Sunday, 20 September 2015

Boo by Neil Smith

Publisher: William Heinemann
Format: ARC**
Published21st  May 2015
Number of Pages: 320
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Mystery, Murder-Mystery, Fantasy, Coming-Of-Age, YA
Recommended Age: 12+
Contains: Violence, Swearing, Drug and Smoking References
Author's Facebook: Neil Smith

Blurb From Goodreads:
From Neil Smith, author of the award-winning, internationally acclaimed story collection Bang Crunch, comes a dark but whimsical debut novel about starting over in the afterlife in the vein of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones.
When Oliver 'Boo' Dalrymple wakes up in heaven, the eighth-grade science geek thinks he died of a heart defect at his school. But soon after arriving in this hereafter reserved for dead thirteen-year-olds, Boo discovers he’s a 'gommer', a kid who was murdered. What’s more, his killer may also be in heaven. With help from his volatile classmate Johnny, Boo sets out to track down the mysterious Gunboy who cut short both their lives.
In a heart-rending story written to his beloved parents, the odd but endearing Boo relates his astonishing heavenly adventures as he tests the limits of friendship, learns about forgiveness and, finally, makes peace with the boy he once was and the boy he can now be.

“I miss you, Mother and Father.  Given my holey heart, you must have braced yourself for my early death, but surely you did not expect my life to be snuffed out by a boy with a gun…”
Oliver, or Boo, Dalrymple wakes up in heaven.  He thinks he died from his heart defect.  But he's wrong.
There's a lot to learn about heaven.  Like why it's populated solely by thirteen-year-old Americans.  What happens to the rubbish they throw down the trash cute.  Where they go after they've been there for a few decades.
But soon Boo has something even more important to think about.  When a former classmate of his named Johnny appears in heaven too and reveals they were, in fact, murdered, Boo and Johnny deduce that their killer, Gunboy, might just be up in heaven with them.
And they need to find him.  Before he finds them...
I've read a couple of books sent in heaven, seen a few variations of the afterlife on TV.  None are anything like Boo.  None have... affected me like Boo did.  None were as unique, intriguing or addictive either.  It's really hard to write this review...  I went into Boo expecting one thing – a cutesy little MG kind of book that was like middle school.  But what I got... it was something else entirely.  Dark, but funny, deep and easy to read, Boo was more like a murder mystery novel than anything about school (or, at least, unlike any school I've gone to).  
The characters Smith created were brilliant and so realistic – so alive (pun intended).  Boo was the best – so brilliantly odd.  Most certainly on the autistic spectrum, he was worryingly clever and not overly fond of people – he was bullied in life.  Up in heaven, he felt more sociable, however, and it was really sweet seeing him connect with people.  Boo was an endearing character, staggeringly clever and often naive all at the same time.
His friends were brilliant too – all three of them.  Johnny was such an intriguing character – one I loved trying to figure out.  Esther was really brilliant – and yay to diversity!  A little angel!  I adored Esther, with her fiery attitude and snark and bite.  Oh, and Thelma was the sweetest!  Like a mother – even though she looked like a child and could never be a mother (it’s enough to break my heart).
I must say, one of the most amazing things about Boo was the relationship between these four characters: it was so complex and sweet and unique and intriguing.
The writing was incredible – so very Boo.  The tone was very sophisticated for a teenager (but totally plausible as Boo) and was deep and dark and beautiful.  There were lots of nice little funny moments that lightened the intensity of everything and made me smile.  It was all written in first person, to Boo's parents, which was heart-breaking.  He was writing to them, knowing they'd probably never get the book, and you could really feel how young he was, despite his intellect – he just wanted his parents.
As for the plot... I'm really not going to lie: I absolutely saw the almost-half-way twist coming.  But I adored that more and more twists came – that the consequences and turns didn't stop until the very end.  I was just so hooked – and so absorbed.
I'm not a religious person.  I've never been to church.  I have read bits of the bible, but I feel my true religion is more along the lines of the Ancient Greek gods.  So I guess I'm more spiritual...  My point, despite this rambling, is not to muse my inner beliefs.  It is to say that as a person who doesn't really believe in heaven, I found Boo intriguing and incredible.  The take on heaven, God (or Zig) and the afterlife... it was unique and brilliant. 
Boo itself was an utterly unique and beautiful book – one that had me hooked from start to finish.  I've truly never read anything like it and I know it won't leave my mind for quite a while yet.  I'm finding it so very hard to find the words in this review – the words to do Boo justice without giving away major spoilers, without ruining the mystery and plot.  
Boo was beautiful – and it hurt.  The characters were odd, but so real.  The plot was utterly addictive – and so painful.  The writing was so gorgeous and lyrical and Boo.  It also hurt like hell – it's an emotional rollercoaster.  It is a story that will stay with you, a story unlike anything you've read before.  And I really do recommend it.  Boo is brilliant and unexpected and so damn good.  If you're looking for something beautiful, thought-provoking and addictive, pick Boo up now.  
Don't make me come haunt you.

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Wells & Wong by Robin Stevens
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Penguin in exchange for an honest review

** Quotes used are from a proof copy and may have been changed in the finished book

Friday, 18 September 2015

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Format: Paperback
Published2nd July 2015
Number of Pages: 352
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Coming-Of-Age, Contemporary, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, YA
Recommended Age: 13+
Contains: Violence, Swearing, Smoking References
Author's Info: Leah Thomas

There are truths you can only tell a stranger, and this friendship is the strangest.
Ollie and Moritz are best friends, but they can never meet, because if they ever did, one of them would certainly die.  As recluses from society, they develop a fierce bond through letters that become a lifeline.
But when Moritz reveals the key to their shared, disturbing past in a mysterious German laboratory, their friendship faces a test neither one of them expected.
This is a story of impossible friendship and hope from a brilliant new writer.

“I think being an experiment sounds way better than being sick, you know?”
Oliver has a very unique condition; he is allergic to electricity and has lived his whole life in an isolated cabin.  If he were to venture out of the woods he lives in, he would encounter electricity, begin to seize and possibly die.
His mother and doctor decide it's a good idea for Ollie to get in touch with someone who has similar problems to him.
And that is how Ollie begins writing to Moritz, a German teenager.  Moritz is unique too – born without eyes, he uses unique techniques to view the world around him.  And the two boys develop a connection so strong it spans continents.
But there's one big problem: the two pen-pals can never meet.  Because Moritz is kept alive by an electronic pump in his heart.  And if Ollie were to get too close, he would seize.  And if Moritz were to turn the pump off, he would die.
I, like so many of us, am desperate to see more diversity in YA books.  But whilst I want to see all diversity (sexuality, ethnicity, etc), seeing more characters with disabilities is really important to me.  Why?  Well, some of you might know I'm a wheelchair user – I have been since the age of about twelve.  And therefore I am desperate for more characters in wheelchairs or with missing limbs or who have non-terminal medical conditions – anything.  But I want books where these disabilities aren't The Issue and where there are all kinds of other diversities too (when I finally finish the book I'm writing, you'll see what I'm looking for).  Due to my quest, I of course said yes please when Bloomsbury contacted me about Because You'll Never Meet Me.  I was intrigued from the blurb and was desperate to check it out.
And I was not disappointed.  The lovely Katrina at Bloomsbury told me this book spans numerous genres, but is a book with true heart above all else, a book that deals with all kinds of diversity.  And God was she right.  Because You'll Never Meet Me is a beautiful, unique book that had me hooked from the very beginning.  It might not be for everyone, but I adored it.
Ollie killed me – he was just so brilliantly bizarre.  He, like all teenagers, had his ups and downs, his strengths and his flaws.  Maybe he was a little selfish, but he was also so sweet and loving and strong too – even when he couldn't leave his room.  I got that – I've had those days; haven't we all?
Moritz was definitely more mature than Ollie, the more sombre of the two.  But I loved watching Oliver rub off on him, loved the way Moritz described the world he saw and loved seeing Moritz grow into himself.
I also loved that neither of the boys – or any of the characters – were perfect.  They all had flaws, all had their imperfections.  They all felt real.
But what truly made this book wasn't the characters individually – but the two characters together as best friends.  These two... they didn't get off to the best start (bless Ollie's overexcitement and Moritz's snarky, borderline-hostile (ok, not so borderline) response).  And the friendship just got stronger, binding all these genres and elements together flawlessly.
As those of you who've read a few of my reviews might know, I adore split POVs - they are my absolute favourite things ever.   And I adored the way Because You'll Never Meet Me was told through letters the two boys sent to one another, showing how their friendship grew, how they struggled and blossomed.  Sure, the plot wasn't an epic fantasy – wasn't some grand quest.  I guess you could call it a coming of age story, with sci-fi aspects.  You could call it a personal adventure of overcoming the darkest parts of yourself.  You could call it an unconventional love-story between two super-humans.
Or you could call it a very human, very touching and very inspiring story, with some amazing paranormal-sci-fi-esque plot threads.  And however I describe it, I loved it all – loved how different the boys sounded, loved watching their individual but entwined stories.
And most of all I loved the way the disabilities were handled in this book – especially I love how Moritz phrases this:
"But I am not handicapped."  Again, my impulses ae too fast, Oliver.  I did not mean to refute being blind.  I meant to express my loathing of the term handicapped.  "Behindert," as it reads in German.'
Well done, Mo!  *straightens up (see, I'm in a wheelchair – but if I could stand I would) and gives Moritz a round of applause*  And I adore the way Oliver approaches both of their unique conditions – like they have some kind of superpower!  I like to think my wheelchair makes me a cyborg, so I totally get that.  I also got the loneliness – sometimes, not being what society generally considers to be ‘normal’ can be so isolating and I just loved how these boys had one another to keep themselves sane – their friendship really was so beautiful.
But the way Thomas represents disability, sexuality and all the other forms of diversity in Because You’ll Never Meet Me was perfect: despite the fantastical elements, it was never made light of, always treated with respect and despite being one of the main focus points, somehow managed not to make the disabilities The Issue – the whole reason for the book.  No, as mentioned before, the unlikely relationship between Ollie and Moritz was the driving force, as was the mystery of their origins (sorry, couldn't resist that little superhero pun).  I would've liked to see someone with a more physical disability (such as my own, for example) but I loved the way Ollie's complicated epilepsy and allergies and Moritz's blindness (well, eyeless-ness) was portrayed.
Like all books out there, Because You'll Never Meet Me probably won't be for everyone.  If you like your contemporaries without fantastical, sci-fi elements or your fantastical science-fiction without a contemporary  setting, this might not be for you.
But if, like me, you've been searching for a unique blend of realism, fantasy, sci-fi, mystery, romance, and a brilliant selection of diverse characters, pick up Because You'll Never Meet Me right this second.  I absolutely cannot wait to see what Thomas writes next – because if this was her debut...  Wow.  I am ridiculously excited about her next book – I do kind of hope it's about Moritz and Ollie!  I'm just not quite ready to let these two go yet!

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Mutant City by Steve Cole
Angel Blood by John Singleton
Boo by Neil Smith

Happy Reading
* This book was received from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Series: The Lunar Chronicles, Book Two
Publisher: Puffin
Format: Paperback
Published: 7th February 2013
Number of Pages: 464
Book: For Review*
Genre: Dystopian, Science-Fiction, Action-Adventure, Romance, Fairy-Tale, Fantasy, Steampunk, Mystery, YA, Middle Grade, YA-MG Crossover
Recommended Age: 9+
Contains: Violence, Death, Swearing
Author's Site: Marissa Meyer

This is not the fairytale you remember.
But it’s one you won’t forget.
Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.
Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana.
As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner . . .


"This is war...  She's declared war on us…"
Linh Cinder discovered she was Lunar, tried to save the Emperor, got caught by the Queen Levana of Luna and arrested. 
So instead of being taken back to Luna and probably killed, Cinder breaks out of prison, taking American ex-cadet Carswell Thorne with her, and flees.  Thus making her Enemy Number One – and the most wanted person in the Commonwealth.
Meanwhile, Scarlet Benoit's Grand-mère vanishes and the police shut the case, claiming she's a crazy old woman who just wandered off.  But Scarlet knows something terrible has happened - that her grandmother has been taken by someone dangerous.
And the only person who can help her is the quiet, brooding streetfighter Wolf.
As they attempt to find Scar's grandmother, they stumble across Cinder and soon they're all wrapped up in a larger plot – to face the wicked Queen Levana and defeat her.
If they don't beat the Queen, Emperor Kai (the boy Cinder got arrested to protect) will become a prisoner – expendable.  And the Commonwealth will fall before the wrath of the vicious Lunar Queen...
I loved Cinder, when I read it so many years ago.  Somehow, I failed to read Scarlet as soon as it came out (I know, I'm insane – certifiable, in fact) and decided enough was enough: I had to know what happened next!  When I finally picked Scarlet up, I was worried for the poor book – time and my love of Cinder had built up sky-high expectations, ones I felt certain Scarlet could never live up to.  Man, I was wrong.  Scarlet... it just blew me away.  It somehow managed to be even better than Cinder – I didn't even think that was possible!  I just... I can't put into words how much I loved it – and how much I'm kicking myself for not reading it sooner!
I adored the characters in the book – both the old ones and the new ones.  They're all so brilliant, so vibrant and real and amazing.  I'm a little blown away by how much I love all the characters (well, apart from Levana, Adri and the LSOP people)...
I'll start with the newest of our two heroines: Scarlet, who was a total badass – fearless and a little scary at times.  She was so protective and loyal and brave and funny.  All in all, another amazing heroine, just like the wonderful Cinder.
And speaking of Cinder – oh how I love her!  She's amazing and so very, very funny!  I love how resourceful, tough, vulnerable, clever and brilliant she is.  She's so strong, but prone to the teenage moments – c'mon, all teens have them – and she's also just so good.  I just love her – especially her new bickering with Thorne!
Wolf – oh, it is so clear to me that Meyer is capable of creating all kinds of book boyfriends I just fall for instantly.  He was intriguing, so mysterious, so broody and quiet and dangerous.  And so protective and good.  I was under his spell, intrigued by him, and by the end I was totally in love!  Him and Scar are perfect!
As for Carswell Thorne.  Is it wrong that I love him?  He is a criminal.  And a bit of a hound dog.  But he's also freaking hilarious.  And insane.  And amazing.  He was just such a doofus – such amazing comic relief in this fast-paced book.  He's freaking hilarious and I freaking love him to pieces!
Kai – oh, I love Kai!  We didn't see as much of him – no! – and had hardly any of him and Cinder together, but even when he was just in his office, dealing with royal advisors and crazy Lunars, he was brilliant.  He is such a good Emperor and I just love him.
Oh!  And how I loved seeing Iko again!  I love that little robot!  
Wow, that was a lot of character-related-rambling!  I just love them all so so much!
I loved the story in Cinder – it was engaging, addictive, fast-paced, exciting and amazing.  But Scarlet just took all of that and doubled it.  Thanks to the dual (sometimes triple) storyline that perfectly wove together, I was always on my toes, always utterly hooked, always excited and nervous and laughing and chewing at my fingernails (but not really, cause that's unhygienic).  And Meyer's awesome writing just enhanced all of this brilliant suspense, action and humour.  I loved how we got so many perspectives – Cinder, Scarlet, Thorne, Kai, even Levana.  We got to know so many characters, see so many interlinked stories, and it was just amazing.  Meyer is a master of words and story lines, no doubt about it!
I seriously love fairy tales.  I've read a lot of fairy tale retellings.  But the Lunar Chronicles world has to be one of my very favourites.  The 'princesses' are badasses, the carriages are high-tech space ships and the princes have to deal with homicidal alien queens – oh, and the singing-animal-sidekicks are witty little robots.  I mean, that's a million of my favourite things put together into one amazing, amazing series.  I'm literally one of the happiest bloggers in the universe when I pick up a Lunar Chronicles book – and trust me when I tell you I won't be daft enough not to read Cress just as soon as I've finished this review!
So yes, if you haven't gathered, I adored Scarlet.  I read it in just one sitting, staying up late to gobble it all up.  Meyer is truly a goddess and I utterly worship her.  Her books are so amazing, so addictive and brilliant, and I could just read about this world forever and ever.  Since that is probably impossible, I'm just going to read Cress.  I'm utterly hooked, completely under an enchantment, and I just can't stop with the Lunar kick right now!  
As far as addictions go, the Lunar Chronicles is one of the best – by far!  In fact, it is indeed one you will never, ever forget, or get over – or even want to get over.  I know I don't!  Hence the insane rambling and how I'm already picking Cress up...  

Star Rating:
5 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
Grisha by Leigh Bardugo
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
Descendants by Melissa de la Cruz

Happy Reading

* This book was received from Penguin in exchange for an honest review

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Heap House by Edward Carey

Series: The Iremonger Trilogy, Book One
Publisher: Hot Key
Format: Paperback
Published: 7th August 2014
Number of Pages: 400
Book: For Review*
Genre:  Historical, Steampunk, Fantasy, Mystery, Gothic, Action-Adventure, MG, YA-MG Crossover
Recommended Age: 9+
Contains: Mild Swearing, Smoking References
Author's Site: Edward Carey

Clod Iremonger is not supposed to, but he hears a brass door handle saying, “Alice Higgs”.  And his birth object, a universal bath plug, constantly calls out, “James Henry Hayward”.
The rest of the Iremonger family would rather the objects collected from the rubbish heaps of London stayed quiet.  But something is happening.
The objects, piled up inside and around Heap House over generations, are not staying in their place.  With the arrival of Lucy Pennant, everything shifts, and Clod will have to decide where he belongs.

"A Gathering, a Gathering, quieter than the storm!"
The Iremongers are powerful, rich and very peculiar.  They own the heaps – the rubbish – and have built a house (and empire) upon them.
But Clod is even more peculiar than the other Iremongers.  He hears objects talk to him – birth objects, a possession given to each Iremonger as a baby, chosen specifically for them.  His birth object is a bath plug called James Henry Hayward.
When Aunt Rosamund's doorhandle – Alice Higgs – goes missing, things begin to go downhill.
Especially when Lucy Pennant arrives and begins to work as a servant downstairs – and Clod begins to hear the objects say more than just their names for the first time in his life...
It turns out there's a sickness in London.  And in Heaphouse things are changing – strange things keep happening.
Does it have something to do with Clod's strange ability?  With the birth objects?  What secrets lie among the heaps that surround the house of the Iremongers...?
I'd seen Heap House talked about.  I'd thought, yeah, that looks pretty good.  And then I didn't buy it.  But when I heard Olivia Mead talk about the series, heard how excited and in love she was, I knew I needed to read it as soon as possible.  And I am now kicking myself for not picking it up sooner.  Heap House is brilliantly bizarre and bonkers and so, so good!  It is literally perfect for all Lemony Snicket fans – and for anyone who likes crazy steampunk-esque, Victorian-era books.  
Clod was a little odd (ha! that rhymed), but he was brilliant.  Sure, he was a little naive and innocent at times (especially considering his age), but he was inquisitive and clever and funny too.
Lucy was awesome – snarky, curious, rebellious and exactly what I like in a leading girl.
I'm not going to lie to you, their relationship felt a little... not so real.  Maybe it's because it's a MG book and I'm used to YA romances.  Maybe it's because it felt a little quick.  Maybe it's because I'm nit-picking – but I have to nit-pick, especially since this is pretty much my only nit to pick at!  
Ok, this analogy has gotten really weird and kind of gross...
I just want to add that, towards the end, they were kind of totally adorable.  Yes, they fell for one another fast.  But they were very funny when the two of them together, and very cute too.  
Now, I'm going to move onto the rest of the Iremonger family – simply put, that family be crazy!  Crazy and bizarre and absolutely intriguing.  My favourite Iremonger had to be Tummis: he was just so amazing and the sweetest, funniest character ever, bless his cotton socks.  I rather liked Uncle Aliver too – he was brilliant.  I loathed Moorcus and was confused by Grandfather and Grandmother.  The downstairs Iremongers (non-full-blooded family members who still had Iremonger blood, but not enough, and were therefore servants) were almost as quirky as the Upstairs Iremongers.  Basically, the whole supporting cast was kooky and intriguing and often hilarious.
I adored Carey's writing: it was so fitting with the time period, so exciting and intriguing and brilliant.  I loved that we got multiple POVs – our two main narrators were Clod and Lucy, but we got journal snippets from various other members of the Iremonger family.  This mode of storytelling was brilliant and kept me utterly hooked.  As did the plot: from the moment Heap House began, the story grabbed me and refused to let go.  It's hard to write too much about the plot – no spoilers! – but I adored it.  It was dark and addictive and suspenseful and mysterious and intriguing – but with funny moments too, to lighten the heap up!
This world was pure genius!  It was grittier, dirtier and way more interesting than any Victorian-era setting Dickens wrote about.  It had elements of steampunk in it (AKA, one of my favourite ever genres and fashion style), but mostly it was dark and dirty and made of curious objects and whispering voices and piles of rubbish...  It was like Victorian grunge-punk...  OK, that's not a thing, forget that.  But seriously, I was totally hooked by this creepy world and was absolutely desperate to find out all of its hidden, dirty little secrets.
I'm finding it really hard to describe Heap House well, to find the words to do my feels justice.  It was just so bonkers and so brilliant and so much fun to read!  I never knew what to expect, didn't want to stop reading and was absolutely desperate for Foulsham the moment I put Heap House down!  I mean, that ending...  Wow!  Talk about huge finales and shock cliff-hangers!
Seriously, though: it you are looking for something fun and unique to read, love Lemony Snicket and a book that can make you laugh, think and sit on the edge of your seat, Heap House is an absolute must read!  

Star Rating:
4 Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket
The Map To Everywhere by Carrie Ryan
Wells & Wong by Robin Stevens

Happy Reading

* This book was received from HotKey in exchange for an honest review

Sunday, 9 August 2015

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward

Series: Potion, Book One
Publisher: Simon&Schuester
Format: Paperback
Published: 2nd July 2015
Number of Pages: 368
Book: Bought
Genre:  Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, Action-Adventure, YA
Recommended Age: 11+
Contains: Violence, Swearing
Author's Site: Amy Alward

When the Princess of Nova accidentally poisons herself with a love potion meant for her crush, she falls crown-over-heels in love with her own reflection.  Oops.  A nationwide hunt is called to find the cure, with competitors travelling the world for the rarest ingredients, deep in magical forests and frozen tundras, facing death at every turn.
Enter Samantha Kemi – an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent.  Sam’s family were once the most respected alchemists in the kingdom, but they’ve fallen on hard times, and winning the hunt would save their reputation.  But can Sam really compete with the dazzling powers of the ZoroAster megapharma company?  And just how close is she willing to get to Zain Aster, her dashing enemy, in the meantime?
Just to add to the pressure, this quest is all over social media.  And the world news.
No big deal then.

'Despite both of them knowing how bad things are with the business, neither will let me do anything other than be an apprentice to my grandad.
Because when you have the Kemi gift, you have to use it.'
In Samantha Kemi's world, you’re either ordinary or Talented – with or without magic.  The Kemis are not Talented, but they were once prosperous – as master alchemists and potion makers, they were respected by everyone, the chosen ones of the Royal family.
But now things have changed – synth potions are huge and natural alchemists are no longer needed.  
Until the Princess Evelyn mixes a natural love potion to give to her crush Zain Aster (the relative of the first synthetic potion maker and heir to the mega-wealthy ZoroAster Corp company) – and accidentally drinks the potion herself.  And then falls in love.  With herself.
With the magic of Nova unbalanced, a Wilde Hunt is called – all alchemists, both natural and synth, are called to find a cure.  A race that will lead them all over, searching for ingredients and battling to win – both the Royal's approval and a magical prize.
But for Sam, it's a way to prove that the Kemis' way of potion-making is best and to restore her family's name.
But with the gorgeous Zain also competing and the world watching their every move, can Sam pull it off?  Can she save the princess, her land and her family?
I began reading The Potion Diaries after finding out Amy Alward would be at YALC.  And was instantly enchanted.  I've already read the brilliant The Oathbreaker's Shadow by Amy - and whilst The Potion Diaries was seriously different it was equally amazing.  I've not read anything quite so much fun for ages – I was barely two pages in before I fell totally in love.   This is the kind of book I love to read!  Magical adventures mixed up with an alternate modern reality with loads of friendship and family and romantic love added in too.
Sam was awesome – clever, funny, brave, a bit quirky and totally devoted to her family.  And she was also just so real – I mean, her fear of being anonymous, of never doing anything that makes an impact, isn't that something all teenagers feel?  Sure, her problems are amplified by being non-magical in a magical world, of trying to live up to a family name long forgotten, but it was so real anyway.  I loved how badass and clever Sam was and I can't wait to see more of her in the second Potion Diaries book!
Zain was totally not what I was expecting when we were first introduced to him – actually, he tested my expectations a few times.  But I loved it when he was being all sweet and shy and kinda totally adorable – that thing with the coffee?  Heart-meltingly sweet!  But yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing more of Zain.
As for our supporting cast, Kirsty was so butt-kickingly amazing!  Being a Finder sounds awesome and I loved Kirsty's whip-sharp sense of humour.  Eve was obviously very clever, but what we saw of her...  Well, we saw her in love with her reflection.  So... But I look forward to seeing more of the non-magically-obsessively-in-love, not-so-crazy-and-out-of-control Evelyn.
And I loved Sam's crazy family – they were brilliant!  And really made the story for me: I loved the kookiness of them all, loved how much they loved each other.  Sam's little sister was so brave and adorable, her parents a little frazzled but so loving, her grandfather quiet and a little grumpy with so many secrets – I can't wait until he reveals more of them!  But I loved the angle the family thing lent to the story – and the friends too.  Anita and Arjun, Sam's friends, were brilliant – Anita was such a good friend, always there to help Sam, no matter what.  Loved it all.
Personally, I'm a huge fan of split POVs – and I loved reading from both Sam and Eve's perspectives; I especially enjoyed seeing Evelyn going from a confident princess with a crush to a magic-crazed, obsessive, dangerously in love super-witch.  Why?  Because it was fascinating.  And kind of terrifying.
And then the plot... it was so fast-paced and exciting!  A quest – a real quest! – but broadcast over social media!  It was just so cool!  And the way Sam was always moving, always thinking, always getting that next ingredient...  Loved it.  I also loved the way Sam and Zain's relationship developed – it felt really natural and sweet, even though the Kemis and Asters were basically sworn enemies at the time (long story - read The Potion Diaries and find out all about it).
This world – God, I wanna live here!  Action, adventure, magic, potions, social media...  It literally sounds like my dream world.  I mean, can you imagine going by mirror to see a unicorn and posting about it on Twitter?  That would literally be the coolest thing ever.  And all the alchemy, the various mythologies around the world, the Talenteds and ordinary people and then the awesome Kemi potion brewing skill...  I was blown away by the depth of this world – and also by how seamlessly I just kind of... fit in.  You know?  The mythology was so easy to pick up and it was so much fun to explore the world alongside Sam.  Oh, and also the Royal family!  Can you imagine if the Queen had magic?  How cool would that be!  
Am I the only one with this dream?  Perhaps...
So yes, I had a lot of fun reading The Potion Diaries.  It was such an awesome, exciting, easy and enjoyable read – I was so sad to leave the world after I put the book down!  I have to wait until July for book two people!  How am I meant to live without my magical social media hit?  I just don't know anymore!  
Seriously though, if you love urban fantasies that are more fun than they are angst-ridden, with a mythology that explores the whole world and also takes elements from all over our world, The Potion Diaries is definitely for you.  
Ok, I can't resist it anymore.  I'm gonna do the potion ingredients of The Potion Diaries.  How can I not, guy?  Here goes...
1 cup of coffee beans for the adrenaline of adventure
1 strand of hair from a unicorn's tail for magic
5 drops of your blood for the sense of family
2 rose petals for romance
1 slither of metal from a broken blade for a successful quest
The crushed powder of one dried, poisonous scorpion for danger
3 spoonfuls of chocolate for pure awesomeness
Allow to simmer, strain and then enjoy.
Ok, if you guys can think of something better tell me – I think this isn't my best work!  But there is a lot of adventures, magic, family, romance, quests and awesomeness in The Potion Diaries, so...  Yeah, I stand by my potion.  Until I or one of you lovely people think of something better.
An alchemist, I clearly am not…

Star Rating:
4¼ Out of 5

Read this book if you liked:
The Lynburn Legacy Series by Sarah Rees Brennan
Wells & Wong by Robin Stevens
The Curse Workers by Holly Black
Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury
Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer
Half Bad Series by Sally Green

Happy Reading