Something in Between by Melissa de la Cruz

 

something2.jpg
Awesome!

Published by Harlequin Teen, 4th Oct 2016, 384 pages, £7.99 

4.5 stars

Fellow bloggers will agree with me that this book has come at perfect time. Immigration is now the capital I-word that is boiling up a lot of tensions and unease. Here in the UK, it was one of the main issues that pushed for Brexit and I can’t even begin to imagine the madness of #TrumpAmerica. I think its great to have a YA novel that tackles this issue, helps young readers understand and relate. Because technically we are the future- just saying. Melissa de la Cruz writes about her own experiences growing up in America as a Filipino. I really felt she covered all the complexities and antagonisms of being multi-racial with touching depths.

Jasmine de los Santos has worked hard. She’s captain of the cheer-leading team, volunteers twice a week, has top grades and won a full scholarship to the college. This is everything she has dreamed of, the reason she cancelled all those plans with friends, didn’t have time for boys- everything that would make her parents proud. They have sacrificed so much, worked menial jobs to build a new life in America for their children, and this was how she would prove to them that’s its all been worth it. But when she tells them the news, instead of being joyful, they acted grim.

It turns out that they are living in California illegally, and so her life spirals through her finger tips. She might get deported, let alone not be able to go to college. I really felt for her and there were some teary moments. Jasmine goes through many levels of anger, sadness, fear, guilt, injustice and confusion. She questions her identity and what it means to be American. She starts to rebel a little, go to the parties she always turned down and meets a boy along the way. Royce Blakely is handsome, confident and kind. However, he is also the son of a senator who is passing a law that makes it even harder for her family to get citizenship. Their worlds collide with exhilarating but painful outcomes.

As her family struggle to fight for belonging through a twisty plot, things become tougher but also more motivating. Racism begins to seep into her life, but is combated by the great love and support from her family, friends and the new people she has met during this period. The author punctuates the intensity of the context with light and funny moments, such as typical teenage musings and flirty texts. At times, Jasmine did seem too annoyingly perfect, in a Rory from Gilmore Girls case. But I didn’t think this for very long. Her character has a lot of integrity and strength that is to be admired.

I can see readers who might look at Jasmine’s example and ask why she should have the scholarship if she’s not ‘really’ American and deprive someone else of the chance? Jasmine calls California her home, she shares the same values of law-abiding citizens, believes in the American Dream that you can be anybody you want to be if you just work hard enough. The only thing she doesn’t have is a piece of paper confirming this. As Jasmine ends with a kick-ass valedictorian speech, she urges not just her peers, but the reader to look beyond what papers, offices and people say about you. The only person who knows you is you. I make it sound corny, but the book is not- well its a little bit mushy but in a satisfying way.

I really related to this book, being the daughter of immigrants myself. I wish there are more books like this, especially from Asian perspectives. I totally got Jasmine’s confusion, worried about how her friends might think of her, the pressure to be both races but not quite managing it, just ending up as something in the middle. I’m glad this has been published, and hopefully it would help sway opinions about race and immigration.

Many thanks to Cara from HQ Stories for my copy

xxx

About the Author

Melissa de la Cruz is the author of many best-selling novels, including the Blue Bloods series; the Au Pairs series; the Ashleys series; and Angels on Sunset Boulevard. She is also a frequent contributor to Glamour, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Cosmopolitan. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter, and is hard at work on her next book.

melissadelacruz.jpg

The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

 

9780349404530.jpg

Published by Piatkus, 25th August 2016, 383 pages, 5.99

‘Romantic, engaging and hugely satisfying’

Katie Fiorde on The Apothecary’s Daughter

‘A highly-recommended novel of love, tragedy and the power of art’

Daily Mail on The Painter’s Apprentice

‘Full of passion and drama . . . I was captivated by this moving, heart-warming and beautifully woven story – gripping, atmospheric, eloquently told and full of rich detail’

Kate Furnivall on The Chateau on the Lake

2.8 stars

The beginning got the plot cogs churning nicely. Its 1813, imagine a young, noticeably handsome but hostile, man strolling in to inform your family that your father has been murdered. Not only this, but he secretly had another family in the city which he hopes for you to live with, to which this young man’s a part of. Shock and horror for Venetia, a young, ambitious woman as she experiences her whole privileged world smash against their elegant wall. We follow her family as they uproot themselves to London, meet the ‘others’ and overcome all the shame buzzing around. They also have to find a way to support themselves, so Venetia busies herself with re-opening her father’s furniture business. Jack Chamberlaine, the guy who broke the news, reluctantly helps her. He’s war-wearied, initially suspicious, but soon softens, and conveniently not a blood-relation. Together, they try to gather up the mess while something blossoms between them.

We also get POV chapters from Kitty, their maid, who accompanies them. Kitty is sweet and lively. She was bored with the village life she had, where the end point was to be married in a tiny shack with a bundle of babies. When she arrives, she runs into Nat, a good-looking street rat who is as fascinating as the city. He introduces her to a whole new world of women wrestlers, dangerous alley-ways and professional house burgling. So it was refreshing to get a change of story now and then. I grew to like Venetia and Kitty as pleasant characters. The main vein that connects to two is a mysterious mafia called King Midas that controls the neighbourhood and begins terrorizing their lives. He is also connected to the death of Venetia’s father. So the book gradually gets darker almost to the point of echoing Les Miserables.

As Kitty and Venetia begin to clash with King Midas and his cronies, the book unfortunately reaches a bit plateau 40-70% through. The pacing slows down and you’re basically living with the characters during their daily activities. I found this slightly mundane, but it suits those who enjoy soothing sagas. Those like me, who prefer heart-constricting romances and thrilling paces, will feel a little held back during this stage. Things pick up towards the end. There is a sneaky little twist which I didn’t see coming, and a good old fight scene. Kitty’s ending saddened me because seemed a direct result of class. Despite it being a fairly realistic portrayal, it seemed a bit typical of Victorian yarns and gives off the wrong attitudes if it intends for readers to be OK and accept it as a happy ending.

Many thanks to Piatkus for my review copy xxx

 

IMG_20160813_101641.jpg

About the Author:

Charlotte Betts began her working life as a fashion designer in London. A career followed in interior design, property management and lettings. Always a bookworm, Charlotte discovered her passion for writing after her three children and two step-children grew up.

Her debut novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, won the YouWriteOn Book of the Year Award in 2010 and the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers, was shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2011 and won the coveted Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Historical Romantic Novel RoNA award in 2013. Her second novel, The Painter’s Apprentice was also shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2012 and the RoNA award in 2014. The Spice Merchant’s Wife won the Festival of Romance’s Best Historical Read award in 2013.

Charlotte lives with her husband in a cottage in the woods on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

www.charlottebetts.com | @CharlotteBetts1

For further information please contact Clara Diaz on 020 3122 6565 | Clara.Diaz@littlebrown.co.uk

BettsCharlotte.jpg

 

Walk the Edge by Katie McGarry (Thunder Road #2)

DirectIngest,
Seriously good

 

Published by Harlequin Teen, March 29th 2016, 448 pages, £7.99

When I was reading this, I tweeted that it was The Business. And I meant it. A few pages in and I was already going weeeeeheeeee! When I read Nowhere But Here, the first book in the Thunder Road series, I slipped into Katie McGarry’s style very easily. The story was exciting, the couple addictive to follow and crackling with attraction. Walk The Edge is just as good, if not better. This is a sequel/ spin-off. We pick up where we left off, but following one of Oz’s best friends Razor- silent, slightly scary, moody with issues, but totally smoldering at the same time. The reason I say spin-off is that I think it’s possible to read this without having read the first book. I actually forgot a few things that have happened and I still enjoyed it. If you want to be good, I would recommend reading Nowhere But Here first, because you get introduced to all the characters and the general background. All you need to know is that Snowflake is a small-town with an infamous biker gang called Reign of Terror, reputed for violence and debauchery. The gang freak the hell out of everybody and good girls are told to stay away. We are constantly reminded that the gang is ‘legit’, as they are hired as protection for delivery companies. But they are at war with another gang called The Riot, who are not so legit. So a lot of secrets and dodgy things have gone down in the past and since the first book.

20160501_111443_HDR~2

Razor runs into Breanna, one evening after school as she waits to be picked up. Breanna is the invisible, smartest girl in school. She is desperate to leave to a place where she can fit in. But there is also something special about the way her mind works. Her brain is forever solving a problem, and it won’t rest- not even to sleep- until it cracks it. She has always been taunted for her abilities to the point where she is sick of who she is. She is also 1 of 9 siblings who all bully her for being ‘perfect’- the injustice of it all really got me loving her.

The couple start off curious of one another. Despite being raised to fear the Terror gang, Breanna can’t stay away from Razor- of course she can’t. And in that first evening they meet, Razor sees something about her that he wants to protect. (Its pretty swoony that he already knows her name). That’s because Breanna becomes the target of some more bullying that starts off small but intensifies out of control. Razor is thrown into the mix and Breanna asks for his help. In return, Breanna will help him figure out the mysterious death of his mother- something else that keeps you hooked to the end. The couple are so unlikely but they work so well. They are the stereo-types everyone talks about at school but no-one really knows.

The book is all about image and prejudice; who you are and where you belong. And not forgetting powerful love! It will get you dizzy and sighing (inner-sighing if you’re in public like I always seem to be during the good bits). It’s also about unfair double-standards. Yet again, girls are the victims of cyber-bullying- to the point where they are branded and ruined. Breanna learns to turn her back to all the whispers and embrace who she is.

I’m still not sure if I am a fan of the Terror gang. I mean, the women of the members are part of a club called the Terror Gypsies, which sounds like a groupie. They can’t join and take part in the serious stuff- even though it affects their families. The members are part of a brotherhood which means they have mutual respect and protection, but there are strict rules so it also sounds like a cult. Also, we never find out what happens to Addison, Breanna’s friend, who is getting abused at home..?

Thanks to Cara at Mira for my review copy! Yay for book 3 coming up with Chevy and Violet’s story.

xx