Saturday, 21 February 2015

Book Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

The Madness Underneath (Shades of London, #2)Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Series:  Shades of London
Pages:  290
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Date of Publication: 26th February, 2013
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: When madness stalks the streets of London, no one is safe…

There's a creepy new terror haunting modern-day London.
Fresh from defeating a Jack the Ripper killer, Rory must put her new-found hunting skills to the test before all hell breaks loose…

But enemies are not always who you expect them to be and crazy times call for crazy solutions.


My Thoughts:
(This is a review of a reread, because being the terribly inconsistent blogger that I am, I never actually reviewed this when I read it the first time round. Soz about that.)

So the Shades of London series has been in my favourites ever since I first read the first book, back when it came out. In preparation for reading The Shadow Cabinet, I decided to reread The Madness Underneath, and I am so glad I did. I'd forgotten almost everything that happened, including that bombshell of an ending, and now I am super stoked for book three.

Maureen Johnson has managed to create the perfect blend of contemporary and the paranormal. At the moment, fun contemporaries seem to be my genre of choice (just take a look at my 'Read' shelf on Goodreads), but I still love a good paranormal story sometimes so this book bridged that gap perfectly. I loved the boarding school life contemp bits just as much as I loved the ghost hunting paranormal aspects. There's a little bit of something to suit everyone, for sure!

I love Rory. The novel is so readable with her sarcastic and witty voice shining through. Maureen has captured the voice of the teenager absolutely perfectly. I could empathise with her worries about school, and her frustration with being kept out of the loop with the ghost stuff. I also really enjoyed reading about her thoughts and feelings post-attack: terror and unease, but also the empowerment that comes with surviving such an attack. I'd never really thought about it that way so that was really interesting and inspiring for me as a reader too. *fist pumps*

One thing I hadn't forgotten about the book was the one hundred mile an hour pace that keeps you on your toes throughout the novel, but without ever feeling that things are rushed. Events occur quickly and Maureen keeps the twists coming, making for a very exciting and thrilling adventure. Because of the pace it's difficult to put down and I could quite happily whizz through one hundred pages in an hour. It moved so fast there's no time for stopping!

The book ends on one almighty cliffhanger that makes me so glad that this time around I have The Shadow Cabinet right next to be, ready and waiting to be read. I cannot wait to find out what happens next and if the events at the end of this play out how they are supposed to (I doubt that very much!) and if they don't, where the story will take us next. The Shades of London books are an absolute must read for all YA fans because you are sorely missing out if they've passed you by. I cannot recommend them enough!


*Huge thanks to HarperCollins for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 

Friday, 13 February 2015

Blog Tour Review: Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines by Katy Cannon

Title: Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines
Author: Katy Cannon
Series:  Companion to Love, Lies and Lemon Pies
Pages:  368
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Date of Publication: 2nd February 2015
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: Grace: This was supposed to be Grace’s starring year, until she opened the door to a family secret that changed everything. Now she’s stuck making costumes in Sewing Club and watching someone else play the lead role – unless she can find a way to win it back.

Connor: Far from home and exiled to a new school, all Connor wants is to keep a low profile and get through the year. But agreeing to help his step-dad out with the school play means he’s soon caught up in Grace’s schemes.

Grace had a plan for this year – and it didn’t involve learning to sew. But being out of the spotlight isn’t the disaster she imagined, even if Connor is convinced she’s still a diva extraordinaire. Can Grace prove she’s really changed and save the play from the sidelines, even though her family is coming apart at the seams?


My Thoughts:
Secrets, Schemes and Sewing Machines is the sequel to Love, Lies and Lemon Pies. When I read Lemon Pies, although I really loved Lottie and Mac's story, I was eager to know more about all their friends in Bake Club. Grace was probably the character that I knew the least about (and liked the least too) so I apprehensive as to how Sewing Machines would sit with me, since it didn't follow on from Lemon Pies but switched to focus on Grace. However, I quickly became engrossed in Grace's story, and I think I might have even enjoyed this second book in the collection even more than the first.

Grace is dealing with some major changes to her home life, and finding it pretty difficult. This leads her to missing her audition for the lead role in her school play, landing her with the 'lowly' role of costumes and props mistress. While at first she plots and schemes her way through to getting the lead role from Violet, her nemesis, she quickly discovers that there's a lot more to life than being the star of the show.

I think my main reason for enjoying Sewing Machines than Lemon Pies is Grace herself. I felt that where Lottie lacked development in the first book, Grace made up for by the bucketful. I loved seeing her grow into her role as costume mistress, and come to realise that actually she was even more important than she ever could have been in the starring role. The fact that she made mistakes (frequently and really quite spectacularly) only made her more endearing and I really enjoyed getting to know her a lot better than she comes across in Lemon Pies (which I guess is exactly the point!).

I also really liked how although Grace's relationship with Connor is a major plot point, I don't feel like it was the main one. Their relationship is adorable and I really liked Connor, but I think the novel is a lot more focused on Grace's development and maturity growth as a character and finding her own feet in the world, which was really inspiring to read. That't not to say that I didn't enjoy the romantic aspects of the novel though... ;)

The plot was really fun and I enjoyed reading about all the production preparation and Drama Club as well as all of the sewing. I had a sewing phase a couple of years ago so it was really fun to read about all the sewing and I definitely think I'm gonna get back into it later this year when exams are over, hopefully using some of the instructions in the novel. Obviously also the spattering of Bake Club meetings and events were a lot of fun to revisit too and I'm looking forward in future books to read more about all of these clubs and characters that Katy Cannon has created. I want to go to this school!

All in all, Katy Cannon has written a marvellous series with these novels. To put it very simply: They're a joy to read, with likeable characters and fun and interesting storylines. I heartily recommend that you read them!

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour! Go to @stripesbook or @KatyJoCannon on Twitter for more info.

*Huge thanks to Stripes Publishing for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 
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