I LOVE books like this! It's written in diary format, it's funny and witty and one of the best contemporary YA books I've read with a male lead. Strai...moreI LOVE books like this! It's written in diary format, it's funny and witty and one of the best contemporary YA books I've read with a male lead. Straight away Boys Don't Knit had me laughing out loud, and from the first mention of Ben's little sister eating tadpoles, I knew I was on to a winner! Needless to say I laughed my way through the rest of the book, alternately chuckling like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory and full-on guffawing like a mad person. It's very, very amusing.
The plot itself is something new, too. Ben had a bit of a run-in with a lollipop lady thanks to his wayward cycling skills, and ends up having to choose an extra curricular class for his probation. There's not much choice, so he picks knitting (mainly so he can avoid his crush's mum who he thinks takes another class. Turns out she takes knitting). He soon finds that he's actually really, genuinely good at knitting and could actually make a career of it and win some competitions. But, wait! He can't possibly tell his dad because he just wouldn't understand. I've never read a book about a boy who takes up knitting, so I was pleasantly surprised with this one. Of course that's not the only arrow in Ben's bow, so to speak, but it's a pretty big part of his life. And a rather interesting one, too!
I really liked Ben; he's witty, sharp-tongued and just a generally nice guy. He has a questionable group of friends with even more questionable names (Joz and Gex, for example), who are thought of as the resident town hooligans, but even they have their nice sides and often have his back when school bullies are on the warpath. He also has a hilarious parental unit, one that is rather fond of double entendres and innuendos (chuckle). There's also a smattering of romance thrown in and an unlikely budding friendship with the lollipop lady he almost killed - nothing is ever simple for Ben!
T. S. Easton has written a hugely enjoyable book with Boys Don't Knit, one that I hope will appeal to boys and girls alike. There's a sequel due at some point, titled An English Boy in New York, and I for one can't wait to read it and see what madcap stuff Ben and Co. get up to next. I'm sure it will be hilarious, occasionally daft and downright entertaining, much like this book and all the characters within its pages!(less)
Beauty is the last of Sarah Pinborough's twisted fairytale retellings (sob, weep etc.). It's a fantastic book to end the series on, just as good as Po...moreBeauty is the last of Sarah Pinborough's twisted fairytale retellings (sob, weep etc.). It's a fantastic book to end the series on, just as good as Poison and Charm and, if possible, darker and more messed up than Snow White and Cinderella's respective stories. Old characters return, beloved fairytale heroes connect in magical ways and the tales come full circle... or do they? This book is set before the others, which means Poison and Charm become a lot clearer following the events of Beauty.
Beauty is the story of Sleeping Beauty with some Beauty and the Beast thrown in for good measure. There's actually several fairytales and their characters featured, but I'll leave those as a nice reader surprise. I love how Pinborough weaves stories within stories, beautifully decadent and written with an ease and precision that is a joy for everyone. Her characters are real, their histories often heartbreaking and their intentions usually very far from good. You can probably tell that I ADORE this series!
I of course have to mention Les Edwards again, the man responsible for illustrating these books and making them a visual treat. Pinborough's words would be like spun gold by themselves, but the ink illustrations make them all the more appealing. Beauty is a fantastic conclusion to this series which has fast become one of my favourites. I'm going to have to re-read all three books now to fully experience the giant story, and I can't wait to pick up on things I missed the first time around. I can't recommend these book enough: go forth and read!(less)
Weirdos vs. Quimboids is Natasha Desborough's debut YA novel and is a perfect fit for fans of Louise Rennison and Sue Limb who, in my eyes, are the Qu...moreWeirdos vs. Quimboids is Natasha Desborough's debut YA novel and is a perfect fit for fans of Louise Rennison and Sue Limb who, in my eyes, are the Queens of Comedy. It's laugh-out-loud funny, clever and quirkier than one of Paloma Faith's hats. I defy anyone to read this book and not laugh.
Blossom Uxley-Michaels is cursed with the initials BUM, mad hippie parents and a best friend called Petrina who actually drools when talking to her crush. It's embarrassment all round for this unlikely lot, whether it be at school during trampoline club or at home being wedged between parents and unable to escape watching programmed about sex. Talk about red-faced shame - poor Blossom has much more than her fair share!
Blossom is a hilarious heroine, reminiscent of Georgia Nicolson's early years and her quest to understand teenage types. She basically puts her foot in it on a daily basis, gets all kinds of food stuck in her braces and pandas to Petrina's lutraphobia - yep, that's the word for a genuine phobia of otters. Who ever said books don't teach you random facts?! On top of all that, Blossom and Petrina form a moderately successful rock band called Camel Toe. Make of that what you will, dear readers, but know that it provides a LOT of funny moments.
I'm happily putting Blossom Uxley-Michaels in the same boat as Georgia Nicolson and Jess Jordan, now my three favourite funny fictional females. I'm hoping there'll be a sequel at some point, as I obviously need to know more about what happens to Camel Toe and their quest for world musical domination. So, just to reiterate: this book is VERY FUNNY and COMPLETELY MAD. Read at your own risk - there's a 95% chance you'll end up snorting a drink through your nose when you see the word penazzle. You have been warned.
Charm is the second book in Sarah Pinborough's series of dark, sexy fairy retellings and is the story of Cinderella. This series quickly became one of...moreCharm is the second book in Sarah Pinborough's series of dark, sexy fairy retellings and is the story of Cinderella. This series quickly became one of my favourites after reading the first book, Poison, in May, and Charm has further cemented that. They're five-star reads all round.
Charm has everything you know about the Cinderalla fairytale: two ugly(ish) stepsisters, a Prince, a fairy godmother and a glass slipper. What it doesn't have is a sugary sweet happy ending courtesy of Disney, which is one of the reasons I love these books so much. They're dark, twisted and a little bit naughty - not at all what you'd imagine these fairytales to be like.
To top it all off, Sarah Pinborough's writing is ridiculously good: elegant and effortless while all the time maintaining a certain sense of foreboding and unease. A certain scene in Charm involving a little toe is rather on the shocking side, but it just goes to show how truly dark this author can be. These are not fairytales as we know and love them, but wow are they a welcome change of pace!
Charm's pages are filled with delightful characters and wicked imagery that leaves an unsettling feeling in its wake. It's well-written, addictive, sharp, everything I could possibly want from a book. Beauty is published in mid-October and I am literally counting down the days. I want it and I want it now!(less)
Undeniable is a great read and is, if possible, miles better than Liz's first book Irresistible. It's hot and addictive and I wish we had more British...moreUndeniable is a great read and is, if possible, miles better than Liz's first book Irresistible. It's hot and addictive and I wish we had more British fiction like this. I think it's been labelled as New Adult, but I'm not sure I'd put it into that category myself. Aside from a couple of steamy scenes and a seventeen-year-old protagonist, there's not much new or adult going here. Whatever labels you want to give it, there's no denying that it's a fantastic teen read that I'm sure will fly off the shelves.
Gabi moves to London for a summer internship as a runner on a popular teen TV show (great setting!), The Halls, about a group of students. She's getting over a break up and doesn't intend to even look at the opposite sex, until she meets the delightful Spencer. His curly hair and slightly bad boy attitude hooks her and slowly she's drawn into his world. Honestly, reading this is like watching a 90's teen film with your friends. Fun!
I liked all the characters in this book, especially Gabi. I initially thought she could be irritating, but she's not. Instead she's funny and clumsy, kind of like an older version of Georgia Nicolson, and comes out with some hilarious one-liners. She's a little naive when it comes to new boys and knowing what she (and he!) wants, but I think that's understandable at her age. Spencer was my next favourite and, although I don't necessarily think he's right for Gabi, he isn't your typical wannabe actor boy. He also has a great sense of humour and is caring and kind, though his only downfall is that he's blinded by the impending glitz and glam that accompanies young stars of a TV show.
There are lots of other characters too, all well-rounded and realistic. Gabi's friends, Mia, Rosie and Nish are especially well realised and, if you've read Irresistible, you'll already be familiar with Mia. Gabi's Grandma also features in Undeniable, and she's a kooky, cool lady who's dealing with her own life obstacles. Gabi's story unfolds throughout the whole of this book, mostly through conversations with her friends and an excellent use of flashbacks. I felt sorry for her at times, but I could also see that she made the right decision, regardless of the fallout.
Undeniable is an intelligent, quick read that is perfect for teenagers (age 15+, as the back cover says). Once I started reading I couldn't put it down and, even now, I'm still craving more. I hope Liz Bankes and her books get the recognition they deserve, as she really is an author to watch when it comes to British YA fiction. I'm eagerly awaiting her next book, and I hope it's as good as this one!(less)
I read Paper Aeroplanes in a few hours; it's a compulsive read with well-drawn, realistic characters and situations and writing that drew me from page...moreI read Paper Aeroplanes in a few hours; it's a compulsive read with well-drawn, realistic characters and situations and writing that drew me from page one. If I didn't know better I wouldn't have pegged Dawn O'Porter as a debut novelist - it doesn't show at all, but that's what she is. As far as debut novels go, this is a great one she should be very proud of.
Paper Aeroplanes is quite simple when you analyse it, but sometimes the simplest stories have more heart than giant elaborate ones. It's about two fifteen-year-old girls, Renee and Flo, living in Guernsey in 1994. Told in alternating narratives, each girl's story unfolds equally and soon I couldn't help but love both of them. I love books that include two points of view, and this one does it well.
Friendship is at the heart of this story, though family is also a huge part of it. Any girl will know exactly what Renee and Flo are going through, it took me back to being fifteen and sometimes feeling more alone than I actually was. It's a time of change for any teenagers and Dawn O'Porter has embodied that so well here, thanks in part to her own teenage diaries she unearthed and used as inspiration when writing the book. There are plenty of embarrassing, cringeworthy moments that girls will be all too familiar with (sigh), but there's also a sense of belonging and that everything really will be ok in the end.
Loss is a major theme running through Paper Aeroplanes, which is something that a lot of readers will be familiar with. Although it isn't my favourite subject to read about, I do think it's important to include it and get it out there, as who knows how many teenagers a book like this will help and comfort. Losing anybody is heartbreaking and difficult, and this book captures the subsequent feelings perfectly.
I enjoyed getting to know Flo and Renee and being in their lives for this most important snapshot of their teen years. Paper Aeroplanes is an honest portrayal of what it's like to experiment and discover new things, as well as shining a light on the feelings of fear and despair when life doesn't quite go to plan. Here's another YA author I'll be keeping an eye on - I'm expecting great things to come!(less)
I first read parts of the Diary of a Crush series when it was serialised monthly in J17 magazine many years ago, then when it was published in novel f...moreI first read parts of the Diary of a Crush series when it was serialised monthly in J17 magazine many years ago, then when it was published in novel format in 2004. I loved it the first time round and when I saw that it was being republished and updated, I was pretty excited. I won't lie. Nostalgia is the first feeling I got when I re-read it; I think I was in college the first time so I was a lot younger, maybe seventeen. I've changed a lot since then, as has my reading tastes, but I still enjoyed French Kiss. I wasn't sure if I would, but that old love for Edie and Dylan is still there.
Reading it again at age twenty-six, I noticed some things I didn't notice when I was first introduced to Edie and her super crush on Dylan. For starters, I now see just how obsessed Edie is with him. It's obsession to the point of irritation, but I suppose that's what crushes are like, aren't they? Though I must admit, I've never semi-stalked anyone like Edie has - that must definitely be a teenage thing! Also, Dylan is seriously *such* an idiot! He treats Edie so badly, often with no explanation as to why and, honestly, it's a miracle she continued to pursue him. Though, hey, teenage boys are very hard to figure out - am I right?!
I also picked up on the writing, and how it's not the best I've ever read. Still, it was Sarra Manning's first foray into writing anything expect magazine articles and, when you bear that in mind, it's good. Easy to read and fairly simple, but good and enjoyable all the same. Sarra Manning writes like she's still a teen herself; she knows all the ins and outs of their minds, what clothes they wear and what's popular. She's nothing if not authentic.
In this updated edition, some pop culture references have been changed (bye bye Leo DiCaprio, hello Ryan Gosling), bits of her writing has been tweaked (I think she mentioned some dodgy sentence structures in her author notes) and Edie and Dylan have generally been brought forward by a decade and a bit. It's about time this got an overhaul, as now it will appeal to a whole new teenage audience who probably haven't even heard of J17 magazine! Wow, now I feel old...
Anyway, if you read the original when it was published, then I suggest you pick up a copy of this edition and re-read it. The nostalgia will be in full force, along with a glaring realisation that you're glad you're no longer a teenager, consumed by drama and boys who have sticky up hair and a nonchalant attitude. I may even buy the next two books in this series and see what other changes have been made. I just can't help myself!(less)
This Northern Sky is yet another brilliantly written book from Julia Green. It's the third I've read by her and is equally as good as Breathing Underw...moreThis Northern Sky is yet another brilliantly written book from Julia Green. It's the third I've read by her and is equally as good as Breathing Underwater and Drawing with Light, keeping me hooked all the way through and making it seem like summer is truly here! The whole novel takes place in the Hebredes (islands off the coast of Scotland, I believe), as Kate holidays there with her mum and dad over her summer break from school. The island and weather is described so vividly it's like you're there, and even travel-hating me now quite fancies visiting the islands.
Julia Green really is a fantastic writer, everything flows so smoothly and her prose is lyrical and lovely. That's the only way I can describe it. She is, in my opinion, grossly underrated, and should be more recognised for her teen novels. I've always thought she was like the UK's answer to Sarah Dessen, and I'll happily say that again. She writes very true, keeping her characters and plots realistic and easy to believe; she never strays into the unbelievable, which is another aspect of her writing that I love. It's just straight-up, down to earth teen realism - her characters have flaws and they know it. I wish there was more YA fiction like this, just because it's so relatable and accessible.
Along with Kate's endless exploration of the Hebredes, she's also dealing with her mum and dad's marital problems, a past boyfriend and a group of new friends. Feelings are complicated and present and, for her fifteen years, she's experiencing a lot of hard stuff. Not every family is perfect - far from it - and This Northern Sky does an excellent job of highlighting that. It makes Kate's story that much more grounded, knowing that she's going through something that thousands of families go through. For the record, I really liked her mum and dad, even through all their faults. They're a realistic family unit, which is something I'd like to see more of in contemporary teen fiction.
Another thing I like about Julia Green's novels is that romance and love isn't the be all and end all of her characters. They don't live by it or let it define them; they're their own person and I appreciate that. Romance doesn't have to always take centre stage, sometimes simple friendship can be just as important, especially at a younger age. See, there's that realism creeping in again!
I can't recommend Julia Green's books enough, and I'll be catching up with a few I've missed, starting with Bringing the Summer. I hope she continues to write books like this, and I hope she eventually gets more recognition. She's an unsung YA hero, in my opinion, quietly writing ridiculously good books that seem to be overlooked in the sea of young adult fiction. If you like contemporary fiction, or just fancy reading a good story, pick up one of her books. I think you'll love them as much as I do.(less)