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Agent 21: Reloaded isn’t the type of book I normally pick up on my visits to my library. But since the YA section in my library isn’t very big, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and get Agent 21.
Whilst reading this book I was reminded of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz that I read when I was younger (although I’m excited for the new book in series to come out next year)! My first realization when reading this book was that I was reading the sequel to Agent 21 (hopefully I can get round to reading Agent 21 in the future) but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book.
I really liked all the characters in this novel; Zak is the protagonist and he’s a secret agent sent on a deadly mission, however unlike the prior novel this time he is being sent alone. I thought this was interesting, since although I loved the interaction between Rafael, Gabby and Zak, I found his interactions with Bea were some of the best scenes in the book. Bea was possibly one of my favourite characters and she has a tendency to talk too much when she’s nervous, which I can relate to!
Although I loved reading about Zak’s adventures, I did enjoy reading about his cousin and how her life has been turned upside down. I found it easier to relate to Ellie (and I also sometimes struggled to keep up with all the action in Zak’s scenes). Sadly since this book is about Agent 21 the main focus is of course on Zak, with Ellie being a supporting character but I hope we see more of her in the future novels!
I thought it was a really good idea to have the story split into two different missions, because it portrayed how different Zak’s life is compared to Ellie’s, also I really liked reading how each of them coped in life-threatening situations as Zak has obviously been trained whereas Ellie has not.
Overall I’d rate this book 4/5 stars and if you love books with a lot of suspense then this book is definitely for you. Although I’d read the first book before reading the sequel if I was you! However if you cannot get a copy of the first book then as far as sequels go this is a pretty self-contained sequel that doesn’t necessarily require you to read the first book.
Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes.
Hey everyone, as you all know by now I cannot resist picking up a book with a pretty cover, and the Queen of Hearts was no exception, the cover is lovely and definitely drew me in.
I really enjoyed this book when reading it (although at the time I was relived to be taking a break from another book I’m reading at the minute) and I enjoyed venturing to Wonderland only this time with Dinah instead of Alice. Prior to reading this novel the only retelling that I’ve read was Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige, which left me wanting to read more retellings. However although I enjoyed this novel I couldn’t help but be slightly disappointed by the lack of Wonderland present in Carroll’s original novel.
Even though this novel was set in Wonderland; this isn’t the Wonderland we’ve been acquainted with in Carroll’s novel (which I was initially disappointed by) this Wonderland is darker and more sinister as we venture down the rabbit hole into the life of the Queen of Hearts. If you had told me a few months ago that I’d feel sorry for the Queen of Hearts I would probably have laughed, but that’s exactly what this novel did.
Although I was really impressed by the way that Colleen Oakes wove the original characters into this retelling; from the Mad Hatter to the Cheshire Cat (although in this adaptation they’re all human). However I wish it hadn’t been so obvious which character from the original novel they were supposed to portray (for instance the Chesire Cat inspired cat is called Cheshire). Personally I would’ve enjoyed guessing more before being told, with a few subtle hints along the way. However I did enjoy all the other references to Carroll’s wonderland novel like the ‘eat me’ on the loaf.
The main character is Dinah; who grows up to be The Queen of Hearts, honestly I found her quite annoying and spoilt (far too often she uses her position as Queen and wealth to get out of sticky situations, I would’ve preferred it if she found another way out instead of just saying; “I’m the Princess, do as I say or I’ll have your head chopped off”). Oh, and of course she naturally has a crush on the other protagonist in the novel because let’s not forget that this is still YA. However I did sympathise with Dinah; it can’t have been easy having a dad that hated you or a step-sibling that was seemingly perfect.
One character I really loathed was the main villain of the story: the King of Hearts (but then you’re supposed to hate the villain aren’t you?). I think the King makes Voldemort look like a softie, but my problem is that I couldn’t sympathize with him, (whereas with Voldemort you understand why he became so evil). Hopefully in a future novel we’ll get some sort of backstory (or even a novella).
His relationship with Dinah reminded me of the King’s relationship with Maxon in The Selection Series (villainous kings seem to be a growing trend in YA fiction). Why does he hate Dinah so much? Why is he so possessive of the crown?
Overall this novel was good, but there were far too many unanswered questions at the end of the novel for my liking, so I’ll have to keep an eye out for the sequel.
The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting by Holly Bourne.
The Manifesto on How to be Interesting was the first book I read by Holly Bourne but it was by no means the last novel I’ve read by her. Although it’s not my favourite book by Holly Bourne, I still thoroughly enjoyed this novel.
Bree; the main protagonist novel comes to the conclusion that she’s not interesting at the start of the novel. Throughout the novel she decides to reinvent herself in order to become interesting (and thus a better author). It reminded me of a YA version of the film ‘Mean Girls.’
However unlike Mean Girls, this novel deals with a lot of different issues that teenagers go through, even if they were only mentioned in passing. It’s nice to see a YA novel that acknowledges the difficulties that teenagers face instead of ignoring them.
However unlike Evie, Lottie and Amber from Bourne’s other novels, although I empathized with Bree at the beginning of the novel, as the novel wore on and Bree becomes obsessed with becoming ‘interesting’, I started to lose all sympathy for her. Although I did feel sorry for her during her relationship with Logan and Mr Fellows (both of which were incredibly well written), I felt like she should have been honest with Jasmine and Holdo.
However as the novel progressed despite losing sympathy with Bree, I found myself warming up to Bree especially when she returns to school and stands up for herself. Despite all that happened I found myself agreeing with Bree’s dad (who is absent for the majority of the book) that going back to school was the best option, and when Bree goes back to school it shows the character development that she’s gone through in the novel and how much stronger she has become.
One character I really enjoyed reading about was Jasmine, at the beginning of the novel she is just your stereotypical popular girl. However when Bree befriends her, we as the readers discover that there is more to her than meets the eye.
I also enjoyed the mother-daughter scenes with Bree and her mother, it’s nice to see a present parent in a YA novel for a change!
Overall I’d give this book 4/5, I really enjoyed this book and the concept, however I found myself struggling to empathize with Bree especially when she became popular and ignored her best friend in favour of the ‘popular’ people.
Side note: How do you not even notice that your blog is incredibly popular?
“Being interesting isn’t important. But being happy is. As well as being a person you’re proud of”
How Hard Can Love Be? By Holly Bourne
Situations not destined to fail:
Me + How Hard Can Love Be?
When I finished ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ I simply had to start reading the sequel ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ As soon as possible. Although I was initially disappointed that this novel wasn’t about Evie (the protagonist in ‘Am I Normal Yet?) my disappointment soon faded when I discovered that Amber (one of Evie’s best friends) was the protagonist of this novel.
I had my reservations about this book, and I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t live up to my possible high expectations, but I was proved wrong. I enjoyed reading Amber’s journey to an American summer camp in the hopes that she will reconnect with her mother, and I enjoyed meeting the new characters in this novel. I hope that they will make a cameo later in the series (maybe a Skype call or something?) although that might be difficult since they live on the other side of the ocean.
Like Evie, Amber has her own problems: two years ago her alcoholic mother left her to go to America and she was left back in the UK with her dad, step mum and stepbrother. All Amber wants at the beginning of the novel is to rekindle her relationship with her mother, which doesn’t entirely go to plan. I felt like this nicely tied in with the title of the book; ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ Sometimes love; family love and falling in love isn’t easy or straightforward.
I liked Kyle (the main love interest), and I thought he was a great character. But I felt like their relationship was a bit rushed considering they had only known each other for a month, especially when they are declaring their love for each other after a month…
I also liked the interactions between Amber and everyone else (especially when they are talking about English stereotypes! I laughed so much when a little kind asked Amber if she’d met the queen!) I also liked reading about Winnie’s philosophy on Winnie the Pooh;
“Pooh lives in the moment. He doesn’t fret about the past, or freak about the future. He’s an expert at mindfulness.”
As much as I loved this book, I was a bit saddened by the absence of Lottie and Evie in the novel, they do make appearances in the form of cameos (and so do cheesy puffs)! However I still missed them when reading this novel.
Finally, I normally don’t tweet when reading a book. However, this book was so good I couldn’t read it without tweeting about it; from the American slang (I’m going to find a way to slip the word Podunk* into everyday conversations) to the Harry Potter references. I simply had to tweet about it and show everyone how much I enjoyed this book.
“I learned a lesson not to judge people, until you’ve found out whether or not they’ve read Harry Potter.”
Overall I would give this book 4.5, I didn’t enjoy it as much as ‘Am I Normal Yet’ but I still enjoyed reading about Amber’s story. Now I just need to buy ‘What’s a Girl Gotta Do’ the next book in the series, which is written from Lottie’s perspective.
*Podunk: A small insignificant village or town
Character Spotlight: Emily.
Even though I found Eden’s actions increasingly frustrating in the novel ‘Did I mention I Need You,’ one character I did enjoy reading about was Emily. Emily was by far my favourite character in the novel and I hope she makes an appearance in the final book: Did I Mention I Miss You (even though she lives in Britain)!