Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

juniper.jpgThe idea itself is lovely. Dealing with grief by tracking it daily via a happiness index. For each person the index would be different of course, because what makes one person smile or feel a moment of happiness isn’t always the same for another person.

Think about what kind of things make you happy each day. Even the smallest things count. A memory, an interaction, a piece of chocolate or perhaps just relaxing after a long day.

Since the death of her sister Camilla, Juniper has been desperately trying to find her happy. She is so grief stricken that she is trying to grasp what she can from life.

She is also trying to fulfil what she believes to be her sister’s last wish. A letter to her love. So Juniper takes it upon herself to find the mysterious recipient. She is also really invested in making the people around her happy. She does this by playing matchmaker, by saving those around her from possible negative thoughts and bad intentions.

In her quest to survive day by day and to not crumble under the weight of her personal loss, Juniper inadvertently finds herself building friendships, experiencing love and learning a few hard lessons along the way.

The focus is on the people left behind, as opposed to a lot of books that seem to make the dead the main characters. What’s done is done and those who are gone aren’t coming back, so let’s concentrate on the living.

The author tries not to delve too far into the teen drama or rather make the scenarios too candy floss sweet or unicorn eccentric. It is passionate without being soppy, witty without being ridiculous and is realistic in a down-to-earth way.

Definitely a read I would recommend.

Buy Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @thatjulieisrael visit julieisrael.com

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

flora banksThis book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Moon Chosen by P.C. Cast

moon-chosenThe beginning is a little vague on specifics or rather too specific on the dystopian world building, but with no info to go on. It takes a while to be able to see through the maze of branches and groups of new world people, and comprehend the plot.

All I can say is, stick with it. A few chapters in it starts to make a lot more sense and becomes quite an interesting read.

Moon Chosen is set in a world after technology and long after the destruction of society as we know it now. The surviving humans have split into different groups with their own newly built structures and rules. Unfortunately they all view each other as mortal enemies. The Tree people hunt and enslave the Earth Walkers and the Skin Eaters aren’t fussy they will kill and eat anyone.

Mari is a hybrid of two groups, a fact her mother keeps well hidden, because it also means she will be accepted by neither if they discover the truth.

The book is filled with the magic pulled from natural resources, such as the sun, the moon and the earth. The only thing left to rely on when all else has dwindled to to dust and ruin.

There are some tough scenes, which put the book towards the older end of YA for me. Gang rape puts it more in the sub-genre of NA, as far as I am concerned.

The epilogue seems to introduce a further story in the series with a character who just stumbles in towards the end. The emphasis appears to be on single characters and their animal counterparts, which is a shame. I do think the story Cast has built up in Moon Chosen is vast enough to be developed further without throwing in random mate selections whether they be human or not. More dystopian world and less urban fantasy methinks.

Buy Moon Chosen at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

stealing snow.jpgStealing Snow definitely has strong shades of Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. In fact it is a bit of a mish-mash of quite a few plots, and therein lies the problem. It is trying to be too many things at the same time.

In doing so it inadvertently makes the story a wee bit spiritless. A story without much direction. An explosion of fae, magic and secret worlds beyond hidden boundaries exploding all at once like an erratic glitter-bomb.

Snow has always lived under the shadow of her mental illness. She can hardly remember a time before the institution, pills, needles and restraints. Even her mother seems to be on the side of the hospital staff. The only kind of support she has ever received is from a young man, who tends to try and kill her on his off-days.

She is perturbed by her vivid nightmares. The type the staff tend to give her medication for. Something or someone is beckoning Snow into a new world. A world in which she becomes an important figure in a fae prophecy and dysfunctional family dynamics.

I know Page has a hive of creativity to unleash and is capable of producing better world-building. I just think she missed the mark on this one.

Buy Stealing Snow at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Get Ready for Blog-Tour for The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

It’s time for The Deviants by C.J. Skuse to go on tour. You don’t want to miss this story of secrets and revenge. Feel free to follow the links below to see what my fellow bloggers have to say about The Deviants.

Follow @CeejaytheAuthor and @HQYoungAdult and look out for #TheDeviants on Twitter.

22nd Sep ginbooksandblankets.com and manybooksmanylives.com

23rd Sep wordsfromareader.weebly.com and blackplume.wordpress.com

24th Sep thedaisydeer.blogspot.co.uk and teapartyprincess.blogspot.co.uk

25th Sep charlottereads26.wordpress.com and ziliinthesky.com

26th Sep havebookswillread.wordpress.com , here and cherylmmbookblog.blogspot.co.uk

27th Sep bibliomaniacuk.blogspot.co.uk and prettylittlememoirs.blogspot.co.uk

28th Sep albainbookland.com and hannahreviewingbooks.blogspot.co.uk

29th Sep baattyaboutbooks.wordpress.com and thereaderlines.blogspot.co.uk

30th Sep bookreferees.org and fictionfascination.co.uk

1st Oct girlreading.co.uk and flutteringbutterflies.com

Hope to see you here on the 26th of September for my review of The Deviants by C.J.Skuse!

Today! Blog-Tour: As I Descended by Robin Talley

My turn on the Blog-Tour for As I Descended by Robin Talley. Her previous novel Lies We Tell Ourselves was a phenomenal success, and it was one of my favourite reads of 2014. I was intrigued to hear the premise, especially because I am a wee bit of a Shakespeare fan.

About the author:

Robin Talley grew up in Roanoke, Virginia, writing terrible teen poetry and riding a desegregation bus to the school across town. Robin lives in Washington, D.C., with her fiancée, plus an antisocial cat and a goofy hound dog. When Robin’s not writing, she’s often planning communication strategies at organizations fighting for equal rights and social justice.

You can connect with robin at www.robintalley.com, on Facebook or follow @robin_talley and @HQYoungAdult and watch out for #AsIDescended on Twitter.

Review

To be perfectly frank you will have to freshen up on your Shakespeare’s Macbeth to fully get the gist of this story. Without that reference and prior knowledge, this is just another YA urban fantasy, but with it you see the story in an entirely different light.

Obviously you can’t make a literal direct comparison of the bard’s work and As I Descended, as Talley has taken a fair bit of artistic license. Saying that, there are quite a few interesting adaptations, starting with the gender and sexuality of the characters.

The author has infused the story with the complexities of sexuality, with a particular focus on same gender relationships. Insecurity is one of the pivotal motivators for Lily. I think her control and influence over Maria is probably underestimated throughout the entire book. Whereas Maria is motivated and controlled by the nefarious ouija summoned presence.

The two girls are driven by different reasons, but both are willing to cross boundaries to get what they want. Manipulation, betrayal and even death. Nothing is off-limits even if it is unintentional.

The common thread between Macbeth and this story is the power of suggestion and whether or not Maria would have made the same choices without it. Lily is perhaps a less assertive choice for the figure of Lady Macbeth. and her character goes from controlling and manipulative to strangely docile.

The stroke of genius was the Macduff of the story, I won’t tell you who that is you can work that out for yourself. I really liked the way Talley drew the parallels between Macduff being stripped of his family and the intentional malicious outing causing the alienation of the family.

Again I have to say that this may be more of a treat for readers who like their Shakespeare, and I will spare you any further comparison of the two lest I give away too much. It is a fascinating combination of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy, an en vogue genre and important social justice issues.

I can’t wait to see what Talley comes up with next. She isn’t afraid of writing about controversial subjects or trying something fresh and innovative.

Buy As I Descended at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova.

About the Author:

Zoraida Córdova was born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, New York. She is the author of the Vicious Deep trilogy, the On the Verge series, and the Brooklyn Brujas series. She loves black coffee, snark, and still believes in magic.






To Connect with Zoraida Córdova on social media: 

Website: http://www.zoraidacordova.com/

Labyrinth Lost Website: http://books.sourcebooks.com/labyrinth-lost/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CordovaBooks

Twitter:  @zlikeinzorro

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wanderwheel/

Author Tumblr: http://wanderlands.tumblr.com/

Labyrinth Lost Tumblr: http://labyrinthlostbooks.tumblr.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/ZoraidaLand

Excerpt from the book

The second time I saw my dead aunt Rosaria, she was dancing.

Earlier that day, my mom had warned me, pressing a long, red fingernail on the tip of my nose, “Alejandra, don’t go downstairs when the Circle arrives.”

But I was seven and asked too many questions. Every Sunday, cars piled up in our driveway, down the street, and around the corner of our old, narrow house in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Mom’s Circle usually brought cellophane–wrapped dishes and jars of dirt and tubs of brackish water that made the Hudson River look clean. This time, they carried something more.

When my sisters started snoring, I threw off my covers and crept down the stairs. The floorboards were uneven and creaky, but I was good at not being seen. Fuzzy, yellow streetlight shone through our attic window and followed me down every flight until I reached the basement.

A soft hum made its way through the thin walls. I remember thinking I should listen to my mom’s warning and go back upstairs. But our house had been restless all week, and Lula, Rose, and I were shoved into the attic, out of the way while the grown–ups prepared the funeral. I wanted out. I wanted to see.

The night was moonless and cold one week after the Witch’s New Year, when Aunt Rosaria died of a sickness that made her skin yellow like hundred–year–old paper and her nails turn black as coal. We tried to make her beautiful again. My sisters and I spent all day weaving good luck charms from peonies, corn husks, and string—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. Not even the morticians, the Magos de Muerte, could fix her once–lovely face.

Aunt Rosaria was dead. I was there when we mourned her. I was there when we buried her. Then, I watched my father and two others shoulder a dirty cloth bundle into the house, and I knew I couldn’t stay in bed, no matter what my mother said.

So I opened the basement door.

Red light bathed the steep stairs. I leaned my head toward the light, toward the beating sound of drums and sharp plucks of fat, nylon guitar strings.

A soft mew followed by whiskers against my arm made my heart jump to the back of my rib cage. I bit my tongue to stop the scream. It was just my cat, Miluna. She stared at me with her white, glowing eyes and hissed a warning, as if telling me to turn back. But Aunt Rosaria was my godmother, my family, my friend. And I wanted to see her again.

“Sh!” I brushed the cat’s head back.

Miluna nudged my leg, then ran away as the singing started.

I took my first step down, into the warm, red light. Raspy voices called out to our gods, the Deos, asking for blessings beyond the veil of our worlds. Their melody pulled me step by step until I was crouched at the bottom of the landing.

They were dancing.

Brujas and brujos were dressed in mourning white, their faces painted in the aspects of the dead, white clay and black coal to trace the bones. They danced in two circles—-the outer ring going clockwise, the inner counterclockwise—hands clasped tight, voices vibrating to the pulsing drums.

And in the middle was Aunt Rosaria.

Her body jerked upward. Her black hair pooled in the air like she was suspended in water. There was still dirt on her skin. The white skirt we buried her in billowed around her slender legs. Black smoke slithered out of her open mouth. It weaved in and out of the circle—-one loop over, under, two loops over, under. It tugged Aunt Rosaria higher and higher, matching the rhythm of the canto.

Then, the black smoke perked up and changed its target. It could smell me. I tried to backpedal, but the tiles were slick, and I slid toward the circle. My head smacked the tiles. Pain splintered my skull, and a broken scream lodged in my throat.

The music stopped. Heavy, tired breaths filled the silence of the pulsing red dark. The enchantment was broken. Aunt Rosaria’s reanimated corpse turned to me. Her body purged black smoke, lowering her back to the ground. Her ankles cracked where the bone was brittle, but still she took a step. Her dead eyes gaped at me. Her wrinkled mouth growled my name: Alejandra.

She took another step. Her ankle turned and broke at the joint, sending her flying forward. She landed on top of me. The rot of her skin filled my nose, and grave dirt fell into my eyes.

Tongues clucked against crooked teeth. The voices of the circle hissed, “What’s the girl doing out of bed?”

There was the scent of extinguished candles and melting wax. Decay and perfume oil smothered me until they pulled the body away.

My mother jerked me up by the ear, pulling me up two flights of stairs until I was back in my bed, the scream stuck in my throat like a stone.

“Never,” she said. “You hear me, Alejandra? Never break a Circle.”

I lay still. So still that after a while, she brushed my hair, thinking I had fallen asleep.

I wasn’t. How could I ever sleep again? Blood and rot and smoke and whispers filled my head.

“One day you’ll learn,” she whispered.

Then she went back down the street–lit stairs, down into the warm red light and to Aunt Rosaria’s body. My mother clapped her hands, drums beat, strings plucked, and she said, “Again.”

Review

Córdova mixes a lot of mythology, folklore and traditions from a variety of countries. I have to say that was quite refreshing, her unusual blend of mixing the old and beaten to death genre favourites with the more unusual and exotic ones. She lets her heritage and culture flow seamlessly into the pages.

The author also lets the main character explore her emotions and sexuality without the topic overpowering the main plot of the book. Kudos to her for that, because she does it in a way that reflects the natural confusion of growing up and discovering, and more importantly understanding what drives the pull and to whom.

It all starts with a young girl called Alex, who is determined to somehow avoid the inevitable and in doing so catapults her entire circle of family and friends into a magical nightmare. I suppose it sounds a little simplistic, a young girl trying as hard as possible not to connect to or rather awaken her magical roots, but she sees it as a curse and not as a gift.

When an altercation brings out the worst in her, and when I say worst I mean the bruja magic simmering quietly under her skin, she makes a decision to counteract her natural ability. More fool her methinks, because she ends up creating the kind of chaos you only read about in fairytale disasters. So much for knowing what’s best for her and everyone around her. Alex tends to act first then think.

In this YA fantasy you will find a multitude of worlds colliding to create a veritable mixture of fantastical worlds and creatures, which hopefully will lead Alex to her personal triumph and perhaps even a little bit of self-awareness.

It is a fast paced read with a lot of personal flair.The series has a lot of potential, Córdova just needs to give all that creativity and energy more direction. I look forward to seeing where she takes the Brooklyn Brujas.

Buy Labyrinth Lost at Amazon Uk at books.sourcebooks.com go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Watch the Book Trailer here

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