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”

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”

Book Review: Strange The Dreamer

Every now and then a book comes along that is written so beautifully it is really a piece of art as well as literature. Okay, so there are probably many out there who would argue that all literature is art, but there are some books which have been crafted to such a degree that you want to savour each word. That was certainly how I felt while reading Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

Having read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy I knew to expect something epic with vivid characters and a clever and unique plot. With Strange The Dreamer, she has gone one step above the previous trilogy. This book is beautiful in every sense of the word, from the gorgeous blue and gold cover, to the lovely, flowing prose on the page. It is imaginative and wonderful – like being in a dream; fitting really consider that dreams lie at the heart of the novel.

Our protagonist is Lazlo Strange, an orphan who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep. When Lazlo was young he felt the city’s true name disappear from his mind and ever since he has been obsessed with the mystery of the city. Chance brings him to the great library in the city of Zosma and there he finds every book he can about Weep. He dreams of travelling to the city and then one day a band of travellers ride into town. They are from Weep and they are seeking people to help them with their ‘problem’. Finally Lazlo has a chance to fulfil his dream. Continue reading “Book Review: Strange The Dreamer”

An Evening with Laini Taylor

In the past year I have been lucky enough to meet quite a few of my favourite authors – Cassandra Clare, Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell. On Thursday night I added to this list when I attended a talk and signing by Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, at Waterstones West End, Edinburgh.

It was by chance that I found out Laini was touring the UK promoting her new book, Strange The Dreamer. I happened to see a tweet from publishers Hodder & Stoughton about it and I was thrilled to learn Edinburgh would be one of the stops on the tour. Since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have been a big fan of Laini. Her writing is so lyrical and her stories are just epic.

There was quite a diverse crowd at the event. I am used to feeling a little silly for being surrounded by teenagers at these YA book signings, but surprisingly there were a few older people there and some girls who seemed to be about my own age. It is great to see that people of all ages are interested in a YA author and it shows that the genre has a much bigger reach than its intended market.

Moreover, I do genuinely feel that Laini Taylor’s writing is not your typical YA writing. To me, her books read like any adult novel. Now, I get annoyed when people claim that YA is less challenging than adult fiction because that is a terrible generalisation to make. There are so many challenging YA novels out there that are written very well. Laini Taylor’s books, however, have a particular maturity to them. Her language is prosaic and could rival any work of literary fiction.

It was great to hear her talk about how she writes such amazing prose. She confessed that she is a perfectionist and that this held her back from completing a novel for many years. The thing that struck me the most about her was how down-to-earth she was. She was very candid about her writing process and how self-critical she can be when it comes to her own work. I could relate to a lot of her issues regarding perfectionism with writing and I found myself nodding along when she described the frustration it causes.

After the talk we all had the opportunity to have our books signed. I always get slightly anxious when meeting authors. I usually end up blabbering a load of nonsense but Laini was so nice and friendly. It was brilliant to get to meet her and have my copy of Strange The Dreamer signed.

I am a quarter of the way through it now and so far I am enjoying it immensely. I can’t wait to see where it will take me, but I am certain it will be another epic adventure.