same time.

And I assure you the Hatter throws the maddest tea parties this side of the Looking Glass.

Dare to delve headfirst into your childhood memories? To come out with a different view of Wonderland? You’ll find a land as rich as double cream and characters you didn’t know you needed in your life.

… and she saw that he was smiling, and his smile was heart-thumpingly open, honest, beautiful. His lavender eyes sparkled as they found her…

It’s whimsical, swoony, fun and fanciful. And there’s cake. It’s full of cake. And Jokers. And Hatters.

Catherine’s mouth ran dry. A crack was burrowing through her chest, threatening to break her open.

I gobbled this book, dreaming of the characters. Trying to savour the flavours but instead gulping it almost all at once – like an unexpected treat that could be snatched away at any moment.

There was a moment of suspension around them. She could feel his heart beating near to hers, and his breath in her hair.

What do I want next? What am I desperate for?… Jest. I would love to hear Jest’s narration. A whole story from his POV. Here’s hoping Marissa Meyer hears my plea!

“Sometimes your heart is the only thing worth listening to.”5 Star

Recommended age: 12 +

Title: Heartless 
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publication Date: 8 November 2016heartless
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Source: Review copy

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Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the yet-unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend and supply the Kingdom of Hearts with delectable pastries and confections. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next Queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the king’s marriage proposal, she meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship.

Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

Thanks to Pan Macmillan South Africa for the review copy.
The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer:
The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

The Summer Before Forever

The Summer Before Forever by Melissa Chambers

I want to be the music that lights her up like this. . .

This is a beautiful, character-driven love story with a love triangle – but don’t hold that against it, this book is good! I gripped my e-reader glaring at anyone who dared to interrupt… Yup, you guessed it I devoured the entire book in a day!

I loved the unique, edgy characters, but the real plus is the inclusion, and positive portrayal, of a learning difficulty.

I want to kiss this girl more than I’ve ever wanted anything in my life… more than I want to play football, more than I want to freaking breathe. 

Fans of Kasie West and Sarah Dessen will love this book!About those stars

Recommended age:13+

Title: The Summer Before Forever
Series: Before Forever #1The Summer Before Forever
Author: Melissa Chambers
Published: 22 August 2016
Publisher: Entangled TEEN
Source: Review copy

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Chloe Stone’s life is a hot mess. Determined to stop being so freaking skittish, she packs up her quasi-famous best friend and heads to Florida. The goal? Complete the summer bucket list to end all bucket lists. The problem? Her hot soon-to-be stepbrother, Landon Jacobs.

Landon’s mom will throttle him if he even looks at his future stepsister the wrong way. Problem is, Chloe is everything he didn’t know he wanted, and that’s…inconvenient. Watching her tear it up on a karaoke stage, stand up to his asshole friend, and rock her first string bikini destroys his sanity.

But there’s more than their future family on the line. Landon is hiding something—something he knows will change how she feels about him—and she’s hiding something from him, too. And when the secrets come out, there’s a good chance neither will look at the other the same way again… — 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.

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

Thank you to Jonathon Ball Publishers South Africa for the review copy of Flawed by Cecelia Ahern. It seems as though this book has had a lot of media hype and that I am one of the last to read it. Partly because South Africa is one of the last countries to get new releases, and because I have been moving home I’ve been out of my usual ‘reading mania’.

What I loved:

The positive view of dyslexia and the inclusion of a dyslexia character (although applied to a supporting character I would love to see more dyslexic protagonists).

Juniper is dyslexic. She sees this as another failure, another trait that has let her down, but I can see it makes her view things in a different way. I’m a problem solver. I read signs, the proof of what I see in front of me, and come to a conclusion. Juniper is cleverer than that. She reads people. I don’t know how she does it, but she watches and listens and arrives at conclusions I could never imagine, and usually she’s right. I look at things straight on; her perspective seems to curve around things, wind and twist, turn things upside down to reach the answer…

What I didn’t love:

The ‘tired’ unoriginal dystopia theme which reads much like all the other dystopian books and Celestine’s abrupt change of conscience on the bus was unconvincing.

Recommended age: 12+3 Star

Title: Flawed
Series: Flawed #1
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publication Date: 6 October 2016flawed
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Review copy
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Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED…   — Abstract from Goodreads.com

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

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

How she poisoned her sisters so slyly and quietly that it took them days to die. How when it was over they looked so peaceful that had it not been for the froth on their lips, you would have thought they had died in their sleep…

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is brilliant. Sinister, grabby, wicked and sly. It’s the best kind of dark, dark fantasy.

She motions to the priestesses, and they draw their knives. “Take her head and her arms. Cut the heart separate from the body. And throw it all into…

With the combination of superb characters and the rich storyline which flows like thick treacle, oozing with venom,  this is a book I will not forget. So very dark.

The ocean’s layers, its currents, and cold and churning sand move as she commands. It is not easy, but the water obeys…

It’s chock full of treason, murder, dark magic and unexpected twists, the bendy type of twists that turn the reader inside out.

She will set them both on fire…

I am fascinated by all the different covers and for the first time ever I actually don’t have a preference! The covers above are quite popular, but my ARC from Pan MacMillan below is new to me. 5 Star

 

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1three-dark-crowns-arc
Author: Kendare Blake
Publication Date:
20 September  2016 
Publisher: HarperTeen/Pan Macmillan
Source: Review copy
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Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest. — 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.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

I love that this book about a book blogger who is not afraid to break the mould of pretentious book characters reading only the classics. I’m a little sceptical that so many books feature YA characters who read only Victorian classics.

Did I tell you it’s about a book blogger? (yes!). Viv is a mega layered character who puts her foot into it more often than not and tries very hard to avoid being hurt by potentially dating out the ‘zing’ zone.

The only thing that let this book down is the author’s passive treatment of abuse, which should never be tucked under the carpet without the strongest message about how wrong it is.
4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: The Replacement Crush
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publication Date: 6 September 2016The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Review copy

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True love can’t be strategized.

After book blogger Vivian Galdi’s longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe crushes, determined to protect her heart.

But nerd-hot Dallas, the sweet new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission.

Operation Replacement Crush is in full effect. And Dallas is determined to take her heart off the shelf.    — 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.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesNormal takes a nosedive into my bag, sinks beneath the copious amount of clutter, and dies a slow, painful death.

A new favourite, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a book I knew I would like from the first time I heard about it, even before I had seen its beautiful cover. But didn’t expect it to touch me as much as it did. It was real and sad but at the same time full of hope. Norah crept into my heart and I wished I could sit outside her door and talk to her. I loved the unexpected humour and Norah’s witty banter, often with herself.

Why has he stopped? Am I supposed to smile? Wave? Throw him a thumbs-up? I feel like an idiot.

The author did not shy away from the difficult, but rather showed us an unflinching raw, honest look into the life of a young adult coping with a mental illness.

Like a giant in cast-iron shoes, I make my way down the stairs. Eleven steps, so I have to take the last one twice. I have this thing about even.

It came at no surprise that the author drew on her own experience of mental illness for inspiration as the medical facts ring true. Her take on mental illness is a reassuring one which is not necessarily the case in every situation.

Perfection is a feeling, you’ll know it if you’ve ever questioned the competency of your penmanship before writing on the first page of a new notebook.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a difficult book to rate, because how do you rate a mental illness? I am simply rating it for the feels I had while reading, and the lasting effect the book has had on me.

So instead, I wait. I wait a lifetime, curled up in a ball of cowardice on the hall floor…

It is time for mental illness to come out of the closet. Time that, despite the lack of visible wounds, illness is treated equally .5 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skiesunder rose-tainted skies
Author: Louise Gornall
Publication Date: 3 January 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Review copy

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Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.— 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.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

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