The YA Book Blog!

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The Red Necklace - Sally Gardner I really didn't know what to expect from this but it was beautifully written, enjoyable and set in a fascinating period of history. Review to come!
Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

This book has been on my to-read list for so long. I've heard so many incredible things about it, so when it was announced the author would be at Leakycon London, I knew I had to give in and read it. Code Name Verity tells the story of two friends during the second world war. One is held captive by the Gestapo, and must write a diary detailing her mission.

I'm writing this the morning after finishing the book, and my heart is still a little bit fragile. This is truly one of the most phenomenal books I have read. I'll start by saying that usually I'm not a big fan of historical novels, which is possibly why I've been putting this book off, but I've read a few books set during WWII and really enjoyed them so I had hope for Code Name Verity. Whilst reading it, I didn't really think about the fact it was historical. I was so caught up the two girls' story and the atmosphere of the war that it felt as if I was right there living it with them, which I think is one of the best compliments I can give a novel.

The plot revolves around what happens to the two girls when they become separated after a plane crash. All the time there are hints at what's to come and I was constantly on the edge of my seat waiting to find out the fate of each character. It's hard to write this review without giving too much away! The narrator for the first half of the book keeps her true identity secret for a while (although it's easy to figure out just who she is in the story). Throughout the book the characters are known by several names (code names and such, as the title would suggest!).

That first half is told through diary entries as one of the girls is holed up after being captured by the Gestapo. What she goes through is brutal and horrible, but even though there's this suffering going on, she manages to keep this fantastic humour as she tells her story. Her voice throughout the diary entries is incredibly strong and she's definitely somebody I wouldn't want to mess with! It was just amazing how I could go to being shocked, to scared, to saddened and then be laughing at the same time. She makes jokes and witty observations about her captors and really speaks her mind. I adored the storytelling in the entries and how wonderfully the tale was told.

Code Name Verity contains some incredible female characters. From the two main characters whose tale is being told - Queenie and Maddie - to the people they are surrounded by who have an influence on them. Maddie is a pilot, and an extremely capable one. Throughout the book we see how she's surprised and impressed people with her skill and determination. Queenie on the other hand is a talented linguist, with the ability to speak English, French and German, something vital to the war effort. I loved seeing the other female characters' roles play out as well, such as the pilot Maddie takes inspiration from - Dympna - and Engel, the female captor we see present throughout the capture scenes.

The book may be set during the war but ultimately it's a tale of friendship. The relationship between the girls is so strong, and defies so many boundaries. The girls come from different social backgrounds and have different skills and personalities, yet they fit together like two pieces of a puzzle. Some of my favourite scenes were the ones in which they share their fears with each other. It was so personal and touching to see that close relationship and trust between them. The two of them are facing some pretty horrible circumstances and have to be brave and focused, so it was really moving to see that vulnerable side of them both that they felt comfortable enough to share with each other.

I found the WWII stuff itself to be completely fascinating. The book features life inside the Women's Auxiliary Airforce which was something I knew little, if anything, about before picking up Code Name Verity. I loved the insight into the lives of women during the war, and particularly the pilots whose job it was to ferry people around. It's a dangerous job and my heart was in my mouth throughout the book as we see the characters face the reality of flying during the war. I have family in Stockport, where large parts of the book is set, so I was particularly wrapped up in those moments and that setting.

The story was so intricate with all the pieces starting to fall into place at the end as the story concludes. There were some incredible twists that I didn't see coming, and most of them just shattered my heart into a thousand tiny pieces! It's rare a book stirs up so much emotion in me, and all ranges of emotion at that. When I finished the book I had to take a moment to absorb everything that had happened. The story and characters will stay with me for a very long time. Despite how much this book tore me up inside, it's one of the few books I have wanted to read all over again the second I finished it. It's a book I'll be recommending and sharing with others and I can't wait to reread it in years to come.

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The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making  - Catherynne M. Valente Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

A friend lent me this book after she read and loved it, and with that title how could I resist? The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland (which is what I shall abbreviate it to to save writing the full title each time!) follows September as she is swept away to the mysterious Fairyland where she encounters all manner of magical creatures.

Starting this book was like being thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool. It's one of those books that is so incredibly bonkers that it takes a little while to get used to the writing style and the craziness. It didn't take me to long to settle in and start going with the flow and soon I was just having so much fun reading about September and her adventures.

The story has an omnipresent narrator and it feels very much like the story is being read to you. I think it's one of those books that would be fantastic on audiobook. It mainly follows September's story but every so often you get these little intermissions where it breaks away and addresses the reader directly, which is something I really loved. It just brought out that feeling of being a child and having someone read you a magical story. Each chapter starts with a cute little picture and a sentence summing up what happens in the upcoming chapter. I loved those little touches and they aided my enjoyment of what was to come. I loved being teased about what was coming up and being curious about what the picture was!

The story sees September taken on the back of a flying leopard to the outer reaches of Fairyland. I loved all the characters she meets along the way, but my favourite had to be the Wyverary A-Through-L, also known as Ell. He's half Wyvern (like a dragon with no forepaws) and half library. Yes, you read that right. Half library. The name comes from the fact he knows everything there is to know about anything that starts with an A through to an L. I was just blown away by the imagination throughout the story because the ideas were so wonderfully bizarre!

The main plot revolves around September trying to make it to the capital of Fairyland, Pandemonium, to track down a Spoon on behalf of some witches who want to use to brew up the future. I was worried the plot would get lost in all the craziness but there was enough solid storyline throughout the book to keep my attention. The book does go off on little tangents and I think the best way to describe it is that each paragraph is like its own mini-adventure. I make notes as I read and I just couldn't keep up with making notes on everything that happened in The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland because there are just so many little wonderful moments that I'd have been stopping every few seconds!

I liked the contrast between September's life in Nebraska which she seems to feel is very boring and the complete wackiness of Fairyland. There were also lots of moments where what goes on in Fairyland is completely in contrast to what you'd expect, like when September expects the witches to be horrible and the scary creatures to eat her. I also liked the time we meet a Wairwulf who is wolf for most of the month and then turns human around full moon. It just defied so many preconceptions.

I loved that the book focused a lot on courage and September being brave. She's only twelve and suddenly finds herself in some pretty intimating situations where she has to overcome her fears and be brave. September's back story was really well done and endeared me to her as a character. Her parents are busy in the war so her mum is often guilty of neglecting her and her father is away fighting. I thought the historical setting in the real world was a nice touch too. It added to the mystery and magic of fairyland because September has only basic things to compare it to.

I was completely captivated by this book and the writing was fantastical and magical. It was one of those books where you could taste and smell and see everything that was being described. It's a real adventure tale where the main character goes on a quest, so if that's your thing then I think you'll love it. It took a little while to get into the story because of the craziness of it, but once I let my guard down and just lost myself in the story I had a great time reading it. Fans of Alice in Wonderland should eat this up because I think September the brand new Alice in town.

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Stitch - Samantha Durante Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

This was another book I'd had on my Kindle for a while and ended up saving for the NA readathon. I was particularly interested in this one because it was billed as dystopia which is one of my favourite genres! And a lot of NA seems to be contemporary. Stitch follows Alessa, a college student struggling to focus on her studies because of the presence of a ghost who keeps appearing around her. Determined to get to the bottom of things, she starts researching the house she lives in and discovers more than she bargained for.

The start of Stitch certainly intrigued me. I liked the college setting and seeing how Alessa is adapting to life as a college student. She's living in her sorority house which I thought was a great environment for the story to take place in. It felt very much like a paranormal story during the beginning of the book. The only out-of-the-ordinary thing you see going on is this ghost that keeps popping up around Alessa. I was definitely grabbed by the concept, and how she seemed to be having feelings projected onto her by the ghost.

I felt the writing was a little clunky at first and so I struggled a bit with that. I think it was a case of a bit too much telling and not enough showing. In the opening chapters I thought there could have been more dialogue. There was a lot of exposition about Alessa and her life which went on for a while and I found my attention wandering slightly and hoping something exciting was coming up. I soon got used to the style and found the writing definitely improved throughout the book.

Stitch is mainly told from Alessa's POV but a little way into the story it shifts to Isaac's perpective; the mysterious ghost Alessa has been witnessing. I really enjoyed seeing the story from his angle as it certainly added more mystery to the whole thing! This is where the book took a bit of a genre twist and started feeling a bit more sci-fi. There's talk of time travel which I found really interesting and those bits of the story had me hooked.

It's about two thirds of the way into Stitch, however, when things take a huge turn. Talk about a plot twist! It's going to make the rest of the review very hard to write because I couldn't possibly give anything away, but that's when the book started to feel like the dystopia I was expecting. The second half of the book was definitely my favourite and had some brilliant ideas and great twists and conspiracies.

The problem I had with that plot twist was that it made Stitch feel like two books rather than one. The first and second half are so different that at times they just felt like completely separate stories. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the first half had been cut down significantly and you'd got to the twist sooner, because once you got there, a lot of the beginning became insignificant, or so I felt.

It's tough to talk about the characters without giving too much away, but I really liked Alessa as a main character, and I enjoyed learning more about Isaac and her friend Janie. Getting all of their backstory in the second half of the book was really enjoyable. I think the only problem I had in their development was that there were several moments where things were explained too quickly, through regained memories that were a little bit convenient. As a reader I found it hard to jump on board with things the characters were so fast to accept.

Stitch is definitely like no book I've read, and if you're looking for a different approach to NA (i.e not a contemporary romance and no sex!) then this is the perfect book to try out the category. It was a fascinating concept and the plot twist still has me reeling! I think because this was the first book in the series there's a lot of potential for future books. Now the world has been established it's certainly one I'm intrigued to know more about. There are a lot of things that were just touched upon in Stitch that I look forward to discovering more of in future books. The cliffhanger ending really had me wanting to carry on. I think there are some great ideas there, I just struggled with the way they were executed sometimes.

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Vortex  - S.J. Kincaid Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Warning: This is the 2nd book in the Insignia series and this review will contain spoilers from the 1st book.

I absolutely adored Insignia and put a library hold on Vortex the second I'd finished it - before it had even been released! Vortex picks up with Tom in his second year at the Pentagonal Spire, now a newly promoted Middle which brings tougher training and new responsibilities.

As soon as I started Vortex I fell right back into that brilliant humour which was something I adored in Insignia. I loved that Tom and Vik start abusing their authority as Middles by bossing about the plebes almost straight away. And it wasn't long before the pranks and jokes between the guys and Wyatt started, and this time they were bigger and better! I was giggling throughout as they tried to outdo each other, and some of the new viruses the Middles start pranking each other were genius (there was one involving gnomes which was my favourite thing ever).

As well as the pranks being funnier than before, the technology has been ramped up a fair bit on Vortex too. I really loved all the cool gadgets and things in Insignia and in Vortex we're introduced to super cool things like exosuits (robotic suits that give the recruits super strength and power) and the Interstice which is a high speed magnetic train that can cross continents. I'm totally with Tom when he thinks all this stuff is awesome and starts having fun with it and messing about, even if it does get him in trouble! I really liked the new sims they take part in as well. I just think those are so imaginative and mean you can jump straight into some awesome battle and survival scenes right in the middle of the story.

One of the great things about Vortex was getting to learn more about the wider world that was established in the first book. I thought the moral issues surrounding the war were really interesting and led Tom to ask a lot of questions about just what's going on and what he's getting himself into, especially as you start to discover more about each of the big corporations. There was a real undercurrent of rebellion there, not just from Tom, but from others involved in the war effort. I think Vortex is a real turning point and I really hope it's setting up even bigger and better things to come in future books.

I loved Tom in Insignia and there was so much more to explore in his character this time around. He clearly has this potential that others can see in him, but he struggles to restrain himself and behave. It made for some hilarious scenes where he just can't keep his mouth shut. I thought it was so funny seeing him trying to impress leaders of the big corporations when he just can't stop putting his foot in it! I like that he isn't perfect and he breaks the rules.

The plot itself was gripping and complex.There are all these conspiracies going on so there was that mystery element to the story where you're waiting to find out just who is responsible for what. I loved the ongoing saga between Medusa and Tom and the how the relationship develops and what effect that has on their situations in the war. There were some parts that got a bit complex and I would find myself having to read back over bits to keep up with which characters were involved.

I think one of my favourite parts was seeing the friendships tested and issues of trust explored. Obviously there's a high level of secrecy when it comes to what Tom and the gang are involved in, and in this book it really proved that you can't always trust people you think you can. I enjoyed the reignited rivalry between Tom and Blackburn, plus there was a cracking storyline where Wyatt and Heather start rivaling each other too. Good to see the girls getting stuck in on the action!

Overall Vortex delivered bigger laughs, bigger pranks and even cooler technology. I loved the shift we're starting to see in Tom and how that rebellious side is still there. I can't wait to find out what happens in the next installment! It's a series I'll definitely be recommending to everyone from now on.
Hopeless (Hopeless, #1) - Colleen Hoover Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

I bought this book a while ago when it was on sale for Kindle, and when I decided to take part in the NA readathon this was the book that was top of my list! Hopeless follows Sky as she starts public school for the first time. There she must deal with her dubious reputation and the attentions of Dean Holder.

So here we go*sigh*. I didn't like this book. This review is going to be hard to write because Hopeless got me really fired up, but for all the wrong reasons. I'd heard really good things and the Goodreads ratings I'd seen were great, but even within a few chapters of this book it was really starting to go wrong for me.

The problem was the love story between Sky and Holder. They first meet in a supermarket where they then have a thirty second interaction in a car park. This is the spark of things and, for me, it was ridiculous. It was already hard enough for me to believe in this instant attraction Sky has to Holder, but it's pointed out repeatedly that Sky has real problems when it comes to liking guys. In the past she's always felt "numb" when making out with guys and apparently even questioned her sexuality because of it. But then apparently thirty seconds with Holder is enough to cure of her of that?! I didn't buy it. It wasn't until a third of the way into the book when the two of them actually sit down and have a conversation to get to know each other. It needed to be wayyy earlier for me to be able to buy into their relationship.

Then there's Holder himself. I did not like him. One bit. Sky quickly finds out he has a bad reputation, something which doesn't appear to but her off. But what really killed it for me was how much time Holder spends stalking Sky. He reads her ID and then shows up her house, then asks to go running with her in a situation where she can't really say no. Oh and he goes from bunking off school to turning up just to see Sky. This is all when the two of them barely know each other and when Sky is clearly uncomfortable around him.

That wasn't the only thing about Holder that rang major alarm bells for me. At one point Sky admits to being scared of him which is just a no-no. Why is she still with him?! It's not a good example and it's not the type of relationship that should be glamourised in books. Hopeless makes it seem like it's a perfectly acceptable way to be treated, when in fact Sky should be running in the opposite direction to Holder as fast as she possibly can.

There's all these flashbacks throughout Hopeless that hint at some things in Sky's past that she can't fully remember. Even when this information was revealed, it wasn't enough to win me around. I actually disliked large parts of these plot twists. The stuff from Sky's past is pretty dark, and she's been through a lot of abusive situations. I don't have a problem generally with books that tackle abuse and it's not a subject matter that puts me off, but there were parts I just could not take seriously because of all the other stuff going on in the book that was making me rage. The problem for me was that the book has been set out as this intense romance from the beginning and the bits in the second half could probably have potential if the romance with Holder hadn't taken centre stage. I could probably have gotten on board if the story solely focused on the relationship between Sky and her adoptive mother Karen. There's a good story there but it's clouded by everything else.

I also had issues with the twists and the way information was revealed, because Holder ends up with all this knowledge about certain things and then uses it to hold power over Sky - another thing I found horribly unhealthy about their relationship. As the relationship continues there were more red flags. Holder becomes jealous and possessive and then Sky starts becoming completely dependent on him. He's making her miserable yet she's convinced herself that he is the only good thing and he's the one thing that makes her happy etc. It worried me and made Sky come across as this weak little thing who will do anything Holder wishes. I wanted to scream.

The only character I really liked - Sky's new friend Breckin - barely got any notice or development. And Sky's best friend Six spends practically the whole book out of the country so we don't get much from that friendship. (What we did get bugged me because the two girls spend the whole time calling each other slut, and then complain when they get taunted at school for being called sluts.)

What I can say about Hopeless is that the writing wasn't bad. If the author wrote a book that wasn't romance based I might consider reading it. The way the book was set out with flashbacks from Sky's past would have worked if I wasn't so enraged by everything else. It's not often a book makes me angry and sadly Hopeless did just that. It wasn't for me.

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The Secret History of a Teenage Vampire - Will Hill Definitely going to check out this series!
The Wolfstone Curse - Justin Richards Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

I first came across this book a while ago and put a library hold on it months before it was released. I've been eagerly anticipating the release so I was excited when it finally became available! The Wolfstone Curse follows Peter on a trip to the Cotswolds with his dad. There he comes across the Wolfstone Circle, a mysterious stone formation. Together with local girl Carys, Peter tries to get to the bottom of what the circle really means and the goings on at the mysterious Wolfstone Manor.

The book opens with a prolgue which features characters set in the war. There's a quick diary entry and then we hear a little bit of a character called Copper's story. After that, the book jumps forward to seventeen years later where we're introduced to an unnamed character being held captive. This opening to the book was brilliant and the mystery completely grabbed me. It also did a great job at setting the chilling tone and creating the spooky atmosphere.

Eventually we get to meet Peter, whose story we follow throughout the rest of the book. His dad is a professor and they're heading to an archaeological dig at the Wolfstone Circle. I really liked how the history and arcaeology were woven into the story. The book features events that happened in World War Two which I thought was quite interesting. I think what helped keep the book moving even with all that background information was the way the book included snippets from textbook and website entries that Peter comes across which really kept the writing fresh and interesting. Even things like the local leaflets about the area Peter reads were a great addition.

When Peter arrives at the inn where he and his dad are staying, he meets Carys. I really liked the way these two characters were introducded to each other. There was nothing romantic about it. They were just two people of a similar age who happened to be in the same place. I think it felt pretty normal and realistic how they sort of gravitate towards each other out of boredom and the fact they're constantly surrounded by people older than them. They're both sort of dragged into their parents' business as well. I think the only problem I had was that sometimes I felt a little detached from the two of them. I think there was so much going on around them in the story that I didn't feel I got to know them that well which is a shame. The book is written in third person and kind of drifts about between the characters, mainly Carys and Peter.

The plot was a great mix of mystery and suspense. I found the book to be quite spooky at times which made a nice change! The old, abandoned buildings and the Wolfstone circle made for a great setting, and the focus on wolves and these wolf-men creatures was definitely creepy. I've read a lot of books that feature werewolves, but I can honestly say none of them felt like The Wolfstone Curse. This book featured a lot of history and legend, and really built upon what the history books say about werewolves. The information is teased very slowly so you know something is going on but it takes a little while to get there, which really added to the drama and tension.

The mystery element was also really interesting, with Peter trying to find out what has really happened to Annabelle Forrest, the daughter of someone working on the Wolfstone Circle. There was a really complex web of characters and events that kept the story moving, and I loved it when Peter and Carys were playing detective. I found some parts of the story a little bit convenient (like when Carys is suddenly able to produce visas and a credit card to get her and Peter out of the country on their own) but I did like that it provided some adventure, because let's face it, if they hadn't been able to get out of the country the book would have been a lot more dull!

The book is pretty innovative in that it comes with an app you get for your phone or tablet, which you then hold up to icons on the page to link to extra content. I found the app to be a bit hit and miss and in the end I could only get it to work twice, but when it did I was impressed. It linked to these spooky videos showing the setting described in the book. It really added to the atmosphere (and made me glad I wasn't reading this book at night!).

I probably enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. Whilst I liked unraveling that web of mysterious characters and finding out just what they were up to, some parts of the book were quite chaotic. It moved about a lot with characters running about all over the place and people popping up here there and everywhere. I did enjoy some of the more action packed scenes (there was one scene with a chase through a train that I could really picture in my head as if it were a film!) and when people started getting killed in the action I found myself glued to the pages. I worried for Peter and Carys and wanted to know what would happen to them, but I don't know if I really felt the story ended the way I would have liked. Sure there were lots of dramatic action scenes, but there wasn't much tying up done at the end. I felt like I needed a few more pages to explain what happened to everyone.

I think this book will appeal to people who like action and adventure. It was definitely a lot more plot driven than character driven, but I think sometimes you need a book like that where you just get swept away in the story! It was an enjoyable read and definitely something a bit different. If you've been put off werewolf stories before then I promise you this one will be a refreshing change!

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Rory (The Ghosts of Palladino, #1) - Ciye Cho Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction.

I really enjoyed the two other books I've read by Ciye Cho, so when I was approached to read and review this one I couldn't resist! Rory follows the title character as she discovers the secret world of Palladino, a land where ghosts train girls to be auctioned off to the Ruling Lords.

This may be a book about ghosts but it was like no other ghost story I've ever read! And I loved that about it. The book starts off in quite a dark place as we're introduced to Rory. We learn her mother is in a psychiatric unit because of the hallucinations she has. Only Rory knows they're read. The opening few chapters definitely had me gripped and there was a lot of suspense. I really loved seeing Rory's worries and fears about her mother.

Soon the story takes a huge twist and we land in Palladino, a heaven-like universe filled with ghosts and magic. This is where the book truly becomes something unique. I adored the world building because you get to see all this crazy, magical stuff and this beautiful landscape filled with castles and hot air balloons. It's very fantastical and whimsical and just carries you away! It felt very Alice in Wonderland-esque and Lewis Carroll's story is actually referenced several times. There was a great focus on dreams and imagination as well which I loved. If you like that kind of wonderful, imaginative setting for a book then I think you'll love Rory.

Rory as a character was very likable, and I loved her development through the book. She's landed in Palladino not by choice so when she gets there she's pretty feisty and I loved that! She has a sharp tongue and a great answer to everyone. It was interesting seeing her relationship with the other girls who have been brought to Palladino. Rory has had a very isolated life due to her mother home-schooling her with little interaction with others. Suddenly she finds herself surrounded by other girls her age and she's a bit of an outcast. I also like her relationship with the skine (a winged demon type creature) Manny and the talking cat Cookie (yes this book has talking cats!).

A lot of Rory's previous life is told through flashbacks which I thought was a really effective technique. I think there were some things just touched upon that I would like to know more about, hopefully in the next book, particularly Rory's neighbour Jai who is mentioned quite often but who you learn very little about. I'd also love to know more of Rory's mother's backstory.

The plot itself had several parts to it. I probably enjoyed the first half the most as Rory adjusts to life in Palladino and prepared for the "unveiling". Some of my favourite scenes were the lessons she's put through by the ghost mistresses where she has to learn to walk elegantly and make magical dust tea that stirs up your emotions. The second half becomes a lot more about the characters she meets there. I really enjoyed getting to know more about Martin, as he seemed to be a character with a lot of depth, and the relationship between him and Rory was fascinating to watch develop. It took a little while to get to the mystery that really drove that second half of the book but once you get there it was worth it, and there was a good sense that something bigger was going on.

I absolutely love Cho's writing which has the ability to suck you in and bring these magical places to life. Rory has a talent for decorating cakes and I can't tell you how many times I got hungry whilst reading about it! I could practically taste the icing. The writing really added to that atmosphere when it came to Palladino as well because the descriptions were so vivid.

This was a truly unique and enjoyable read and a universe I'm looking forward to get back to. The climax to the story was very exciting and left me dying to find out what happens. If you don't like ghost stories then you have to give this a try because it's a ghost story with a difference! And if you like your fantasy whimsical and a little bit mad then don't miss this one.

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Life in Outer Space - Melissa Keil Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I grabbed this title when it was available to read now on NetGalley. It looked exactly like my kind of book! Life in Outer Space follows Sam and his friends as they get used to the arrival of new girl Camilla, who has an effect on Sam in particular.

This is one of those reviews where I just don't know where to begin! I'll start with the humour, because I knew within a few pages that me and this book were on the same wave length. Sam's observations of life at Bowen Lakes Secondary were just spot on and his voice throughout made me laugh and grin. It's Aussie YA which is something I'm always on the lookout for (one of my favourite YA series of all time is Jaclyn Moriarty's Ashbury/Brookfield series) and this really hit the spot. I think because the Australian school system is a bit more relatable than say an American one. Also reading a book set in somewhere like Australia is just cool.

The story is told from Sam's POV and he was such a freaking great character. He's a bit of an outcast as are his friends, and he's a total film geek. I loved how he related so much of his life back to films. I'm not that up on my films but there's enough pop culture in there that I think most people will be able to appreciate and pick up on the references.

Early on we meet Camilla who is the new girl at school and a very interesting character in herself. I loved her impact on Sam and his friends. She's also one of the coolest characters in the book. I loved how she was sort of fawned over by a lot of the students (because her dad is famous) but at the same time she's incredibly down to earth and friendly. It seems like in so many books, the "popular" girl is some bitchy, horrible person who we're all meant to loathe, but in this case Camilla was just genuinely nice to everyone, and most importantly she was nice to Sam. She really sees him for who he is and it gave me hope that there are more people like her in the world and that you can be yourself and still be taken seriously.

Sam's bunch of friends - Adrian, Allison and Mike - are a pretty great bunch, too. I particularly like Mike and how he fitted into the story. He's gay, but when we meet the gang he's already out to his friends and parents. I liked that his sexuality didn't dominate the story but just became part of who he is. I also liked Allison who's this totally dreamy, Luna Lovegood-esque girl who sort of hovers on the edge of school life. I just found myself completely drawn to her, and I think having an extra girl around besides Camilla was a good mix. I think the geekiness of the main characters makes them completely relatable. As well as Sam's obsessions with film you have his and Camilla's love of World of Warcraft and the fact that Sam and his friends help out in the IT office at school. Then you have the school baddies to balance everything out - in this case, Bowen Lakes Secondary's school cliché Justin provides the trouble for Sam and his friends.

As well as providing some laughs, Life in Outer Space also touched on some more poignant moments as well. The insight into teenage/parent relationships as seen through both Sam and Camilla's eyes, because they both have situations at home that aren't perfect. Seeing how they both handled everything gave a real insight into their characters. Camilla has travelled around a lot and moved school numerous times so she's left with a lot of insecurity about that. I loved the balance between her taking things as they come and getting with life, yet still proving she's vulnerable. I was really glad we got to see Sam show a more emotional side as well. It made him feel so real.

The pace in Life in Outer Space is quite gentle. The first half the book focuses on getting to know the characters, but I found that to be an absolute pleasure because they're such an awesome bunch. The second half really picks up the drama but it's all very character driven, and I really enjoyed that. The plot mainly revolves around Sam and Camilla, but there are all these things going on in the background like the build up to the Spring Dance and Mike acting strangely. That mystery unravelling really kept my attention and drove the book forwards. I was never once bored and there was always something round the corner to keep me entertained.

The focus on geeky main characters, a mysterious girl and really great friendships made this feel very reminiscent of a John Green novel, so I think if you love his work then you definitely have to check out Life in Outer Space. It'll appeal to outcasts, movie buffs, geeks and people who want a really strong story with great touches of humour. I finished this book with a huge smile on my face and with the characters still firmly rooted in my brain.
The Ballerina & the Fighter - Ursula Sinclair Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Disclosure:I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Ballerina & the Fighter follows the lives of Ivy, a ballerina destined to study at a prestigious ballet school in New York, and Maze, a fighter of mixed martial arts. When the two meet on the beach one summer they find themselves instantly drawn to each other.

The book is told in alternating chapters between Maze and Ivy. As characters I was pretty divided on my feelings for them because I really loved Ivy but I couldn't stand Maze. Either way, they were both pretty interesting and well developed (Maze just isn't particularly nice - more later) and I found the background on both of their abilities - dancing and fighting - really interesting. I also really liked seeing the friendship between Ivy and her friend Shel. They've attended separate schools yet they have this really strong bond and it was just nice to see a friendship like that.

The connection between Ivy and Maze is pretty instant and intense. I can kind of see why the relationship moved so quickly because it's a summer romance kind of deal, and I thought there were some moments where they had some good chemistry, but some moments were a big no-no for me. This is where my dislike of Maze comes in. Within seconds of meeting Ivy he's thinking of doing things to her that make him seem like a sex-mad lunatic. Like seriously, you've just met her, don't start mentally undressing her! There was a complete contrast in Maze and Ivy's chapters because Maze is this total lad - swearing, constantly thinking about sex, where was Ivy is obviously more innocent and naive when it comes to relationships. I know some people like the controlling bad boy type, but it wasn't for me. There were plenty of moments where I just felt very uncomfortable. The final nail in the coffin was when Ivy admitted to being scared of Maze (and having been scared of him for a while). Run away Ivy! Escape whilst you still can!

My dislike of Maze didn't totally ruin the story for me. The inclusion of Ivy's roommate Dante helped because he seems like all kinds of nice and I was totally rooting for something more to come with him. I loved how he looked out for Ivy and was protective of her in a caring friend sort of way (as opposed to the possessive way Maze is). I also thought parts of Maze's life were really interesting, especially the darker sides of the fighting world. He gets drawn into some pretty scary and dramatic stuff and not by choice. There was a lot of suspense when it came to Maze being in dangerous situations and I would find myself gripped by the action.

The author managed to pull at my heartstrings a good few times during The Ballerina & the Fighter. There's some pretty emotional scenes and I liked how the traumatic moments really shook up the story. There was one particularly dramatic scene that sort of shakes up Maze and Ivy's relationship and that completely blew me away. It completely shifted the feel and tone of the book from that moment forward which I loved. I also liked the exploration of issues like racism and how the book tackles diversity as well as the fact that both Ivy and Maze come from not so traditional family set-ups.

The book falls into the NA cater gory with Ivy being seventeen - almost eighteen - and Maze being nineteen, and it explores those stronger themes that the age category tackles. There are some pretty explicit scenes throughout the story which is why I've included the disclaimer at the top. If you like your romance intense and steamy then this is for you!

The Ballerina & the Fighter is a nice short read at just under 150 pages. It was a book I got through in a day, but at the same time it felt like I'd been reading it a lot longer because I'd connected so much with the characters and been on such a roller coaster of emotions whilst reading. I really liked the writing style and the book had a very intriguing cliffhanger so I'm intrigued to see where it goes and if there's more books! I'd still carry on if there was because I feel like these characters have potential (more Dante please!). The only thing that let this book down for me was Maze and the lines I felt he crossed.

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Geekhood: Mission Improbable - Andy    Robb Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

I absolutely adored the first Geekhood book and this has been sitting at the top of the to-read pile next to my bed for a few weeks. I got to the point where I couldn't wait any longer and just had to dive in! Geekhood: Mission Improbable follows Archie, Beggsy, Ravi and Matt as they take their geeky exploits to a whole new level with a bit of LARP - Live Action Role-play. There's still the issue of Archie's feelings for Sarah but he has a plan to win her over.

When you go into the second book in a series having loved the first book, I suppose there's that nervousness that the book won't live up to its predecessor. I'm very relieved to say that I loved this book as much, if not more, than the first! I ate it up in practically a day and every time I put it down (which I only did because of those annoying necessities such as work and sleep) I would miss reading about Archie and his adventures, and I couldn't wait to get back to it.

When writing down notes in my book journal during my read of Geekhood: Mission Improbable, the most common word in my notes was "hilarious". Because this book made me laugh. So much. I don't think I mentioned it in my review for the first book (because there was so much to fit in that I literally could have written an essay if I hadn't held back!) how much I loved Archie's "Inner Monologue" which he uses to express those thoughts he can't say out loud. What made me giggle away during this book was that his IM spends a lot of the time singing the Mission Impossible theme. Seriously, I was laughing so much at that. Of course it means if you read this book you'll have it stuck in your head for days afterwards, but I think it's a small sacrifice to make...

I loved how Geekhood 2 takes Archie and his friends' geekiness to a whole other level. I just got so wrapped up in how excited they got about the live action role-play and how the build up to the big event really drove the plot. Again, Archie questions himself over his geekiness and whether it's something to be embarrassed about but his excitement totally outweighed that and this book was all about the geek pride!

I really enjoyed seeing the relationship between Archie and Tony and Archie and his dad play out throughout the story, because it seems the roles of the two father figures has flipped a bit and now suddenly it's his dad acting weird. There were some hilariously (there's that word again!) embarrassing moments between Archie and each of them that are moments I imagine all teenage boys dread and would relate to (like when it comes to Tony preparing Archie for the big wide world i.e sex) that were so funny and so brilliantly done. It was also so freaking funny seeing Facebook come into play like with Archie's dad using text speak (my mum does it too and it drives me mad!) and Tony adding him on Facebook. These are the real ways to embarrass your kids these days, people.

What was super awesome and got me really excited were the scenes set in York! I live in York and I think everyone will agree that reading about somewhere where you live is pretty cool. It was taken to a whole new level when Archie bumps into some York locals (apparently, according to Archie, all York girls are attractive so reading this book gave me a confidence boost = winning) and reflects on their accent. I laughed so hard. Seriously. Because I have a Yorkshire accent and if there's one word that people take the micky out of me for saying, it's the word phone (which Archie accurately observes comes out a bit like "phern" when you're talking all Yorkshire.). And then Archie ends up picking up on that exact word and I was kind of jumping up and down and laughing at the same time because it was such a freaking accurate reaction. Kudos to the author for that one!

I loved how Archie's crush on Sarah is carried through to this story. He's still totally smitten so when he meets a pretty girl on the way to his dad's who offers the chance of a fauxmance to make Sarah jealous, Archie jumps on board. I really enjoyed seeing Archie deal with both his fake relationship and his feelings for Sarah. As well as that, Archie's friends are exploring the world of girls as well, and I loved seeing how they all coped with that. It was awesome that some the girls got involved with the LARP geekiness, too.

This book was definitely all about friendship and the friendship between Archie, Ravi, Beggsy and Matt is one we should totally all be jealous of. I want to be friends with all of them because I'd just laugh all day long and you'd know they had your back. There were some great ups and downs for the guys in this story and it was really good seeing them tested and seeing how they reacted.

What was great about having the LARP plotline was that you got some pretty kickass scenes towards the end that you would expect from a fantasy novel, only this time it's people in costumes kicking some orc backside. It still made for a pretty exciting conclusion to the story! I loved how the other storylines were tied up too.

Basically this book is one I will be thrusting into people's hands in the future and urging them to read. Not enough books make me laugh out loud and this one certainly did! And it's just so refreshing to find such true to life characters instead of all these glamourised ones we're supposed to aspire to. There need to be more Archie's in the YA world, please. If you still haven't grabbed this book and you loved the first then go and track it down now! You won't regret it. I promise.

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Tunnelville - Erin  Callahan, Troy H. Gardner Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

Spoiler warning! This is the 2nd book in the Mad World series and so this review will contain spoilers from the previous book, Wakefield.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series so I was delighted to have the opportunity to read the second! Tunnelville follows Max and Astrid as they and their fellow Wakefield patients go on the run and face the trials of life on the streets, whilst trying to escape the clutches of Dr Lycen.

The last book ended on a cliffhanger so I was excited to dive right in and pick up the story! Tunnelville opens with a prologue where we catch up on some of the happenings at Wakefield, then joins Max, Astrid and the others as they seek a place to hide. I loved the opening few chapters where the kids have to rally together and figure out what to do and where to go. There was that real survival, adventure feel about it and I could feel their fear and desperation.

Once again the book is told in alternating chapters between Max and Astrid, and it was great to see their friendship as a real backbone to the story. There was also the odd chapter from some of the adult characters which again was done in the previous book, and was very effective in this one. I particularly liked the chapters told from the view of a private investigator helping to track down Astrid. With the gang being on the run and very isolated from everyone, it was exciting to get an insight into what was happening back at Wakefield and keep an eye on who was chasing them. It definitely added to the suspense! I think the only downside was that I'd sometimes lose track of whose chapter I was reading (Max or Astrid) if I put the book down for a while and came back to it. The two are so similar that they sometimes merged.

There were some interesting new characters introduced in Tunnelville. The guys run into Colby, another runaway who certainly makes an impression. I liked seeing how all the characters bounced off him. I think my favourite new character was Timothy who I was very curious about! Then there were the host of people they met during their time on the streets who help them out. One of the nice things about Tunnelville was despite the fact that the kids were in a pretty sticky situation, they still managed to help each other out and keep the humour amongst themselves.

One thing I was really exited about in this book was exploring the kids' abilities more fully, as well as discovering more about the wider magical world. Getting out into the big wide world means they start to come across people like them and find themselves in situations that put their powers to the test. I really liked that world building and getting to see just what they were capable of. I think the premise of the series is really exciting.

I also really enjoyed the setting of Tunnelville. Wakefield was set in such a confined environment so it was great to break out of that, and I thought the city of Boston make a great backdrop to the story. It's not somewhere I've ever been or know too much about but I could completely visualise everywhere the characters ended up as they travelled around.

I mentioned earlier that Wakefield ended on a cliffhanger and Tunnelville was no different - man these books know how to grab you! The climax to the story was really exciting and left so much potential for future books. I love the urban fantasy vibe and can't wait to discover more of the world, and the characters kept me entertained throughout. A really enjoyable read!

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A Really Awesome Mess - Trish Cook, Brendan Halpin Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This was available to read now on NetGalley and when I saw the plot summary, I knew it was a book I wanted to read. A Really Awesome Mess follows Emmy and Justin as they navigate their way through life at Heartland Academy, a boarding school slash inpatient therapy unit where they have some pretty tough issues to address in their lives.

The book is written in first person and alternates chapters between Emmy and Justin's point of view. I've said it before and I'll say it again; I love multi-POV books! Especially when you get it from both a guy and a girl's perspective. The first person was really effective at getting inside the two characters' heads as well, something that was vital to understand what they're thinking and going through.

What was completely refreshing about A Really Awesome Mess is that Emmy and Justin are two pretty brash characters. When we first meet them they're pretty rude and obviously quite messed up. I love books that tackle really tough issues and this book manages to do that so well. There's nothing sugar-coated about what Emmy and Justin are going through and that really comes across in the way they speak and their stubborn attitudes as they enter therapy. Not once did it put me off them as characters, however, because I found the both to be fascinating people in sucky situations.

Emmy is battling an eating disorder which is something she's pretty much in complete denial about. This book comes with a pretty big trigger warning because you get right inside her head whilst she's having really negative thoughts. But having known friends with eating disorders, I could recognise Emmy's way of life instantly and it's clear it's been well researched and well represented. I really felt for her situation and her insecurities. Emmy is Chinese and was adopted from China by her parents who thought they couldn't have kids biologically, until Emmy's sister Joss came along leaving Emmy feeling like the black sheep of the family. I also did a little high-five at the diversity in this book.

Justin's problems were just as interesting to me. He arrives in therapy after what he describes as an attention seeking suicide attempt. A lot of his story centres around the issues he has with sex, after his dad caught him doing something with a girl he probably shouldn't be doing, and I thought it was great to be tackling a teenage boy's attitude to sex in that way. There's also the underlying problem of Justin's depression, which was something I was really glad to be seeing portrayed, because people don't think about men having depression. There were some really heart-breaking moments when he hits his lows. As a character I really liked Justin. He has a pretty sharp tongue and doesn't beat around the bush when it comes to talking about those kind of things. He also has a wicked sense of humour and I would find myself constantly laughing at some of the stuff he comes out with.

Whilst the book does dive head first into some pretty intense topics, that humour is something that is dotted throughout the story so this doesn't feel like a depressing read. It has touches of that dark humour as the therapy kids take the mick out of each other. I loved that. I think people can be worried about offending people but in reality, sometimes you have to laugh your way through those dark moments and situations. There's also some really fun moments as the kids rally together to try and enjoy themselves and make the most of the privileges they have.

What really works in A Really Awesome Mess is the way that Emmy and Justin are completely on the same wave length. They instantly strike up a bond because they have the same sense of humour and the same attitude to being in therapy. They're not afraid to tell each other and other people what they think as well. Obviously the bond between them plays a huge part and there's a little touch of something more there, but the two of them have so much going on in their lives that it isn't a typical boy-meets-girl-and-falls-in-love thing. It's about overcoming the barriers in order to be in a place where they can act upon those feelings.

I really enjoyed the dynamic between the therapy kids as well. They all have different things going on yet they can bond over being stuck somewhere they don't want to be. I loved how each character got a fair bit of attention so we could follow their individual stories, despite the main focus being on Emmy and Justin. I particularly liked Jenny's story and found Chip to be a hilarious addition.

I can't write this review and not mention all the little references thrown in that made me *squeee*. Firstly, there's a tonne of Harry Potter references which is something that was always going to make me smile. They're present throughout the whole story and I loved how they could relate so many situations to Harry Potter. There's also some great references to other books I know or I've heard of which I just loved stumbling across. It just made me feel like I was on the same wave length as the authors.

The only time the book didn't work for me was when some of the exposition was done using dialogue and it slowed it down a little. There's obviously a lot of backstory to get across and sometimes it felt a bit squished and distracted me from the plot. Otherwise, this is a book that is definitely very "me" and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

I really recommend A Really Awesome Mess because it has the perfect balance of humour and real teen issues, with fantastic characters and a real sense of empowerment among them.

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Hold Your Breath - Caroline  Green Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I came home from work one day to find this book had popped through my letterbox and I was eager to start because I hadn't heard of it (or the author) before, and I love going into a book blind! Hold Your Breath follows Tara who as the strange ability to know where lost things are through her visions. Not so bad when it's missing keys or a missing phone, but when she sees visions of missing people she finds herself drawing unwanted attention to herself in her quest for answers.

Hold Your Breath is something I love and don't see enough of - a YA mystery/thriller. Tara finds herself playing detective and trying to get to the bottom of things after a girl from school disappears. It has that added supernatural element of Tara's visions, but what I loved is that the focus was very much on the gritty realistic side, so it felt more like a thriller than it did a supernatural novel for instance. It made for a perfect balance and a very tense and exciting story.

The writing style took a little getting used to for me because it's very descriptive, but I grew to really like it and was able to immerse myself in those vivid descriptions like during the scenes by the river where I could lose myself in the setting. The writing was also really effective at creating that suspense and giving that creepy nature to the book that made some of the scenes quite chilling and unnerving. There were plenty of lighter moments, however, for example the humour included in the scenes between Tara and her brother Beck.

There are some great characters to get your teeth stuck into in Hold Your Breath. I really liked Tara herself. She has a lot to overcome because she's had to move away from her old life under a cloud of suspicion and she's had to put up with a fair bit of bullying. Now she's hiding her powers from her parents which makes her feel really isolated, so I did feel for her a lot, but at the same time her determination to get to the bottom of things really earns her your respect. I loved her curious nature and how she managed to grow in confidence.

As well as everything else going on, there's a little bit of romance thrown in there for good measure. Tara is getting over her jerk of an ex-boyfriend Jay and I think a lot of people relate to those feelings she goes through as she reflects on how he treated her, yet how much she misses him in spite of it. But the developing storyline with Leo was really sweet and I liked how that relationship played out.

Throughout the story there were plenty of twists and turns and so many complex and interesting characters to raise your suspicions. The climax of the story was fantastic because I was on the edge of my seat waiting for everything to unravel itself. I had one of those moments where I hadn't quite seen everything coming and ended up kicking myself because when you look back, everything is so well set up and weaved together throughout the story. I raced through the last few chapters because I was hooked on the action!

I love it when you read a book and it just feels so British and so familiar, so if you love your UKYA then this is definitely one to check out. I'm really excited to read more of this author's books because it wasn't someone I'd heard of before (shame on me!) but I'm definitely impressed and eager to read more of her work.

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The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1) - Rick Yancey Full review also posted here on TotalTeenFiction

It's been impossible to avoid the hype surrounding this book. It seems everyone, everywhere was talking about it and raving about it and so I've been itching to read The 5th Wave ever since it started popping up on my radar! The world is being attacked by the "Others" who have wiped out most of the human population in "waves". Now alone and on the run facing the 5th wave, Cassie must fight to survive against all the odds.

I tried to go into this book with an open mind, because when a book is so hyped up the last thing you want is to build it up in your head and end up disappointed. I'd already read the opening chapters in a chapter sampler of the book that was available for free so I knew I was going to like the beginning. The opening to the story follows Cassie as she faces her current battle to survive in the wilderness and reflects on her past and what has happened up to that point.

I loved the glimpses into those early days of the alien invasion where she and her friend Lizbeth are balancing the threat of the end of the world with everyday teenage worries, like that fact they won't have had a boyfriend before they die. It was really heartbreaking reading about how Cassie became separated from her family and I loved the scenes where we get to see what they were like before waves that stole those close to her. I particularly loved the bond she has with her brother Sammy and how that fear she has for him keeps her going throughout the book.

Cassie herself was a real highlight. I loved how level headed she was and how she could focus on what needed to be done. There's this whole situation where everyone is fascinated by the Others and she talks about the Youtube and Twitter generation going crazy for these aliens and speculating what they might be like, whereas Cassie herself couldn't care less; she just wants to survive. Throughout the book that attitude really drew me to her and her parts of the book were my favourite.

Although the majority of the story is told from Cassie POV, the book switches around quite a lot between characters and perspectives. The first time it did that I was totally confused because it was still using the first person and I had no idea we'd switched to a different character until he started referring to himself as a he. That particular time I could forgive it because the mystery of who it was was a good twist that totally surprised me and made for an enjoyable chapter, but it did it several times throughout the book and sometimes I would get a bit lost.

It also switched between third and first person for some of the characters. I can see why it was done because the different voices had different effects and worked well for the different characters, but it added to the feeling of being a bit disjointed. The positives of all this jumping around was that you got to see what was happening in every part of the story with all the different characters, and there was a lot of different things going on. I did find myself waiting to get back to Cassie's parts, though, because I felt those were the strongest parts of the book.

From the beginning of The 5th Wave I was expecting a survival tale, because that's it starts out as. As the book moves along, however, it becomes so much more. The second half was definitely a lot more gritty and complex as it comes to light just what is going on in the bigger picture. There were some really heart-wrenching scenes, especially seeing what happened to the younger characters in the story. There was plenty of conspiracy and action too that I wasn't expecting but which pleasantly surprised me.

Each character had their own personal story that made you connect with them, whether it be Cassie's mission to reach her brother, Evan's heartbreak at losing his girlfriend or Ben's regrets over leaving his sister. I definitely came to care about each individuals story. I loved the sense of paranoia and that nobody could really trust each other. I think Cassie and Evan's storyline was the greatest example of that and the reason why it became one of my favourites.

There were some great, unique ideas throughout The 5th Wave and it felt like this complex web that slowly unravelled. I was constantly waiting on the edge of my seat for the epic conclusion, and I got plenty of action, although it was more subtle than I was expecting. I think I enjoyed the first part of the book a little bit more, when the focus was on Cassie and her survival in the wild. The book felt very visual and I could really see it working well as a film because that's how it played out in my head. The only downside really was how disjointed the book felt times, with the characters and the timeline jumping about a bit. I think it's a book that would benefit from a re-read.

This was a hard review to write because it was definitely an enjoyable read, and it's definitely my type of book. There were just parts that were maybe a little different to what I was expecting. It's definitely a strong book full of gripping ideas and great characters, though. The ending left plenty of potential for the sequel and I'm really excited to see where it goes.

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