The Orchid Caper – Book Review

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(image via http://www.pexels.com)

Title: The Orchid Caper
Author: Connie B. Dowell
eBook: 13 Chapters
Published: May 11th 2017 by Book Echoes Media
My Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary (From Goodreads): A down-on-her luck burglar, a trust fund college kid with something to prove. Will they outfox a master thief?

All eighteen-year-old Darlene wants is to rob the joint. College guy Ian comes home too soon. And some ill-timed flatulence brings them together. Darlene thinks she’s toast. Instead Ian gives her a job offer, leading a heist team to steal a rare species of vanilla orchid. Only catch, she’s swiping from one of the best thieves in the biz.

With her dad’s store on its last legs, Darlene needs the cash she’ll get when the job is done. Ian’s in it to win a bet. Can their rag-tag team pinch the flower right under their mark’s nose? And can they remember not to eat beans for breakfast?

The Orchid Caper is the first in a humorous YA action/adventure series. If you love action with a sense of humour, this is the book for you.

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

Here goes:

This book was…interesting. The plot was, for me, too simplistic for a YA heist novel; I feel that it could have worked better as a children’s novel. It was made up of coincidence after coincidence and just didn’t ring quite true for me.

“An expert had plopped ready-made into our laps”

 

It also felt rushed – I finished it overnight, in about 4-5 hours. For a YA novel, I would expect the subplots to be fleshed out a little bit more. There were too few scenes between Darlene and Annabelle for me to really feel the antagonism between them. However, I could readily believe Ian and Aidan, and their wager felt (ridiculous as it seems) more realistic.

My other issue was Darlene and Ian, the main characters; I didn’t like them. I couldn’t relate to either of them. Darlene felt too ditzy for me and Ian was just…irritating. Despite this, they both had distinct narrative voices, with Ian being well-spoken (to the point that I felt he’d swallowed a thesaurus) and Darlene using more common terms.

That being said, the rest of the cast was BRILLIANT.
Clyde was actually my favourite by the end because I can relate to him personally – I do ballet. I know how few men do ballet in day to day life and how it can actually enhance your stamina. As someone who has done it for years, I loved him as a character. (Also, kudos for the actual ballet terminology being used; that was a nice touch).

Chad was possibly the only character that managed to make me crack a smile. A favourite scene of mine is where he is holding a conversation with a lady and simultaneously trying to figure out if she could be his great-grandma. He reminded me a lot of Leo from the Heroes of Olympus series, to get an idea of his character.

Rita reminded me strongly of “Gangster Granny” – she fills that stereotype very well. I think I cracked a couple of smiles when reading her and her no-nonsense attitude.

Another person that didn’t get fleshed out enough was Judy – I feel that she could have been one of my favourite characters, had she been given a bit more screen time.

The beginning of the book felt flat for me; however, when I got past about the 40% mark, the pace picked up and I found that I could enjoy what I was reading without picking it apart. The heist itself was enjoyable to read, and I do love reading books with a team of characters, all with different skills to bring to the table.

Little bits of it made me smile – I especially liked the moment where Darlene is recounting the missions that Rita sent them on and apparently they had to switch over the cartridges of black and blue pens as a joke.

In all, I’m giving this book a solid 3/5 – I enjoyed it, but there were a few issues (for me) that I couldn’t overlook.

Anyone else read a book similar?

Holly xx

Ranking the Retellings – Peter Pan

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As you may know, Peter Pan is my all-time favourite story.

Off the back of my Hook review, I realised that I have actually read more retellings of the tale than I care to admit – some were good, some bad, and some just plain weird.

I’m sure there must be more than just me out here who love the story, so I figured that I would rank the retellings that I have read in order for you!

This will go from my personal worst to best.

8) Wendy by Karen Wallace
I don’t remember much of this one; just that it didn’t take place in Neverland and that I gave it 2 stars when I read it. The author tries to bring themes of mental illness in as an explanation for not growing up, but I feel like the book lacked the magic that made me want to turn the pages. It’s disappointing to say the least.

7) Hook’s Daughter by Heidi Schulz
This one I remember a bit more of – it’s based on Jocelyn Hook and her adventures to Neverland, to avenge her father. It’s definitely more on the children’s fiction rather than YA, which could account for why I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed others. The story is simplistic and Peter is an annoying brat, rather than the deeply twisted character that I’ve come to know.

6) Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean
This is actually the official sequel to Peter Pan, and all proceeds from it went to Great Ormond Street Hospital, whom J.M. Barrie left the copyrights to. It marks an interesting character journey for Peter – but he is, as always, still a child. Most of the cast from the original book return, and it’s all round an adventure that captivated me when I read it; it’s just not my absolute favourite.

5) Capt. Hook (The Adventures of a Notorious Youth) by J.V. Hart
I enjoyed this one when I read it the first time, and it can be interchanged easily with number 4 on this list. My main problem is that it doesn’t take us all the way up to the events of Peter Pan; instead, it focuses on a slower pace, giving us all of the adventures of Hook. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it got on my nerves. (Also, there was a love interest who just…didn’t make sense. It was unrealistic, and kinda pointless in my honest opinion.)

4) The Child Thief by Brom
This is the weird one. It’s such a dark retelling and *spoiler alert* pretty much everyone dies. It’s definitely high fantasy and contains plenty of weird and wonderful creatures and characters. Also, the only character from the original is Peter. No Wendy, a girl who is strikingly similar to Tiger Lily, and as far as I can remember, no Tink.

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The illustrations for this book are both beautiful and terrifying

 

3) Hook by K.R. Thompson
There’s a whole review on why I like this one; check it out here. It has a backstory of why Hook is Hook and it just…makes so much sense? It fills the hole that has been gaping for years for me.

2) Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
My favourite book of all time. Seriously, I loved it when I read it at age 13, and I love it now. Tiger Lily is one of the only books that I have ever felt the need to re-read, and I don’t think I can bear to part with the story. It covers so many topics that most people ignore or gloss over, which leads people to plaster a ’16+’ label on it, but really, any reader above the age of 12-13 who is mature can read and enjoy this book.

1) Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Much as I love Tiger Lily, the original book will always come on top. It makes me giggle in places every time I read it, and it never fails to blow me away. The character of Peter is so fascinating to me and I discover new passages that I may have glossed over every time. My copy is also very small and pretty which helps!

So, I hope you enjoyed that – anyone agree or disagree??
If you have a Peter Pan retelling that you think I’d enjoy, please leave it in the comments below!

Also, I’m going to link a Tumblr post here that I made a while back – it contains as many adaptations and me and a friend could think of, both book and film. Feel free to add to it!

Holly xx

Geekerella – Book Review

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(image via http://www.pexels.com)

Title: Geekerella
Author: Ashley Poston
Paperback: 319 pages
Published: April 4th 2017 by QUIRK BOOKS
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Anything can happen once upon a con…

When geek girl Elle Wittimer sees a cosplay contest sponsored by the producers of Starfield, she has to enter. First prize is an invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. Elle’s been scraping together tips from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck behind her stepmother’s back, and winning this contest could be her ticket out once and for all—not to mention a fangirl’s dream come true.

Teen actor Darien Freeman is less than thrilled about this year’s ExcelsiCon. He used to live for conventions, but now they’re nothing but jaw-aching photo sessions and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Federation Prince Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the diehard Starfield fandom has already dismissed him as just another heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, closet nerd Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

GUYS.

GUYS THIS WAS SO CUTE.

Oh, I loved this book so much. I finished it in a day.

I actually couldn’t care less about some of my smaller gripes about characterization; the plot and lead characters were so good they make up for it.

The plot does follow our very basic Cinderella story – Elle goes to the ball in a ‘coach’, with her punk fairy godmother and has to leave at 9 o’clock to get home, leaving her slipper on the steps.
She was relatable, a complete nerd with a Tragic Backstory – and I just, she appealed to me. I got SO angry on her behalf at her Evil Stepmother and one of her step-sisters. Elle is just one of those protagonists that I can’t help empathising with.
(Also, Elle is short for Danielle, which I found new!)

Her handsome prince? A teen actor by the name of Darien Freeman, who can’t seem to catch a break from the press, the poor sod. He also has a bit of a Tragic Backstory, and definitely parental issues. I could also relate to him; maybe not as strongly as I could to Elle, but I also got SO ANGRY on his behalf at THE WORLD.

The cast of supporting characters is stellar – my absolute favourite is Sage. She is Elle’s workmate and throughout the novel their relationship develops into friendship and I adore her crazy personality.
She fills the role of fairy godmother and I wish more books had characters like her in them – punk girls with piercings and hearts of gold.
I also loved Calliope, Elle’s other stepsister, who does a complete 180 throughout the book and ends up supporting her. (She also gets together with Sage, but their relationship is so downplayed and normalised, I love it.)

Gail is memorable, but I feel like she didn’t get enough screen-time (page-time? who knows) and deserves more credit. She has a crazy life, trying to keep Darien in check and on time, bless her. I would’ve liked to see their relationship developed a little more.
Same goes for Lonny, who is like a huge teddy bear. He made me laugh multiple times whilst reading and he’s like the big bro that every character needs.

Onto the main subject of the book: Geekery.

Fandoms. Cons. Nerd culture.

This is my CALLING.

This book is very much a “love letter to nerd culture” – there were so many references that made my heart sing. (My favourite was “On your left!”).
The fandom of this book is Starfield, a fictional TV programme that I believe is a bit like Star Trek with the special effects of Red Dwarf. If it was real, I can assure you that I would be watching it.

Reading about people’s love for fandoms and books is like wrapping up in a warm blanket and sipping hot chocolate; it feels like home. I have spent countless hours on Pinterest and Tumblr, read (and written) fanfiction for so many different series. This book manages to encapsulate all of that.

It’s also made me determined to attend ComiCon, at least once.

Also to cosplay. Any suggestions for a girl who’s 5’2?

Anyway, I ADORED this book and it warmed my heart. Highly recommended!

Holly xx

 

 

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Book Review

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(image via http://www.pexels.com)

Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Author: Sarah Barnard
Paperback: 307 pages
Published: January 12th 2017 by Macmillan Children’s Books
My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

Whilst I loved this book, I’ve found myself knocking off a star for unresolved subplots and minor characters who only appear once.

Rhys’s friends, for example; they appear once, and are then never spoken of again. Also Meg. She seemed pretty cool and I wanted to see more of her.

Sadly, we didn’t get that.

What we did get though, was some brilliant character development through Steffi. Before reading this book, I only had a basic idea of what selective mutism is. It was interesting from that perspective; mutism isn’t a widely spoken of disability, and this book did a great job of explaining it.

She starts out shy and ends up still being shy and having social anxiety – however, she has found her voice. She can use her voice when she needs to. And that’s the main plot.

Also, I loved the relationship between Steffi and Rhys. Not gonna lie, it did feel a little bit like insta-love, but it was adorable and I felt that they genuinely loved each other. The love also started out as friendship, which earns bonus points!

At points, I did feel like the book revolved around the relationship – it felt like Steffi and Rhys were only interested in one another, and all of the other characters faded into the background. I get that in the early stages of a relationship, the couple do tend to focus on one another; this one felt like it was going a little overboard, but that’s just my personal feelings.

Steffi has a best friend, Tem (short for September), who feels a little bit like a token character and makes up the racial diversity of the novel. Actually, she does have a boyfriend, Karam, for a bit and he’s Asian, which is a little bit more diversity, but honestly, there wasn’t a whole load.

Steffi and Tem speak about things other than boys, I think – I don’t remember very well, it’s been a couple of weeks since I read the book! The conversations that I remember were about Rhys and Karam, however they did talk about other things – they pass the Bechdel Test!

Plenty of themes are explored in this book – I just think that maybe too many were taken on. Disability, racism, broken families, death, sex; a lot was covered in what is a relatively short book. It does all link together quite well, but I felt rushed when reading the novel.

In all, I did really enjoy this book – it just didn’t tie up enough loose ends for me. I will admit, I cried in the final scene at the graveyard, and smiled at parts and laughed out loud at parts. It just isn’t quite up there on my all-time favourites list (But it’s probably in my Top 30).

Any other thoughts on this one?

Holly xx

An Update!

Hey guys!
As we all know, it’s exam season.

Which means that I am having to put it a lot of revision if I want to pass my exams (which I do!)

My exams are actually over the course of nine days, starting Monday next week, so I should be back to posting a little more regularly after that.

I do have a couple of reviews in the works (namely A Quiet Kind of Thunder) and, as always, a reading list a MILE LONG.

I’m actually halfway through a bunch of books (including Les Mis, which I started in March 2016, put down in October and haven’t picked up again – I will finish it, I swear!) so there will probably be a flood of reviews once I have time to just…sit and write them, I guess!

On that note, I’ll be back properly soon and thanks for your patience!

GOOD LUCK to anyone else sitting anything at this time of year!!! Let me know how you think your exams go!!

Holly xx

Kid Got Shot – Book Review

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(image via pixabay.com)

Title: Kid Got Shot
Author: Simon Mason
Paperback: 392 pages
Published: October 2016 by David Flickling Books
My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary (From Goodreads): Meet Garvie Smith. Reprobate, genius, waster, and sometime detective. Right in the middle of revision hell – until now. A boy from Marsh Academy has been shot, with no clear motive and no clues. Disgraced DI Singh is on the case, and he’s determined to keep Garvie away. But Garvie knows he’s the only one who has any idea where to look for the answers. Starting with his best friend’s girlfriend. And it’s going to take more than pointless revision or flunking his exams to stop him getting involved. Exams. What exams?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I do love a good mystery.

This one is fascinating, just like the last and it kept me guessing right up to the last second. There were three main suspects and I genuinely couldn’t make my mind up which one it was, until it was revealed. I actually discounted the murderer because I thought it was too obvious!

The main character, Garvie Smith, is one of my favourite characters in literature. The tagline for the book sums him up pretty well:

Garvie Smith

Like Sherlock – but lazier

If you want an idea of his character, think Kaz Brekker, but in our world and bored out of his mind with school.

His friends Felix and Smudge never fail to make me laugh. They’re like the three musketeers, just more modern, younger and with slightly more questionable methods. Felix is essentially a cat burglar (which I found hilarious, because Felix the cat) and his specialty is picking locks. Smudge is the stereotypical ‘dumb friend’ and his dubious specialty is reading people.

Our other main character is DI Singh, a Sikh police officer (and I will say it: this book has a lot of diversity and it is BRILLIANT) who was disgraced after the last case because Garvie interferes with everything. He’s uptight and follows the law to the letter. Turns out, he is also trained in (I think) martial arts and is brilliant in a fight. Like, he’s a total badass at the end of the book, but shh spoilers!

Garvie and Singh’s relationship developed in this book to almost friendly? Singh actually treated him like a partner in places (they did argue, we do still have that aspect) and they worked together to solve the mystery.

Another character that I always feel infinitely sorry for is Garvie’s mother. That poor woman. In this book, we had the obligatory scene where they have a heart-to-heart (and although expected, it still made me tear up a little bit). Afterwards, I thought that Garvie might actually go to his exams – spoiler alert, he did not, and I wanted to punch him multiple times.

This book also saw the introduction of more characters. Zuzana, for one. She’s Garvie’s mate’s girlfriend and she’s from Poland (again, diversity!). Also, she’s pretty smart. On a level with Garvie almost. I do have a bit of a problem in that she’s reduced to a love-interest-come-villain, but she’s fascinating enough.

Our victim is a school boy called Pyotor, who is also Polish. He falls on the autistic spectrum too, and most of what he faced from people is true in real life. I feel like this murder is more likely to have happened in real life than in the last book, but the circumstances are less realistic.

Khalid and Sajid are Asian, I believe, and it is kind of stereotypical that they run a corner shop, but I mean, it’s realistic that it gets broken into. Racism is tackled in this book, specifically the type of racism that happens in England. I’m not so sure about other countries, but people from elsewhere in Europe (Poland, mostly but there are plenty of others) face a lot of racism. This book calls people out on it and on the effects of it – it’s worth the read, seeing how people are attacked.

Again, I did love this book and it was well worth the read. I look forward to any more in this series!

Holly xx

Holiday Haul!

Basically, I have no self-control and a bunch of book shop gift vouchers left over from Christmas, so I came home with a much heavier case than when I went. Whilst I was away, I picked up quite a few books…

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I’m actually already part way through one of them, and so far I am really enjoying it. The others are by recommendation or because I loved the cover.

Here we go!

Plague by Michael Grant
Series: Gone series
Obtained: Bought from Oxfam (charity shop that specializes in books)
Genre: Sci-Fi dystopia
Right, so technically this one is cheating because I’ve already read it, but I’ve been looking for my own copy of this book for AGES. I read the series a couple of years ago by borrowing from the school library, but since then I’ve been collecting the set for myself by finding them in charity shops for £2 each. This holiday, I finally found Plague, my favourite book in the series, and the last one I need!!

Kid Got Shot by Simon Mason
Series: The Garvie Smith Mysteries
Obtained: Bought from Waterstones
Genre: Crime/Mystery
I loved Running Girl when I read it and so far I am loving the sequel. Garvie remains as sarcastic as ever and already I’m caught up in the twists and turns of the mystery.

Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Series: None
Obtained: Bought from Waterstones
Genre: Romance/Contemporary
I am so excited to read this one. Again, I’m a sucker for a good retelling and even if Cinderella isn’t one of my all time favourites, I still love reading something with a bit of magic. The fact that it’s nerd-based is just an added bonus.

The House of Mountfathom by Nigel McDowell
Series: None
Obtained: Bought from Waterstones
Genre: Fantasy
…so maybe I picked this one up because of the cover. It reminds me strangely of The Lie Tree (which I am yet to read) and The Grimm Legacy (which I love). Hopefully the story is as good as the cover!

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Series: None
Obtained: Bought from an independent book store
Genre: Historical, WW1
My Lit teacher goes on about this book and how it links to the texts I’m studying, which got me curious. I’ll admit, this isn’t my usual choice, but I do enjoy a historical novel now and then.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Series: None
Obtained: Bought from Waterstones
Genre: Contemporary
Again, wanted to read this one for a long time, it seems like a light-hearted enough book so I’m looking forward to it. I adore the fact that it has the sign language alphabet on the inside of the cover (and counting to ten in the back) and it looks like such a sweet read.

I reckon Kid Got Shot and Geekerella will be read quite quickly – the others, I’m not so sure about, but hopefully once my exams are over (under a month now! Eek!) I can power through them.

That’s all for now!

Holly xx