What Light – Jay Asher


This is a good book to read at Christmas time. Sierra and her family live on a Christmas tree farm in Oregon. Once a year for a month they go to California where they have a tree lot where they sell the trees. This has happened every year since Sierra was born. She has two sets of friends, Liz and Rachel in Oregon who she spends most of the year with, and Heather in California who she only gets to spend a month with. Liz and Rachel are a bit clingy and the first couple of chapters see them prepare gifts for Sierra and tell her how sad they are that she is going. She will miss them too but she also misses Heather and her family and can’t wait  to see them. The tree lot has also  been in her family for two generations and is under threat because they don’t make enough money from it. Sierra doesn’t want this to happen.

You don’t get much background on Sierra, just what’s going on at the time; you do find out that she has had boyfriends before but the only mention of it is that she only does worthy relationships and doesn’t see the point of just dating.

When she arrives in California we meet Andrew, a guy who works on the tree lot and asked her out last year. He is a bit of a nasty piece of work; don’t like Andrew! Sierra’s dad doesn’t let her go out with any of the boys that work on the lot, even though she must be about 17, and makes them do horrible chores if they so much as look at her. Heather also has a new boyfriend called Devon who she is planning on dumping after Christmas, he’s boring apparently.

After a couple of days of setting up, a cute boy with dimples appears and buys a tree. She describes the boy to Heather who immediately tells her that this is Caleb, and he’s bad news. When he appears the next day and they start talking Sierra decides she wants to give him a chance and find out more.  Sierra and Caleb start to see more of each other and she slowly teases out of him what’s  going on. I won’t spoil it for you but it’s a bit random. She also discovers that he is buying Christmas trees out of his own pocket and delivering them to people who can’t afford to buy their own. As  they slowly fall for each other (given that she is only in town for a month it took them ages to kiss!) she needs to decide whether the Caleb she knows now can make up for the rumours she has heard about the old Caleb.

This is a quick read at just under 250 pages and it was nice enough to keep me interested until the end. I didn’t really feel any emotional attachment to any of the characters although, the end did make me a bit teary! If you like a bit of cheesy romance at Christmas  time  then this is the perfect book for you – and a very different feel to 13 Reasons Why which was quite depressing!

PS> the only thing that really blew my mind was that afterwards, when looking for a picture of the cover photo, I discovered that Jay Asher is a man! I really wasn’t expecting that given that the main character in this  book is a girl and it’s written so well. It did explain why Sierra was a little emotionless though, and the description of feelings wasn’t really there. Still, it was well written and enjoyable.

The Sun is also a Star – Nicola Yoon

the-sun book-cover-envy

Firstly, the book cover alone makes this book amazing. Look how they made it!

Secondly, I was a little disappointed with Everything, Everything and went into this book thinking that it would be sort of the same quality. Girl with some weird thing wrong meets boy with some issues, they fall in love super quickly and then live happily ever after. Well, the only similarity is that girl meets  boy and they fall in love super quickly – or at least one of them does. Prepare to be blown away by this book – it’s a-maz-ing!!

At the beginning of the book we meet Natasha. We learn that she lives in New York with her mum and dad and brother, Peter. She was born in Jamaica and her dad came to the US to make it as an actor. She and her mum follow him over when she is 6 and they outstay their visa. She is now in the position where, after her dad has been arrested for Drink Driving and told the police that he is living in the US illegally, they are 12 hours away from being deported.

Daniel is of Korean origin and lives with his mum and dad and older brother Charlie. Charlie has a big chip on his shoulder and hates Daniel (this is never fully explained, although Natasha has her own theory). Charlie has just been sent home from Harvard after one  term. Daniel’s dad owns a black hair care product shop in New York (apparently it’s a thing for Korean people to own black hair care shops New York). Daniel is on his way to get his hair cut before he has an interview for a place at Yale to study medicine. Unfortunately he doesn’t want to be a doctor, he wants to be a poet.

Natasha and Daniel meet through a series of events and Daniel falls in love at first sight. Natasha has a lot on her mind and is hoping that she can persuade an attorney to help overturn her case. She is also a scientist and doesn’t believe in the romantic notion of love at first sight. Daniel tries to change her mind through a series of questions and some time spent together in between their respective appointments.

The book is written as a split narrative so, although Daniel thinks he is having a hard time convincing Natasha that she likes him, we know he isn’t. There is also some lovely asides from bit part characters in the book, like Irene, the guard at the Immigration Centre or informative chapters about the meaning of Irie. The neatness of the way the author summed up what happened to the characters, the explanations by Natasha’s dad as to why he was doing what he was doing, all make for a really clever and involved book.

I read this book really quickly and the characters are people that I will remember for a long time. The weight of expectation on second generation immigrants really made me feel for Daniel. The helplessness of Natasha to stay just because her parents had made a mistake made me see the injustice of the immigration system. Natasha had lived more of her life in America then in Jamaica, she had no connection to it yet she also had no legal connection to America.

You will read this book and connect to the events going on in America at the moment. When racial intolerance is rife this book brings it back to us that America is made up of so many different nationalities and cultures and they can all live together under one flag but, they will always have their own culture and identity and we must respect and embrace that. The kids in this book don’t want to be what their parents want them to be, they want to just be themselves, and this is a struggle in itself. The cultural baggage that they carry round from their parents is heavy, and it weighs them down. This might be the clue to the problem with Charlie.  It also demonstrates how powerfully love can hit you, and change you, and when you fall in love for the first time it will blow you away. Maybe it already has…

Further Reading: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith.


Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon


I think the mistake I made with this book is that I read Holding Up the Universe first and really enjoyed it. Then I went straight on to this one and it fell a little short. Not because it’s not a good book but just because I got a little fed up of kids with things wrong with them who then fall in love with someone who also had something wrong with them. Why can’t people just fall in love….

Moving on… Madeline has this thing called Severe Combine ImmunoDeficiency or SCID which means that she can’t leave the  house because she is super allergic to everything and it could kill her. Her house has been specially adapted so that anyone coming in has to go through a special airlock and be screened. She lives with her mum, who is a doctor, and a nurse who comes in every day called Carla. Her dad and her brother were killed in a car crash and her mum is a little over protective (another helicopter parent).

One day she  hears moving vans and, when she looks out the window sees that a new family have moved in next door. One of them happens to be a boy called Olly, who is easy on the eye, really good at climbing things (parkour) and always wears black. He has the room across the way from her and they start communicating. He sends her his email address and they start to IM. A relationship develops and eventually they persuade  Carla to let him in the house. He has problems with his dad, who is a drunk and beats his mum up.

This is where things start to unravel and I’m not going to tell you too much more after this point because it will spoil the story. Needless to say, all is not as it seems. The ending was a little unsatisfactory as I wanted to know more about what happened. It is cleverly written and I liked the use of notes, emails and quick chapters. It makes the book go really quickly and you will finish it in no time. Sometimes that’s nice and satisfying!

I also liked the characters. Madeline wasn’t too whiny and Olly was a nice boy who you would like to have as your boyfriend (if you were 18) and I hope that his life is improved by meeting Madeline. All in all, a good debut novel but I can’t wait to read The Sun is also a Star (Nicola Yoon’s new book) and see if it is any better. A nice romantic book with a twist and I suspect, the start of some good things to come.

Holding up the Universe – Jennifer Niven


I have literally just finished this book and I only started it yesterday. It is 388 pages of sheer joy. I really super enjoyed All the Bright Places and wanted to really like this one too. In fact I read my review of ATBP just now to remind myself of why I liked it and at the end of it I wrote, ‘this book is life affirming’. Well hold on to your hats people, this one is even  better!

The book is written as a split narrative by Jake and Libby. Jake is a bit of a high school player. He has an on again off again girlfriend (see mean girls everywhere) and we first meet him through a letter he writes to Libby. Libby is the other narrator. In the letter, Jake tells Libby that he has a disorder called Prosopagnosia. It means that he cannot recognize peoples faces, ever. But, no one else knows that he’s got it so he can’t recognize his family, or friends or his girlfriend and he has a series of identifying features that means he knows who they are. For example he assumes that his parents are his parents because they are in his house every day. There is also his adorable brother Dusty, who wants to carry a purse (I think this is American speak for handbag) to school and gets beaten up for it and another brother called Marcus. He exudes this kind of confidence which is just a front for the fact that he cannot recognize anyone.

Libby is famous for being fat. Not just fat but so fat that they had to knock down half her  house to get her out because she was  too fat to fit through the door. She was hospitalized and hasn’t been to school for years. Before the house incident she was home schooled by her dad after her mum died from a massive brain hemorrhage. She has since lost 300 pounds (21 stone!) and has decided to get back in the game and go back to school. There she confronts the bullies who picked on her when she was 10 and after an unfortunate incident with Jack in the cafeteria, finds herself in detention for a few weeks. The POV of Jack is written so well that I would almost believed that the author had the condition herself.

What follows is an unconventional love story, but one that will warm your heart. It’s a little bit like Thanks for the Trouble in that it is redemptive. Both Libby and Jack need to be saved in different ways. Libby might not look like she needs much help; she’s smart and sassy and wants to take on the world, but she needs to feel valued and Jack helps her to do that. Jacks needs are more obvious. He needs help with his disorder and figuring out how he is going to get through life dealing with it.

Jennifer Niven writes in such a way that you will want to read on and on until the last page, and then miss the book and the characters once you’ve finished. I already miss Jack and Libby and their crazy world. I miss the way  that Jack describes Libby as being full of sunshine. I miss the way she goes through life hurting but willing to fix things, to change things. There are the usual mix of the mean girls and stupid jocks and geeks and nerds and bullies, but there is also Jack and Libby; and they are perfect for each other.

I know that you will love this book. I know that you will read it and take these two into your geeky booky hearts and keep them there. They deserve it, and you deserve to enjoy it with them. But I also want you to feel sorry for those people that say ‘I hate reading’ because they will never get to experience what you have just experienced.

Spread the word.

The Geography of Me and You – Jennifer E. Smith


Morning all. I read this book a few months ago so bear with… I just saw it on my desk and realised that I had in fact read it, loved it and forgot to review it; so here we go.

The Geography of Me and You is the tale of two teenagers, Lucy and Owen. She lives in a swanky apartment in New York, so does he. She lives in a posh flat and he lives in the caretakers apartment. Her parents are mega rich and have left her home alone (She is 16 btw) and moved to Paris where her dad is working. He lives with his dad after having recently lost his mum. His dad is not coping very well but has been offered the caretaking job by a friend and enrolled Owen in a local school, even though he doesn’t need to go to school because he has enough credits to go to college already (I don’t really understand the American High School system but that sounds like he is pretty clever).

So, Lucy is home alone in New York. She has two brothers but they have gone away to college. One day she is going back up to her apartment and finds herself in a lift with a boy that she has recently seen around. The lift suddenly comes to a stop and they are stuck in it, they start to talk and find out a little about each other. When they are rescued they realise that there has been some sort of power cut and that New York is in darkness; what better thing to do then go and explore, ending up on the roof of their building watching the stars. After this perfect night together they are torn apart by circumstance.

Lucy’s dad gets a job in Edinburgh and they ask her to come and join them. She starts a local school and meets a dishy lacrosse player called Liam. He really likes her but her heart isn’t in it. Owen’s dad loses his job at the apartment and they decide to go travelling around America (evidently Owen doesn’t need to go to school after all – it’s those credits you see?) and they end up filling the car and going for it. He manages to keep in contact with Lucy through postcards and letters, even if very occasionally and therefore stays in her thoughts.

Time goes by, Owen and his dad finally end up in their old house with all the memories of his mum to think about and Lucy is trying to build her life in Scotland. Owen realises that if he doesn’t see her again he will never get over her so they agree to meet in New York to see if they feel the same about each other. this is the only unbelievable bit as they are still only about 17.

This book is lovely. It’s romantic and full of beautiful gestures that remind you why you fall in love in the first place. Its got all the romantic bits, long walks in the park, watching the stars on the roof top, romantic postcards from mysterious destinations… it also gives a really nice impression of New York. The two teenagers obviously like living there, Lucy describes it as her town and their exploration makes you want to go and explore it too. My impression of a big impersonal town is blown away by the affection they have for it.

My only issue with it is that they are still so young and yet seem to have so much freedom. They also are a little too grown up for liking. All in all though, if you suspend disbelief a bit then it is a really nice read. I haven’t read any of her other books so maybe that would be a good place to start for further reading.


The Radius of Us – Marie Marquardt


This is a pre release review from Netgalley. This book is due to be released in January 2017.

At a time when the Americans are deciding who is going to be their next President, and of the two main candidates one wants to build a wall to keep all of South America from entering the USA illegally, this is a very pertinent book.

Gretchen lives in Arizona. She is at high school and has a boyfriend called Adam. She has a job and a car and parents who love her. She has an extended family and babysits for her little cousins. Gretchen’s life comes crashing down when she is attacked when walking back to her car late one night. She did all the sensible things; parked on a well lit street surrounded by other cars, she carried her keys in her fist to ward off attackers  – yet she still get attacked by a boy in a hoodie.

Phoenix is a boy from El Salvador. He has escaped a ruthless gang culture with his little brother Ari. Ari is below the age where he has to claim asylum; Phoenix is not. As soon as they cross the border they gave themselves up and were separated. they have not seen each other since and Ari has not spoken a word. He is in a children’s detention centre in Texas. Phoenix was taken to a detention centre for adults and then put in the care of two women – Sally and Amanda – who are trying to help him seek asylum in the USA. The problem is that Phoenix has done some things in the past which mean that this may not be possible. He is still carrying a scar that will have a profound effect on his fledgling relationship with a girl he’s not supposed to love.

The book is narrated from both their points of view and is superb. As they slowly seek redemption in each other and Gretchen pulls away from Adam and towards a new, different life, they both see that their world has changed but that it is not necessarily a bad thing. Phoenix cannot get away from his past but Gretchen helps him to see that there is good people that can be a part of his future, if he allows them to be. He just needs to let go of his memories. Gretchen needs to see that although she has witnessed something horrendous time can heal, and we need to see that judging a situation can be fatal.

The writing in this book is beautiful. When Gretchen is describing Phoenix she says ‘And your color: it’s light, but rich and deep, and it makes me want to climb inside you to see what substance God filled you with, to give you that sheen. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. You’re like nothing I’ve ever seen…‘ see what I mean?

This is a time when asylum seekers are constantly on the news and we are all thinking about the impact it has on our lives;  this book shows us the other side of those news stories. Each person that makes that journey across the sea, on top of a train or in the back of a lorry has a different story to tell. These boys were in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were trapped in a hell that they didn’t make. Gretchen is also in the wrong place at the wrong time and the way in which she copes with that will break your heart.

When this book is released, go and buy it. Read it in one sitting; devour it. It deserves your full attention. it’s not just the story that will touch you, and it will, it’s the writing, the flow, the way the author makes you feel about the characters she is presenting to you. You won’t regret it, but you may be sad when you finish it!

The 100: Day 21 – Kass Morgan



So, this is the second one in the series. I also found out that the book and the TV series are not necessarily linked; the directors of the series hadn’t even read the second book so apparently the TV series is only loosely based on the books, just the character names are the same. Bit weird. But anyway, the second book carries on where the first one left off. Glass is still not back together with Luke, Wells and Clarke are not together and Bellamy has a thing for Clarke and she might just feel the same. Oh, and annoying Octavia is still missing, possibly taken by the Earthborns. And I think at the end of the last book they captured a girl from Earth called Sasha.

So, you’re all up to date. Bellamy is going a bit crazy looking for Octavia and wants to torture Sasha for information. Graham just wants to chop her head off and put it on a spike. But, as Wells gets to know her he starts to develop some feelings for her, plus he feels a bit guilty about keeping her captive.

This is a good middle book as it ties up loose ends from the first one and sets everything up nicely for the conclusion. I liked the way that the Earthborns were arranged. It seemed more plausible that some people had survived and were living in relative peace but, that one group would take exception to this and break off on their own. In any society this would happen. Wells is trying to be the leader and again, I think any society needs a natural leader to follow and he is the obvious choice. I like his character for some reason,  but the others don’t seem to grab me. You’d think that if they were narrating large chunks of the book in the second book in you would know them a little better. Unfortunately I didn’t really feel that happened. Bellamy is obviously concerned for his sister but he still has time to get with Clarke and traipse around being angry. He is a pretty angry young man!

The scenes on the ship also lack a bit of excitement. Glass and Luke do make it but there is some stuff that happens along the way, including the fact that Phoenix is annexed with all the oxygen and cuts off the other two ships. It is survival of the fittest up there and eventually there is a mad scamble for the drop ships and Earth.

I am enjoying the series but it feels a little commercial to me. A bit like a TV company has asked an author to write an exciting TV series. I will definitely read the third one but I feel that I have other series to explore first.

The Sky is Everywhere – Jandy Nelson


This is a big book…. it deals with raw emotion and all the big themes; death, love, grief and the sheer overwhelming ride that we call life (I know… a bit cheesy but it was deep man!)

Lennie lives in a small town in America – let’s call it ‘generic small town America’. She plays the clarinet in the school band, has an older sister called Bailey that she idolises, lives with her Grandmother and Uncle Big and has a best friend who she tells everything to. Life is good. Then, out of the blue her Gram gets a phone  call saying that her sister has dropped dead in the middle of rehearsals for a play and her world falls apart. Lennie has always felt like she isn’t good enough, or not as good as Bailey at any rate. Her mother has gone off and left them and her dad isn’t mentioned so not sure who he is so she probably has severe abandonment issues too.

The only person who seems to come close to understanding her loss is Toby, her sister’s boyfriend. They were both 19 and had just got engaged. He cannot understand what has happened and neither can she so they lose themselves in each other. But then along comes Joe Fontaine with his infectious smile and willingness to try and break through the grief to rescue Lennie. And he is adorable. He turns up at the house with breakfast every day, plays every musical instrument known to man, used to live in Paris so speaks French, has gorgeous brothers that all the girls fancy….. you get the idea? He even writes a song just for her (aah the romance!)

This book is deep. It deals with grief and the guilt that the living feel. Lennie feels guilty that she is still alive and  can still love and be loved, all normal emotions after losing someone you have loved. She makes mistakes, but then don’t we all? Don’t we all do stupid things when we are unbalanced and unsure of what to do next? The shock and the anger and the sheer selfishness of grieving is so well written; how each character deals with it in their own way and block each other out at the same time. I haven’t read her other book but it is on my list of things to do but whatever you do, don’t judge Lennie for her decisions until you can say you have walked down that road, her friend does and of all the  characters in this book she is the one I like the least.

PS. I love Uncle Big and his womanising ways, especially they way he seduces women in his crane!

Futher Reading: I Give you The Sun by Jandy Nelson and Bridge to Terabithia by Katharine Paterson.

Remix – Non Pratt


This book is on the longlist for the Hounslow Teen Read Award 2017.

Remix is essentially the tale of two friends. Kaz is dumped by her rugger bugger boyfriend Tom. She is a tiny bit devastated as she super loves him and expected to lose her virginity to him, as well as get married and have lots of babies I expect. Ruby is her wayward friend who has recently dumped her gorgeous but untamed boyfriend Stu after she found out that he had been unfaithful. Her brother Lee and his boyfriend Owen manage to get the two girls tickets to the local music festival (think Glasto and then scale it down a bit) and both are looking forward to a new start before the summer ends; or are they?

It’s kind of like a comedy of errors this book. All the main players end up being at the festival; Tom is there with his mates, Stu is there being all brooding and effortlessly cool, Lee is having some problems with Owen and is just about to go travelling and leave it all behind…. Then there is the lead singer of the girls’ favourite band; Gold n Tone.

The book has two narrators; both girls have their own POV and this can get a little frustrating because sometimes you just want them to speak to each other. Surely as best friends they should be able to be a little bit more honest with each other about how they feel and what they’ve done?

I was also a little bit disturbed about the amount sex going on in this book!  I am no prude but these girls are only 16 years old. They are drinking and smoking and having sex. One of them has sex with two different boys at the festival (it was only two days!) I didn’t particularly like either of them TBH but Ruby was the least likeable I think. Perhaps if they had been a bit older it would have been a little more believable. Maybe I am just an old granny who doesn’t understand the world today but I was 16 once believe it or not and I don’t remember it being like this, apart from the cider drinking obviously!

I did like Lauren though, and Owen. Not too keen on Lee either I’m afraid,they felt a little bit like they were the token gay couple and it was a tad forced. All in all a good book but it’s left me a little concerned about the yoof of today….

Further Reading: Trouble by Non Pratt

Billy & Me – Giovanna Fletcher

billy and me

Billy and Me is on the Zoella recommended reading list at Smiths (thank you Katie for letting me know about this, I hope you’ve read your books over the summer?!) so I got this one and my daughter got The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and we swapped (review to follow)!

Billy and Me and its sequel Always With Love is about Sophie May, a girl who lives in a small village and works in the local tea shop. Apparently she has a big secret that has burdened her and made her a bit of a recluse, stopping her from going to university or going anywhere really. She reads a lot and one of her favourite books in Pride and Prejudice. She discovers that they are filming an adaptation of the book at the local ‘big’ house and is hoping that Mr Darcy will be played by Jude Law who she has a celeb crush on.

She is lamenting this fact to a cute bloke who has come in for a cuppa when some school girls realise that she is talking to the famous Hollywood actor Billy Buskin and that he must be the one who has got the lead role #awkward

He takes a liking to her and they start seeing each other. She helps him with his lines and he takes her on romantic picnics and life is good until, filming finishes and he needs to get back to London to continue with his swanky lifestyle.

Sophie quickly decides to go with him and moves in to his bachelor pad while he gets the lead role in a play. Sophie misses her mum and her old boss and friend Molly and begins to get jealous of the amount time Billy spends doing actor things.  She is pretty insecure and he doesn’t really help the situation. Anyway, things get a bit confused. Sophie May gives up her secret (which doesn’t turn out to be too shocking) and there’s a couple of twists and turns, most notably his horrible manager and the new lead role he gets in a blockbuster film with his gorgeous ex girlfriend.

If you like a good old romance then this is for you. Sophie annoyed me though, she was little too insecure and gave in too easily to keep Billy happy; I hope that women today are little bit more independent then that! The author really does give us a glimpse into what it must be like to be in a relationship with someone that is in the public eye, she is married to Tom Fletcher from Busted after all. Oh, and my daughter loved it and has also read Always with Love, which I now don’t need to read as she kept squealing and giving me spoilers all the way through it!

Also, be ready with tissues at the end, it is a real sobfest! it is also a secret fantasy of us all (go on admit it!) to be swept off our feet by a gorgeous Hollywood actor but it seems that it isn’t always as good as we think when reality kicks in.

Further reading: Always with Love and anything by Giovanna Fletcher and any other soppy romance!

Further watching: An Officer and a Gentleman and Dirty Dancing and probably Pretty Woman too. All the classics!