Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Over the summer I have read a fair bit of contemporary YA. One that has particularly resonated with me is Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel.

To be honest, I don’t normally read books which deal with grief. It has been a subject that I have shied away from in the past, always thinking it was too depressing to read about. Having experienced the loss of my mum in January, I now know first-hand what it is like to grieve and so I decided it was high time I started reading books that deal with this theme. Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index follows Juniper in the months after her sister’s death and what really drew me to it was the idea of the happiness index cards.

The Christmas before she died, Juniper’s sister, Camilla, gave her a set of index cards and told her to keep a happiness index. Each day Juniper writes down her happiness score out of 10 and lists what happened to her that day followed by a + or – sign. Since Camilla was killed in a tragic car accident, Juniper has been using the cards to help her get through her grief. Then one day she forgets to fill one out and then it goes missing. Can Juniper find the card before someone else does and discovers a secret she carries about her sister. Continue reading “Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index”

Book Review: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe

One of the books I purchased at YALC was an advanced copy of Lauren James’s new book, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. It isn’t officially published until September but already there is a lot of hype surrounding it and there was a lot of buzz at YALC for it too. The cover is simply gorgeous – black with purple, green and silver shiny light strobes which catch your eye instantly. One look at it and I was in love, so it was inevitable that I would end up getting it.

I must confess here that until YALC I wasn’t aware of Lauren James. Turns out I must have been living under a rock as she’s pretty big on the YALC scene. She led the Unconventional Romance panel at YALC and she was so funny, confident and seemed really down to earth, so I definitely want to read her earlier books, The Next Together and The Last Beginning.

Reading the blurb of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe it promised romance, space travel and some sort of mystery. Intrigued, I couldn’t wait to get started on it. The book is only 290 pages long, so you can easily fly through it. I’m sure most people will probably read it in a day.

Centered around sixteen-year-old Romy Silvers, commander of the spaceship, The Infinity, the story unfolds as Romy eagerly awaits the arrival of a second spaceship, The Eternity, commanded by the charming J. Romy has been alone since her parents died five years ago and when she loses connection with Earth, her loneliness only intensifies. As she counts down the days until The Eternity arrives, we see her struggle with nightmares from her past and share her growing panic as she learns about a war on Earth which results in a new government called the UPR. Romy is distrustful of the UPR and their cold, impersonal emails. As each day passes by their demands become more and more prohibitive and Romy starts to suffer as a result. The only thing that keeps her going is day-dreaming about the day The Eternity arrives and she can finally meet J.

Sci-fi isn’t my usual genre, but I really enjoyed the setting of this book. James describes the ship in such detail that I felt like I was there with Romy. There are several twists and turns as the story unfolds and it definitely kept me guessing. Towards the latter half of the book there were parts that had me biting my nails in trepidation. James did a brilliant job of creating suspense and keeping you on the edge of your seat.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe covers many genres – as well as sci-fi there are elements of romance, thriller and the book also touches on mental health. Romy makes for a great heroine – she is brave, clever and self-sufficient but she is also vulnerable and is often plagued by self-doubt. It is impossible not to care about her and hope that she finds her happily ever after.

I really enjoyed The Loneliest Girl in the Universe as something different to read. If you enjoy sci-fi and/or thrillers then this book should be on your to-be-read list. James is a good storyteller and I look forward to reading her other books now. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe is published on 7 September by Walker Books.

YALC

Last Saturday I ticked something off my bucket list – I finally went to YALC. For those of you not in the know, YALC is the Young Adult Literature Convention, which takes place within London Film and Comic Con. A weekend dedicated to all things YA, it is basically a YA lover’s dream.

I have wanted to go to YALC since I discovered it existed and this year I decided to go for it and buy a ticket. Having ever only read about it through blogs and tweets, I didn’t know what exactly to expect, but it turned out to be the best day of the year so far, without question.

When I first arrived I was slightly overwhelmed. There were just so many books! Yes, it is a book convention, but I never imagined there would be so many. All the big publishing names had a stand and they all had offers. And did I mention the freebies? Bookmarks, badges, posters, flyers…there was so much amazing bookish swag that I felt like I was in heaven. Continue reading “YALC”

A Day Out in Anstruther

What is there to do in the summer in Scotland? Head off to the seaside, of course!

I’ve been on holiday this week, so naturally I have been itching to get out and explore. Tuesday happened to be one of the hottest days of the year, but unfortunately my other half was working and our little seaside voyage couldn’t take place until the next day. Needless to say, come Wednesday the skies were grey, the wind was up and the temperature was back down to Baltic. Okay, that last part was maybe a bit of an exaggeration, but it certainly didn’t feel very summery when we reached Anstruther.

Anstruther is a little town in Fife, almost directly across the Firth of Forth from our little part of East Lothian. Despite it being so close, I have never ventured there. My partner used to spend his childhood summers there and he wanted to show me some of the places that he used to hang around.

Our first stop was the harbour, which is so pretty.

Continue reading “A Day Out in Anstruther”

Dalkeith Country Park

Last Saturday was the one and only day of Scottish summer (well, unless the forecast is right and next week is nice and sunny and warm, but I’m not about to hold my breath as I have the week off work so it’s bound to chuck down with rain). Considering I spend 98% of my days stuck in an office, I was not going to miss the chance to be out in the sun, so off we set for Dalkeith Country Park.

Dalkeith Country Park is so ridiculously easy to get to I have no idea why we have never visited until now. Seriously, it took us maybe 25 minutes tops to drive there. Little did we realise until we were pulling onto the A720 that the Dalkeith Show was on last Saturday so it was crazy busy. Getting parked was a bit of challenge and we may have had a small domestic, but it was worth all the stress in the long run.

The main house is not open to visitors, but it sits atop a hill, looking down on the massive lawn and everything going on in the main area of the Park. It was an impressive view and I don’t really think our pictures do it justice. Incidentally, we both agreed that the lawn would make the ideal place of a picnic. There were quite a few families dotted about, just soaking up the sun and the stunning view of the Montague Bridge.

Continue reading “Dalkeith Country Park”

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Ever since I was seventeen I have been interested in Indian culture. In my uni days I started watching Hindi movies and TV serials and tried to learn how to cook Indian food from scratch. While my Hindi might be patchy at best, I still enjoy anything related to Indian culture, so when I heard about When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, I knew I had to read it.

When Dimple Met Rishi is contemporary YA, set in America. Our protagonist is seventeen-year-old Dimple Shah, born in America to Indian parents and struggling to juggle their expectations with her own aspirations for her future. Dimple dreams of going to Insomnia Con, an annual summer programme run by SFSU where participants have the chance to build and pitch their own app. This year’s prize is the opportunity to share their idea with Jenny Lindt, who just happens to be Dimple’s idol.

Dimple doesn’t think her parents will allow her to go, however she is willing to try to convince them. Imagine her surprise when they not only agree but seem totally unfazed by the six week programme. Have they finally come round to Dimple’s way of thinking?

Meanwhile, Rishi Patel is a traditional son hoping to make his parents proud. Like Dimple, he was born in America, however he feels a strong connection to his Indian heritage. Rishi secretly enjoys drawing and creating his own comic book characters. Knowing his parents want him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a computer engineer, he is trying to suppress his love of art and focus on fulfilling his parents wishes. He has asked them to find him a potential bride, and as luck would have it they are old friends of the Shahs. Rishi is happy to go to Insomnia Con to meet Dimple, thinking she has agreed to the match… Continue reading “Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi”

Book Review: Lord of Shadows

Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors. Her books are always compelling with vivid characters and settings. I was therefore extremely excited for the publication of her second book in The Dark Artifices series, Lord of Shadows, which was back in May.

One of the great things about Cassandra Clare’s writing is the universe she has created. I love how each series is connected although they are all set in different time periods. Lord of Shadows opens with Jace and Clary, of The Mortal Instruments fame, visiting the Los Angeles institute. It is little cameos like this that make these books so special and it was great to see what Jace and Clary are up to now. They are not the only characters from other series to make a cameo – Alec and Magnus also appear.

The core characters of Lord of Shadows are, of course, the Blackthorns – Julien and his brothers and sisters. An adopted member of the family, Emma Carstairs, is our heroine and along with Julien they are trying to figure out how to keep the family together and how to navigate their complicated feelings for one another. Julien and Emma are parabatai, and falling in love is forbidden. As we saw in Lady Midnight, the two have developed feelings for each other and much of the book is devoted to their struggle with these emotions. Continue reading “Book Review: Lord of Shadows”