Book Review: Suite Scarlett by Maureen Johnson

Suite Scarlett (Scarlett, #1)

Title: Suite Scarlett (Scarlett #1)
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Chick Lit
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: November 2013 (first published May 2008)
Pages: 368
Rating: 3.5 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
If living in a famous art deco hotel minutes away from Central Park sounds like your idea of a pretty sweet deal – you should talk to Scarlett Martin. Having a hotel for a home really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when you’ve got no guests, no money and no prospects for any fun thanks to your parents putting you to work all summer. Luckily for Scarlett, the Hopewell is about to be shaken to its foundations with the arrival of Mrs Amberson, a glamorous travelling socialite who’s planning on putting down some roots for a while – and hiring Scarlett as her assistant. With a new job, new friends, and (maybe) a new boyfriend on the horizon, Scarlett’s summer is beginning to look a lot more interesting…

My Review:

If all the world’s a stage, New York City has the best scenery.

Scarlett Martin’s friends are all having the summer of their lives but she is stuck in working in her family’s run down and barely functioning hotel. When a slightly eccentric guest checks in and appoints Scarlett as her personal assistant, Scarlett’s summer starts to look up. She gets involved with trying to save her brother’s acting career and has a flirtation with a gorgeous North Carolinian named Eric. But things start to fall apart around her and Scarlett needs the help of her family to help everything from becoming a disaster.

I’ve not read a Maureen Johnson novel before but quickly found myself absorbed in Scarlett’s story. The book begins on her fifteenth birthday but Scarlett is fairly wise and mature for her age. She’s a little irritated that she doesn’t have the opportunities that her friend have but she is responsibly enough to understand that her family isn’t like others. Her older brother Spencer is trying to do everything he possibly can to become an actor however realistically he knows that if he doesn’t make it soon he will need to find a more sensible career path. Lola, Scarlett’s older sister, is facing a dilemma due to her family disliking her boyfriend and her little sister Marlene – well… Marlene is slightly spoilt and people are afraid of hurting her feelings. I really liked the family dynamic within this novel. The Martin family are tight but not without their problems. They are financially challenged and things are changing with Scarlett’s older siblings after having finished high school and are now moving in different directions. I liked how they interacted with each other and that Ms. Johnson didn’t give Marlene a free pass to do as she pleased just because of her past.

Scarlett is a great character. She’s a writer who, despite her tender age, isn’t lacking for life experience. Her encounters with Mrs Amberson are humorous with the hotel guest having a flair for the dramatic. Scarlett gets herself into some quite outlandish situations but somehow manages to handle them. I liked that Scarlett is genuinely a good person. She gets placed in situations – at times due to her own doing – that cause her to question her actions and as a reader you could feel the moral dilemmas she was facing. This is a book where I felt with 97% certainty that things were going to end up being okay for everyone involved but the fun was seeing just how everything turned out. The romance in this book wasn’t quite what I was expecting but that only added to the realistic nature that love doesn’t always play out how you’d like it to.

This book was highly enjoyable. It’s cute and fun and shows off New York City in a delightful way. The characters are quirky and a little off centre but there’s a lot of love in the Martin family. I’m delighted that Maureen Johnson has written a second novel, Scarlett Fever, that continues exploring Scarlett’s adventures.

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon| Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

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Book Review: The Isobel Journal by Isobel Harrop

The Isobel Journal

Title: The Isobel Journal
Author: Isobel Harrop
Genre: Art Journal, Realistic, Young Adult, Non-fiction, British
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: November 2013
Pages: 208
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
THE ISOBEL JOURNAL is no ordinary snapshot of a contemporary teenage life. A charming and vivid narrative scrapbook of the eighteen-year-old author’s sketches, mini-graphic novels, photographs and captions, it captures her wit, her observations and her creative talent as she takes us through the three central themes in her life: ‘Love’, ‘Friends, Art and Otters’ and ‘Me’.

Resonant of Laura Dockrill’s MISTAKES IN THE BACKGROUND and with the powerful naïve illustrative style of cult Japanese artist Yoshitomo Nara, this is a collector’s gift for teenagers and all who have the teenage experience still in their hearts. Readers will emphasise with this witty and honest journal of a girl getting to grips with impending adulthood. A must-have for all hipster teenagers and anyone who appreciates the raw creativity of youth. Enchanting and poignant.

My Review:

The Isobel Journal may not be a novel but it definitely tells a story. The story of a teenage girl from Northern England – who thinks nothing really happens there. Part scrapbook, part art journal, this book is a delightful glimpse into Isobel Harrop’s life.

After reading this book I felt like I knew Isobel. I may never have met her but after reading her thoughts and seeing her beautiful drawings I felt like I knew the important things – like how she feels about decade old TV shows or her love of Beyonce and Destiny’s Child. The illustrations are lovely – I especially liked the badgers – and tickets and other random things ‘stuck’ in emphasize that this is a non-fiction story about where Isobel was at that particular point in her life.

There are some particular pages which had me laughing with just how accurate some of Isobel’s thoughts were with regards to my own experiences (who knew my dad wasn’t the only one typing “The You Tube” into Google). Heartbreak, friendship, family and otters are all covered with witty pieces of wisdom and adorable drawings illustrating the ideas and thoughts of a typical teenager. I thought this book was insightful and relatable.  

 

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy.

Preview the first chapter here (PDF)

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review: The Elites by Natasha Ngan

The Elites

Title: The Elites
Author: Natasha Ngan
Genre: Urban Fantasy, Adventure, Young Adult
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: September 2013
Pages: 368
Rating: 3 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
‘There is a rumour that the Elites don’t bleed.’

Hundreds of years into the future, wars, riots, resource crises and rising sea-levels have destroyed the old civilisations. Only one city has survived: Neo-Babel, a city full of cultures – and racial tension.

Fifteen-year-old Silver is an Elite, a citizen of Neo-Babel chosen to guard the city due to her superior DNA. She’d never dream of leaving – but then she fails to prevent the assassination of Neo Babel’s president, setting off a chain of events more shocking and devastating than she could ever have imagined. Forced to flee the city with her best friend Butterfly (a boy with genetically-enhanced wings), Silver will have to fight to find her family, uncover the truth about Neo-Babel and come to terms with her complicated feelings for Butterfly.

My Review:

In the city of Neo-Babel there are citizens with superior DNA who guard the people. They are called the Elite. Silver has been in training with the Elite for a few years and is dying for a chance to prove herself to others. To those who thought her Red blood is inferior and those – like her student mentor, Ember- who think Silver is incapable of being one of the Elite. On her very first assignment to help protect the president during a rally, Silver is the one whose lack of punctuality among other things get the president assassinated.

Things start getting weirder with people going missing and an uprising on the horizon. Silver, along with her best friend Butterfly, are on a quest to try to save her family and unravel the secrets that the Elite seem to thrive on.

This is a debut novel with a lot going on. There are plots and sub-plots with a lot of different characters and organizations each with their own agendas. I adored the concept of this book. I can’t get enough of kick-arse heroines who have their own vulnerabilities but ultimately see the bigger picture. Silver is one of these. She’s a little naive but trying to be the best warrior she can be. I thought it was interesting how the topic of racism is addressed right throughout the novel. Silver is a Red, a person of Chinese descent, and as such viewed as a lesser person than others even within the Elite structure.

I enjoyed the other students at the Elite academy – in particular, Butterfly. His name may be pretty and delicate but he’s strong in his own right and a force to be reckoned with. His relationship with Silver is one of strong friendship with their romance being more subtle and whilst enjoyable, it lacked the sparks and pizzazz that I like between fictional characters. Ember, Cobe, Allum and Taiyo are great supporting character who all add something a little different to the story. I thought the names were especially clever. People like Butterfly and the organization, the Pigeons, are so seemingly weak and childish and yet they hold a lot of power within them.

Brilliant world building and some great characters, The Elite is an interesting urban fantasy novel. The plot is a little slow to warm up but once things get going there’s a lot of surprises and action going on. I was surprised to see that it’s a standalone because there’s so much more about this universe which this book exists to be explored.

 

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy.

Purchase the novel from:

Amazon | Booktopia | Book Depository | BookWorld

Book Review + Giveaway: The Rig by Joe Ducie

The Rig Blog Tour banner

Title: The RigThe Rig
Author: Joe Ducie
Genre: Thriller, Young Adult, Action, Mystery
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: September 2013
Pages: 368
Rating: 4 stars

Synopsis (from goodreads):
Fifteen-year-old Will Drake has made a career of breaking out from high-security prisons. His talents have landed him at the Rig, a specialist juvenile holding facility in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. No one can escape from the Rig. No one except for Drake…

After making some escape plans and meeting the first real friends of his life, Drake quickly realises that all is not as it seems on the Rig. The Warden is obsessed with the mysterious Crystal-X – a blue, glowing substance that appears to give superpowers to the teens exposed to it. Drake, Tristan and Irene are banking on a bid for freedom – but can they survive long enough to make it? Drake is an action hero to rival Jason Bourne and the CHERUB team in this debut author’s fantastically imagined sci-fi nightmare.

My Review:

Will Drake has already escaped from three maximum security juvenile detention facilities. But he’s seen nothing like the Rig. Located in the middle of the Arctic Ocean at a former oil rig, it’s not just the conditions that are brutal. With a tracker accounting for each inmates every move and guards who are crueller than the weather – it seems like there’s no escape for Will. But he’s determined. With a techno-genius for a cell mate and a girl who helps Will discover some of the secrets the Rig holds, there’s nothing going to stop Will escaping… not even the mysterious Crystal-X.

From the first page of The Rig I felt like I was watching a movie. There’s so much cinematic potential for this book. From the helicopters landing on one of the five old oil platforms now turned prison for criminal youth to the brilliant sport Ducie came up with “Rig Ball” – I felt like I could see all the action playing out like a film.

Will is a great character to let us into the secrets of the Rig. He’s street smart and practical but he’s nobodies fool. We get to find out as we read that whilst he may be an inmate of one of the world’s toughest juvenile facilities, he’s not a bad guy. That said – he can hold his own even against super enhanced bullies. There’s more than meets the eye to Will – and we get to see that as hardened as prison has made him he still cares for his family and friends. Tristan – Will’s cell mate – is an oddly likeable guy. He’s a quiet guy who just wants to do his time and get out – the opposite in many ways to Will – but he’s willing to stand up for his friends no matter the consequences to himself. I liked him. His interaction with Irene, a female detainee on the other side of the Rig, was somewhat adorable to read as it unfolded and added a little to the comic relief for what is a mostly serious novel.

The action is this novel is brilliant. There’s a lot going on and Ducie has come up with some great concepts. The idea for his magnetized lacrosse game – known as Rig Ball – is as fun as it is absolutely brutal. The trackers which not only detect location but also keep track of how much the inmates owe the establishment for their stay is an interesting design that I thought was pretty cool. The plot around Crystal-X is something that I wish was developed a little further. There’s a lot about the blue crystal that I thought had a lot of potential however it felt a little out of place. This book is suspenseful and a great contemporary thriller up until about half way though when the Crystal-X is introduced and it brought me out of the story a little. The alien mineral gave the novel a paranormal element which just felt a little odd considering the rest of what was going on.

I enjoyed reading this book. Great characters with a setting so vivid I felt like I could be there on the Rig with Will and the others – this book was a brilliant read.

Thanks to Five Mile Press for the review copy

Purchase the Novel From: 
Amazon| Booktopia | Book Depository

GIVEAWAY!

Thanks to Five Mile Press, as a part of this blog tour I have 1 paperback copy of The Rig to giveaway. Open to Australian residents only.

To Enter:

Leave a comment at the bottom of this post and then click on the link below and fill in the form.

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

Entries close 14th October, 2013.

Winner will be drawn via random.org and will have 48 hours to reply or another winner will be chosen.